Wednesday, June 10, 2009
The Last House on the Left (2009)
"It's the last house on the left in case you forgot."
Directed by: Dennis Iliadis
Written by: Adam Alleca, Carl Ellsworth
Cast: Garret Dillahunt, Sara Paxton, Monica Potter, Tony Goldwyn
Naturally, when a remake is released there is a tendency to compare it to the original and point out how the new version fails in comparison. However, I have seen the original 1972 Wes Craven film which left me feeling somewhat nonplussed. A decent b-movie with a shocking rape thrown in but hardly deserving of its super cool tagline (it’s only a movie it’s only a movie it’s only a movie...). So, it was easy for me to put that film aside and watch the remake as a stand-alone rape-revenge thriller. However, as the film kept going it became clear that the grit and ugliness of Craven’s original is what gave it all its shock value. It became obvious to me that Hollywood just can’t do this kind of thing with any real punch.
The plot follows the Collinwood family, Emma, John, and their daughter Mari as they prepare to spend the summer in their secluded lake house (not a house for 6 miles so God knows where the title comes into it). Mari spends some time with her freewheeling friend Paige and they wind up smoking pot with a young stranger, Justin, in his motel room. You know the rules, never do drugs in a horror movie...you’ll pay with your life. Justin’s family come home and they happen to be fugitives so they must dispose of Justin’s new friends in case they rat them out. So, they take the girls out to the woods where they sadistically rape and torture them and leave them for dead. As awful as any rape scene is, it takes away some of the grit when it becomes clear that the actor is not allowed to show the actresses breast so he clumsily tries to keep his fingers under her bra. This is the kind of thing that shows that Hollywood ain’t cut out for real shock value. Apart from the mannered choreography, the rape scene is hideous and the young actress played it well, her innocent eyes giving the audience the empathy it needed.
So, naturally, an incoming storm stops the criminals, led by the particularly nasty Krug, from hitting the road so they stop into a nearby house for hospitality. What are the odds that this is young Mari Collinwood’s house? Well, it is. What follows is a turnaround in behaviours. When the Collinwoods figure it out it’s not long before they find themselves as sadistic and murderous as their enemies.
As a plot, this one is why we watch horror films. As Wes Craven himself says “a little bit of horror is good for the psyche”. Watching a film like this, you can’t help but meditate on the nature of human morals. Why not just tie up the perpetrators and let the police deal with them? Why not shoot them in the heart? No, these people are out for blood and they want revenge for what happened to their daughter. The gore is hit and miss, some of it is gratuitous but mostly it’s just the same old blood n’ brains.
The cast handle themselves well, even two of the dullest actors I can think of, Monica Potter and Tony Goldwyn manage to pull of their characters nicely (their characters seem to be hopelessly dull people). The ever-wonderful Garret Dillahunt is wasted in his role as Krug. He’s extremely nasty but that seems to be all there is to him.
This film is an aptly-made, if a bit hollow. There is some nice tension developed throughout and although it doesn’t really shock and it has a severe lack of imagination, it does leave one thinking about the fragile nature of the human psyche.
- Charlene Lydon 9/6/09