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Overall Rating

Awesome: 6%
Worth A Look: 20%
Average: 10%
Pretty Bad: 28%
Total Crap36%

5 reviews, 20 user ratings

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Last House on the Left, The (2009)
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by Erik Childress

"First Sam Wheat...Now It's Krug's Turn!"
4 stars

Like last week’s Watchmen, I was a late comer to Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left. And like Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel, Craven’s debut is held in some high regard by horror fans as an important footnote to their beloved genre. Only unlike Watchmen, the source material for the current remake just wasn’t any good. Technically the original source was Ingmar Bergman’s superior The Virgin Spring about a peasant family who enact revenge on their daughter’s murderer and even that was based on an old Swedish ballad. No matter. The point being that Craven’s film, forgiving its limited budget and all the arguments about the period it was made in, is still bad. Most directors getting remade tend to be supportive of one’s “different vision” but rarely cop to being outdone, yet even when Craven himself has said that the 2009 is a marked improvement over his film some fans I know balked at such a statement. Only the truth is they should keep repeating to themselves, “Craven was right. Craven was right.”

The new film introduces us right away to the wretched refuse as the ominously sounding Krug (Garret Dillahunt) is busted out of police custody by his brother, Francis (Aaron Paul) and girlfriend, Sadie (Riki Lindhome, going from pitching McGriddles to showing hers). Heading into the area on vacation are Dr. John Collinwood (Tony Goldwyn), his wife, Emma (Monica Potter) and their daughter, Mari (Sara Paxton), who is eager to see her friend, Paige (Superbad’s Martha MacIsaac) in town. When the dour Justin (Spencer Treat Clark, from Mystic River and The Babysitters, who is the go-to actor for squirrely looking teens you want to keep away from daughters) offers to trade Paige cigarettes for some super pot, her and Mari accompany him back to a motel where they get high and begin giving him a makeover. Before daddy Krug and his friends come home.

As the gang’s escape has hit the front pages, they can’t risk Mari and Paige ID’ing them and they are taken as hostages. Mari, playing the cooler head, cleverly guides their captives in the direction of her summer home, although unsuccessfully mounts an escape and they end up crashing into the woods. With a wrecked vehicle and little means to control the girls, Krug tries to teach his boy a lesson in manhood by brutally dispatching Paige, raping Mari and leaving her for dead in the middle of the lake. As the promised storm we’ve been hearing about finally arrives, the Krug Four take refuge at the first place they can find. The Collinwood residence. Where they are offered shelter, coffee and treatment for their wounds. Little do any of them know who the others really are. But they will soon find out.

Between this remake, Taken and the Aussie festival offering, The Horseman, this is not a good year to be messing with people’s daughters. The central notion of offering vengeance as a template to stir our own frustrations into a release of bloody satisfaction is as old as the book of Exodus. Tales over the years from Bergman’s film to The Dark Knight have countered the varied nature of taking matters into your once clean hands and how your values are instantly compromised. Only how does anyone really know until they are thrust into that position and how do we judge another for such actions or even an audience for applauding their efforts? Answer: It’s all in the filmmaking. Director Dennis Iliadis, in keeping the simplistic structure of the story (introductions, woods attack, revenge), has allowed us to stay within the nightmare instead of employing fancy tricks, over-editing or introduce boneheaded cops as comic relief. Iliadis does almost blow it early by lingering on one too many shots of Sara Paxton in her underwear. There’s almost an exuberance in it, shooting her at an upwards angle at the top of a staircase, Mari’s eager delight in stripping down to her bra and panties to jump into a lake and immediately cutting to close-ups in her bedroom of her putting on a shirt and pants. It’s a bit difficult to establish a theme of lost innocence when the guys in the audience are being interjected with naughty thoughts.

Maybe Iliadis wanted to make us complicit in what happens to Mari, teasing us with a flirtation away from chastity and then having it taken by force in front of our horrified eyes. I hope that’s not the case since he makes some nice pauses in the action to bridge John and Emma’s mindset from worried parents to avengers. A backstory involving a departed son is subtly interweaved while never spoken as part of some “mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore” flip. Rather it’s the presentation of sharp, blunt instruments in the kitchen and shed that cross mom and dad’s attention while they desperately try to get their daughter to safety. The turn-the-other-cheeks out there may not take up the eye-for-an-eye approach when one eye has been severely damaged instead of completely blinded nor appreciate parents taking time out to hunt the attackers rather then tend to their child. Iliadis and screenwriters Adam Alleca and Carl Ellsworth (who wrote Red Eye for Craven) address these potential glitches in the plotting and are quick to make the inevitable vengeance a matter of necessity even if pre-meditation was on their minds. Is this a probing examination into the nature of revenge. Absolutely not. Much like James Wan’s underappreciated Death Sentence (which only got silly when it TRIED to examine itself), this is just the endgame of rage and I think any parent who says they wouldn’t at least think about doing what John and Emma do given the chance (especially as an immediate counteraction) is a bald-faced liar just trying to give a P.C. answer for the polls.

Normally the bland performances turned in by Goldwyn and Potter would be cause for its own scrutiny, but here its actually a wise choice to make them as average as possible. All we need to know is that they are parents. Turning him into a doctor does add the element of a man constantly on the repair now forced to inflict damage against his oath, but like the dead son, is never accentuated for extraneous point-making. The performance to sit up and take notice of though is Garret Dillahunt’s as the chief baddie. Here’s an actor who may have found your attention if you were a fan of HBO’s brilliant Deadwood (where he played the man who gunned down Wild Bill as well as a second character in a later season) but recently has turned in vastly different and terrific performances in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, No Country for Old Men (as Tommy Lee Jones’ deputy) and again on TV as no less a Terminator on The Sarah Connor Chronicles and a viciously manipulative Russian mobster on NBC’s Life. Hopefully his work as Krug won’t completely put in the typecasting nail for scumbag roles in the next few years, but Dillahunt’s instant menace when he enters a scene is almost enough for you want to pick up something blunt just to protect yourself.

I won’t apologize for my thoughts on Craven’s original. Maybe its my own fault not being born until years after its release, but in my eyes bad filmmaking knows no bounds despite whatever historical context is spun around it. Even I were at the outset I can’t imagine people being so affected by the brutality with all the wacky Keystone Cops and Rockford music getting about as much screen time. At least Dillahunt’s gang are believable enough as accident victims to be taken in by the trusting couple. Why the original parents would ever let in this twitchy band of hippies (even if one is in a suit) into their domain while their daughter has gone missing is less believable than dad going through the trouble of rigging the house with trip wires when a few good whacks during their guests’ slumber would have sufficed.

Over the last 35+ years maybe we’ve run the gambit from the victimized to the applauding aggressors, but I don’t believe that’s a very long trip given this particular situation. Our post-United 93 mindset certainly reflects a Finchian attitude that makes the first murder of the house a crowd-pleasing doozy while the final one (while ranking high on the comuppance meter) feels tacked-on and excessive after a perceived ending of mission accomplished. (Plus it was unnecessarily spoiled in the trailer.) The Last House on the Left doesn’t reach into the bowels of depravity like Captivity or Eli Roth’s Hostel features. It unsettles audiences just up to the brink (by being horrifying, but not tasteless), holds us there and then gives us the necessary CPR. Taken may be a little more up avenger’s alley for John Q. Public, but the die-hards of Craven’s original I can’t imagine taking much umbridge with the minor changes. Maybe it’s a different film in their eyes, but it’s a different film for the better and that should be recognized. You have to consider that Wes Craven recently stated that he won’t bother to see the forthcoming remake of his A Nightmare On Elm Street, so maybe even he knows something the fans don’t.

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originally posted: 03/13/09 15:00:00
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User Comments

4/14/18 Bloody Good Nice bloody delicious 4 stars
2/13/17 morris campbell more trash bigger budget 1 stars
4/18/11 art BOY,was i WAY OFF BASE again,THIS REMAKE STINK"S just like the SICK 72 ORIGINAL! 1 stars
11/04/10 Josie Cotton is a goddess Not bad. Doesn't hold a candle to Bergman's or Craven's films, but not bad 3 stars
10/26/10 art I REGRET BADMOUTHING the 72 ORIGINAL,was i WAY OFF BASE,this new one{T2009 VERISON] SUCK"S! 1 stars
3/22/10 Stanley Thai It's great to see a film that doesn't follow style over substance like most horror films. 4 stars
1/12/10 art THIS "REMAKE" ERADICATES the BLOODY 1972 FIRST ONE! 5 stars
8/23/09 action movie fan david hess as krug made the original far better than this lame version 2 stars
8/21/09 mr.mike Effective remake holds its own, tho the final 30 seconds seems tacked-on.. 4 stars
8/19/09 art IT WILL TAKE A BACK-SEAT TO THE 1972 ORIGINAL! 3 stars
3/29/09 chris. the shitty effect of a morally depraved society. 1 stars
3/28/09 This movie is bad And your bad too if you liked it. 1 stars
3/19/09 Total Crap Another unneeded remake. Can't anyone come up with an original idea anymore? 1 stars
3/18/09 james obrien its o:k 3 stars
3/18/09 Anthony Feor This film was not needed. 2 stars
3/17/09 Luke Meighan Above average. A exploitation film, but no mention of herpes. 4 stars
3/16/09 Brandon Allin I disagree. I loved this film. 5 stars
3/16/09 Yo MTV Raps yo twas intense but mostly boring- i was more interested in da fly bitches in front of us. 3 stars
3/16/09 escaped serial killer fucking great- all those who disagree must perish- 5 stars
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  13-Mar-2009 (R)
  DVD: 18-Aug-2009


  DVD: 18-Aug-2009

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