Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Last House On The Left (2009)

This is, or course, a remake of the 1972 movie of the same name directed by Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream), which was itself a re-working of Ingmar Bergman’s 1960 movie The Virgin Spring. I feel I should point out up front I am not a fan of the Craven version. I feel the directing was crude (it was Craven’s first film), it stepped over the line in glorifying the torture and sexual violence to which the two young girls were subjected, and it has comedic sequences which seem jarringly out of place. I was inclined to dismiss the remake, but bought the blu-ray after several people mentioned it was good. Still, it sat on the shelf for a long time before I put it in the player late last night.

(Lest you think I’m the only one who didn’t care for the original, I’d also like to mention Fred J. Lincoln, who acted in the 1972 movie, has called it the worst movie he ever made. It is worth noting that Lincoln is a long-time actor and director in porn films, and among his titles is Abducted by the Enema Bandit*, which presumably he thinks is better than The Last House on the Left.)

* I would like to note I got the title from, and have no personal knowledge of the movie in question. It hasn't been shown on Turner Classic Movies yet.

In the same area where a sadistic killer (Garret Dillahunt, Deadwood, The Assassination of Jesse James) has made a deadly escape from custody with the help of his similarly inclined brother and girlfriend, a physician (Tony Goldwyn, Ghost) and his wife (Monica Potter, Saw, Along Came A Spider) have brought their daughter Mari (Sara Paxton) for a weekend getaway at their lake house. Mari is still dealing with issues relating to the death of her older brother, and goes into town to meet her childhood friend Paige (Martha MacIsaac). Paige is the type of character who, when a creepy kid comes by and asks them to go back to his low-class motel to smoke marijuana, happily goes within him. This is a terrible mistake, and is the sort of behavior that makes fathers want to send their daughters away to a convent, even if they aren’t Catholic.

The creepy kid turns out to be the son of the escaped psycho, and soon the girls have been sexually molested, tortured and either killed or left for dead. In the twist that is the real reason for the movie to exist, the gang of killers afterward seeks refuge from a storm at the house of Mari’s parents. The parents soon realize the fearsome foursome is responsible for the attack on their daughter, and even the score in graphic and sometimes over-contrived fashion.

So, is it better than the 1972 version? Yes, it is. The direction here is quite competent (Dennis Iliadis) and the cast seems professional. Potter and Goldwyn do a good job as the much put-upon parents, and the infinitely changeable Dillahunt is one of the better character actors working today. He makes a truly menacing villain. Only his character’s ultimate disposition seems completely implausible.

The prolonged assault on the girls is very difficult to watch, and goes on for quite a while. I definitely squirmed while watching that. Your ability to watch scenes such as that will determine whether you should watch this, but, all in all, I surprised myself by liking it.

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