The Last House on the Left (2009)

Horrornews is a discussion forum for true horror fans to discuss the more obscure areas of the horror/cult/exploitation film genre as well as current theatrical horror.

Moderator: Chris Slack

Post Reply
User avatar
Remo D
Posts: 1274
Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2000 10:00 pm
Location: Marina, CA U.S.A.
Contact:

The Last House on the Left (2009)

Post by Remo D » Sun Mar 15, 2009 10:42 am

Okay. I've got a nice big plate in front of me. It's full of words... words that I used in anticipation of the remake of THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. And I'm about to eat them. Well, most of them, anyway. Wanna watch me tuck in?

Now, you know how weary I've become of the seemingly never-ending stream of horror remakes. They're unavoidable, and yet for the most part I DO check them out, because I have, at the very least, mild curiosity as to what's being done in the name of the films that affected me significantly in their original versions. But I've become accustomed to the pattern... in recent years, the best I could hope for has been "well, it's no substitute for the original, but on its own it's not bad at all" (DAWN OF THE DEAD) or "different enough to stand on its own" (HALLOWEEN); the utter worst scrapings have been such worthless PG-13 hits as PROM NIGHT, with everything in between (MY BLOODY VALENTINE, FRIDAY THE 13TH) hitting or missing on technical ability alone.

But oh, did I have my knives sharpened for THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. And not just because it existed... because of the TRAILER I saw. Despite the "R" rating, the trailer (which IS far too spoiler-ridden) suggested a weak, teen-friendly knockoff (the "Mari LIVES" version???) which invoked a notorious title in order to make an easy buck off the "we'll sit through anything" crowd. Now, LAST HOUSE is not a title you play with. Well before I was old enough to see it, I was extremely aware of the notorious "ONLY A MOVIE... ONLY A MOVIE..." ad campaign and of the ferocious, confrontational nature of the film itself. I'd seen Ebert champion it while Siskel simultaneously condemned it. And years later, the film itself more than lived up to its reputation when I saw it in its perfect venue... the long-lost Y&W Drive-In, on a triple bill with THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD and HOUSE BY THE LAKE.

In short, unlike a piece of piffle like PROM NIGHT, THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT stands as the cinematic equivalent of the weapon that you don't dare point at anyone... unless you intend to USE it. The trailer I saw made it look like the remake had nothing to offer but a "BANG" flag. And oh, how I wanted to use the Lloyd Bentzen "You're no Jack Kennedy" line on Garrett Dillahunt, the man who would be Krug...

But I wouldn't have let any of that out of the gate without actually WATCHING the film. So I did. And I'm here to tell you that the new LAST HOUSE actually MEANS it... even if Mari DOES live, and even if evisceration and oral castration are no longer on the menu.

And it's understandable--such material was truly transgressive and shocking in 1972, but this is the age of HOSTEL... so like it or not, you need a better reason than that to include it today, as you're no longer giving the audience something they haven't seen plenty of times already.

No, the new LAST HOUSE does just the opposite... once Mari and her friend Paige (no longer Phyllis) wind up in the woods at the mercy of their captors, the viewer is subjected to a briefer--and blunter--depiction of rape and murder that's too well acted and directed to shrug off. Make no mistake: these aren't Jason's victims--these are realistic, believable characters, and you don't need to rip their guts out to make the audience share their pain and terror. And oh, does it work. I saw something at LAST HOUSE that I hadn't seen in years... a mass audience exodus. And those who left did NOT come back later.

The second act is almost as skillfully played: despite the new ad campaign which asks "How far would you go to hurt them BACK?," the orgy of ensuing violence isn't really based on vengeance. Dr. and Mrs. Collinwood, in this case, have to find a way to get their severely injured daughter to a hospital (in the middle of a storm and a power failure, without a car) while well aware that they've just handed their guest house over to a group of sociopathic criminals--they know they will probably have to square off against them in the process and prepare to do whatever it takes. If they COULD escape to safety with Mari without incident, they WOULD--but we all know things aren't that simple.

Which brings me to the problem that compromises the film (and no, I'm not talking about the Chatty-Cathys behind me that I ultimately had to get up and SHUSH... OH, do I hate that--once the spell is broken, there's no way to really get it back). Well, more than one problem, actually. Let's get the mildly annoying one out of the way first. Garbage disposal. Exactly when did the POWER come back on? Maybe I missed it, so I won't dwell on it. Let's move on.

The LAST HOUSE remake makes very few stumbles. Okay, maybe Dillahunt ISN'T any David Hess, but at least he doesn't TRY to be. The dynamic between Krug and his weak-willed son (Justin, not Junior, in this case) doesn't hit the heights (or the payoff) of the original, but it's still filled with intensity and manages to find its own direction. So if you leave out the obvious comparison (hard to do once you've seen Hess's performance, I know, but we've got to be fair to the new audience), you're still left with a film that milks the emotional maximum from the viewer with fine acting and hard-hitting violence alike (and NO comic-relief subplots with klutzy cops and chicken trucks, either). Which is why I found it extremely regrettable that the film felt the need to end with a would-be "WHOA!!!" epilogue. I won't go into details, but it will suffice to say that the trailer (and probably most of the reviews) even spoiled THAT. Okay--the scene is well-done, as is the accompanying effect. But it's completely, utterly gratuitous, all the same.

The film had made a powerful point regarding violence--much as the Craven original had, and much as the Ingmar Bergman film THE VIRGIN SPRING had before THAT. This violence wasn't at all gimicky or inventive. It wasn't there to show off a special effect, and it wasn't there to make the viewer say "WHOA!" with its inventiveness. It was there to HURT, plain and simple. And hurt it did. LAST HOUSE, in either incarnation, sledgehammers its viewers into submission. And when the violence stops, the film should end and let it sink in. At NO point in the original is the audience encouraged to cheer (though men cried out in sympathetic pain and grabbed their own crotches when Stillo got his comeuppance, I doubt that even the ladies in the audience felt much like applauding after the wringer they'd been put through). And the remake has the perfect opportunity to end on a... well, "high note" is too positive a term. But there's a perfect end point all the same. The epilogue? Well, it may very well delight some viewers, and it would be a wonderful "WHOA!" in a different film, but to me it seemed completely tacked on and at odds with what the rest of the film worked so hard to accomplish... a bow to today's marketplace, no doubt, but one that's scarcely going to turn such a bleak film into a FRIDAY THE 13TH cash bucket.

Still, in a sea of remakes, I'll stick up for the new LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT as one that legitimately earns its right to be there.
My dog's breath smells like peanut butter...

...and I don't even have a dog!


User avatar
Irrylath
Posts: 4459
Joined: Sun Sep 29, 2002 12:00 pm
Location: Seattle

Post by Irrylath » Sun Mar 15, 2009 12:26 pm

wow. great review! I'm curious yet afraid. I'll need to find someone to go with me to this or I'll be forced to wait until it comes out on DVD...not doing this one alone! :D
There are two means of refuge from the misery of life - music and cats.
- - - Albert Schweitzer

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v694/irrylath76/mordor.jpg[/img]

User avatar
Darth Tanner
Posts: 499
Joined: Tue Oct 19, 1999 10:00 pm
Location: Midlothian, VA U.S.A

Post by Darth Tanner » Sun Mar 15, 2009 7:16 pm

Irrylath wrote:wow. great review! I'm curious yet afraid. I'll need to find someone to go with me to this or I'll be forced to wait until it comes out on DVD...not doing this one alone! :D
See it now instead of waiting for the DVD. It is well worth it and you won't be disappointed.

I think we might have a contender for "best horror film of 2009" so far as this was certainly better that the last three horror films I saw this year. Even with it's flaws I enjoyed MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3-D even though it was not a classic. THE UNINVITED was slightly better, but still could've been more. And the FRIDAY THE 13TH remake was a missed opportunity. I had my doubts about this one but the trailer looked promising and I was curious to see how they would handle a controversial title.

Turns out I made the right decision by seeing this. Remo hit it right on the head with his review, but in some ways I prefer this one to the original. The scenes of rape and violence are very cringeworthy moments and the film packs a bigger punch than the original. Nobody left during the showing I was at. But then again the matinee crowd at my showing was pretty small. I agree that Garret Dillahunt can't take the place of David Hess (as I stated before), but he does a terrific job here with his own take on the character. Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter were also good as the parents. But I was really surprised to see Spencer Treat Clark all grown-up as Justin. Has it really been that long since he appeared in UNBREAKABLE? Nevertheless, he was good as well.

Don't let any naysayers steer you wrong. This one is definitely worth checking out. But it didn't exactly have a very strong opening (it came in at #3 but had a gross of $14.7 million....which is close to what MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3-D came in at) so I have a feeling it "might" not be around very long. Go see it while you can and let me know what you think.
"I have existed from the morning of the world and I shall exist until the last star falls from the heavens. Although I have taken the form of Gaius Caligula, I am all men as I am no man and so... I am a God." - Malcolm McDowell, CALIGULA
------------------

[url=http://www.dvdprofiler.com/mycollection.asp?alias=ctanner5]My DVD collection[/url]

User avatar
DylanDog
Posts: 850
Joined: Mon Oct 18, 1999 10:00 pm
Location: Wareham, MA
Contact:

Post by DylanDog » Mon Mar 16, 2009 7:22 am

Damn. I didn't expect this. I was so not interested in this movie that I didn't even realize it was out already. Now I may have to check it out.
"This must be settled the way nature intended...with a vicious, bloody fight!!"
Onyx Blackman
Principal
Flatpoint High
[url=http://www.dvdprofiler.com/mc.asp?alias=Nekrodave&type=A]DVDS[/url]
[url=http://www.collectiondx.com/gallery/Collections/Nekrodave/]TOYS[/url]
[url=http://www.myspace.com/nekrodave]MySpace[/url]

User avatar
Irrylath
Posts: 4459
Joined: Sun Sep 29, 2002 12:00 pm
Location: Seattle

Post by Irrylath » Mon Mar 16, 2009 10:05 am

I 'aint going alone, so I'm trying to rope someone into going with! Wish me luck. :D
There are two means of refuge from the misery of life - music and cats.
- - - Albert Schweitzer

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v694/irrylath76/mordor.jpg[/img]


User avatar
Latte Thunder
Posts: 1240
Joined: Sun Jul 16, 2000 10:00 pm
Location: In ur base, killin ur doods
Contact:

Post by Latte Thunder » Sat Mar 21, 2009 5:11 am

DylanDog wrote:Damn. I didn't expect this. I was so not interested in this movie that I didn't even realize it was out already. Now I may have to check it out.
I'm with you. I've been seeing the hype machine on Twitter but between all the Dread Central types tweeting about how awesome it was AND Wes Craven, himself, using the service to be a total schill, I wasn't ready to accept the possibility that the movie had even a shred of value to it.

But this pretty much cemented it. I think I'll check it out. Though, I have to admit, I'm a little worn on the extreme stuff.
[url=http://www.cinema-suicide.com]Cinema Suicide[/url]
[url=http://soundtracks.cinema-suicide.com]Soundtrack Apocalisse[/url]


Post Reply