The Last House On The Left

Director    Dennis Iliadis
Starring    Sara Paxton, Garrett Dillahunt, Tony Goldwyn, Monica Potter, Aaron Paul
Release    13 MAR (US) 12 JUN (UK)    Certificate 18
2 stars


14th June 2009

There's something off-putting about the current brand of horror remakes. The movies that are being refitted from the seventies and eighties are ones whose names still resonate today, due to the controversy they caused at the time (see: The Hills Have Eyes, Friday The 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre etc.) But the so-called 'video nasties' of the period were grimy, seedy and shot with minuscule budgets - flickery and fuzzy, watching them felt naughty. Now, seeing the same franchises tarted up for the big screen, with flashy editing, pretty young actors, stylised violence and $20m budgets... well, it just seems perverse. Sick and wrong, but not for the reasons the creators would like.

The Last House On The Left is one such misadventure, where you'll struggle to come up with one solid reason for remaking the Wes Craven original - other than churning out a production line horror with a recognisable name that's guaranteed a big opening weekend. Is the plot particularly relevant nowadays? Nah. Is there an underlying theme that's especially pertinent in 2009? Nuh-uh. In fact, the only concession to the modern day is the fact that the villains have to make a show of smashing their victims' cell phones. Neither archetype have learned anything from the early seventies, either.

Set-up is largely the same as the 1972 version. Young girls Mari (Sara Paxton) and Paige (Superbad's Martha MacIsaac) accidentally stumble into the orbit of three psychotic fugitives, who have their way with them in extremely graphic and brutal fashion - the rape scene is particularly harrowing. The second half of the movie sees Mari's parents exact an equally bloody and pointless revenge on the psychos when they turn up on the doorstep of the family home seeking shelter. Bad bounce.

There is an interesting point to be made here - when revenge is on the cards, just how far is too far? Unfortunately for us, that's not something anyone seems bothered about - there's an audience baying for blood and an 18 certificate to justify. The movie's violence is ridiculously OTT, which jars with the story's small-scale and uncomfortably intimate nature. It's a big ask to expect us to believe a normal man and wife would kill an intruder by smashing a bottle over his head, stabbing him in the heart, drowning him, jamming his hand in a waste disposal unit and then bonking him on the head with a hammer. Harsh.

Indeed, these bad guys have been studying at the Jason Voorhees School For Slashers. They're impervious to bullets, shake off stab wounds and jump through plate glass windows without so much as a headache - the movie's credibility ebbs away like from a leaky tap.

In its favour, there are positives. With no well-known faces in the cast, it's a lottery as to who will survive and what will be left of them - assuming that you've not seen the original, of course - while the trio of mentalists are all suitably creepy, particularly Riki Lindhome as the gang's bad girl (eyes that are too far apart are visual shorthand for mental instability as far as I'm concerned). The violence is realistic too, if that could be considered a positive.

Alas, it's hard to get too outraged by anything in The Last House On The Left - it's very much a case of seen it all before and a hundred times better to boot. If you must, seek out the original to see nasty things happen to nasty people in a nasty film. You're better off not bothering with the 2009 version at all - it'll just leave you feeling numb. But who gives a shit as long as it makes its money back, right? Mission accomplished, guys.

More:  Horror  Slasher  Violence  Remake
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