The Last House on the Left (2009)

Discussion in 'Reader Reviews' started by KillerCannabis, Mar 16, 2009.

  1. KillerCannabis

    KillerCannabis Slow, Deep & Hard

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    I’ve come to accept the fact that every single semi-viable property in the horror genre will be raped and pillaged for years to come. Horror films have always been guilty of cannibalism; most plots are rehashed over and over again only with a different beast/stalker/psycho filling in the gaps, but at least the filmmakers were trying to do something different before all of this. In this era of non-stop remakes, many of the genre’s classics have been, or are going to be, remade as inferior clones. Some of these bother me greatly while others, such as The Last House on the Left, do not. I’ve always felt that 1972’s LHotL (that’s the anagram I’m using from now on) is highly overrated. In fact, I distinctly remember feeling slightly disappointed once I’d finally seen it. The film was very controversial when it premiered, and rightly so since it features many scenes of degradation, humiliation and uncomfortable sexuality. But that was over 35 years ago, and by today’s horror standards the film is fairly tame. I’m also less concerned since that film was itself a remake of Ingmar Bergman’s near-flawless 1960 film The Virgin Spring. LHotL has already been remade once, albeit unofficially, as Chaos by closeted homosexual wrestling fetishist David “The Demon” DeFalco. He didn’t get it right and, unsurprisingly, neither did this incarnation’s helmer Dennis Iliadis.

    Mari Collingwood and her family arrive at their lakefront home for a family trip, and that night Mari decides to go out with her friend, Paige. At Paige’s liquor store job they meet Justin, a shady character who claims to have some “good shit” back at his hotel room. Since anyone with weed must be a friend indeed, they decide to give him a lift. The girls hang and party for a while until Justin’s father, Krug, and his girlfriend, Sadie, and Uncle Frank, all wanted fugitives, arrive and break up the soiree. Rather than allow the girls to leave, the trio takes them out into the woods for a few hours of torture and rape before finally killing Paige and seriously wounding Mari. When a rough storm forces the group out of the woods, they end up the home of Mari’s family, who eventually find Mari barely alive and then choose to seek revenge on the people who did this to her.

    This was one of those rare occasions where the crew had a great opportunity to improve upon the original film. One step they did take in the right direction was dropping the bumbling sheriff and his equally-incompetent deputy, along with their country bumpkin theme music. Those scenes always stuck out like a sore thumb in the 1972 film. Unfortunately, they also dropped some important aspects to the story, like the fact that Krug keeps his son high on dope all the time so he can’t leave the group. Here, Justin isn’t hooked on drugs, nor is anyone else it seems, so why he doesn’t run away at any time is beyond me. The lead trio here is a pale imitation of the group 35+ years ago. Garrett Dillahunt is no David Hess, I’ll tell you that much. He lacks any charisma whatsoever, and his sidekicks are reduced to clichéd sycophants. Sure, they’re scumbags but they’re more like the Rob Zombie archetype of a derelict, not true sociopaths.

    The main protagonist cast doesn’t fare any better. Tony Goldwyn is a good actor, and I thought he rocked as the guy with a Cracker Jack box gun in Friday the 13th VI, but I didn’t buy his turn from devoted Dr. Dad to Charles Bronson wannabe. I guess all that Hippocratic Oath b.s. just went right out the window along with any shred of credibility his character had. I probably would have bought it if the daughter had died as she did in the original, but I would think his concern would be getting Mari to a hospital and not recreating scenes from some Saw sequel. Speaking of Saw… Monica Potter plays Mari’s mom, and boy does she suck. Bad. Potter must have been given a Botox enema right before the shoot because she couldn’t possibly have a more difficult time getting her face to visibly show some emotion. It’s like watching a doughy, plastic Don Post mask try to emulate feelings in a realistic fashion. She’s so bad it almost makes me wish Julie Benz had gotten her role. Almost. Thankfully, Sara Paxton isn’t half bad as Mari. I thought she brought some real emotional weight to her role, as did Martha MacIsaac as Paige, so not everyone here is a total loss.

    Director Dennis Iliadis shows a good eye for shooting, but he’s not exactly a master at ratcheting up the tension. I’ll give him credit for not resorting to cheap “stinger” scares to get a jump out of the audience. He prefers to focus on indescribably nihilistic actions to make us squirm in our seats and, for the most part, he succeeded for the first 2/3 of the film. The last third turns into a typical stalk-and-smash brawl that ground to a halt any of the slow-burning tension that preceded it. Hopefully he finds a better project to latch onto in the future.

    The original team of Wes Craven and Sean S. Cunningham return as producers on this film. Craven hasn’t been relevant to the genre in a decade, so I can only assume he’s here to either see it got done right or for the money. I’m willing to bet on the latter. Cunningham is an opportunistic whore, so I know why he’s here. $$$. I find him to be particularly pathetic because he has proven he cares very little about the films he’s already done (the guy birthed the Friday the 13th franchise and yet chooses to distance himself from it entirely), but he seems to instantly materialize when there’s talk of a new film, remake or otherwise, that can net him some additional cash.

    I enjoyed the film’s score by composer John Murphy. He had previously worked on films such as 28 Weeks Later, Sunshine and Miami Vice. It’s nice to not be sonically assaulted by heavy metal music in a horror film because it almost never works, so Murphy’s ambient, electronic style synthesized well with the images on screen.

    I don’t recommend anyone see this film. Go watch the original instead. This is another example of a wasted opportunity to make a cult classic a better film by way of remaking it. Movies like Halloween, The Fog and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre could never have been made better than their initial cinematic incarnations, so it was fruitless from the beginning to attempt to improve upon them. LHotL had the potential those didn’t and, yet, it still managed to be a monumental failure. I’m all about supporting R-rated horror movies because it sends the message that we horror fans don’t want PG-13-rated teen flicks, but this is just too terrible to waste your money on.
     
  2. Paul0889

    Paul0889 New Member

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    it was a great remake
     
  3. KillerCannabis

    KillerCannabis Slow, Deep & Hard

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    Why? Care to elaborate?
     
  4. I just got back from seeing this and I came out with mixed feelings about it. I felt that some aspects of the '72 film were better and some aspects of the new film are better. Overall I liked the movie (and I am one who usually opposed to remakes) but it is no masterpiece.
     
  5. KillerCannabis

    KillerCannabis Slow, Deep & Hard

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    I see what you're saying. There were some things that I really liked in the remake, but overall it just didn't get the job done as I had hoped. It started off well enough, but then it just kept falling apart and never really recovered.
     

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