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The Last House on the Left

A 2009 movie directed by Dennis Iliadis.

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3 ½ Stars: Good Remake of the Exploitation Classic!

  • Aug 20, 2009
Rating:
+3

Perhaps I should have re-watched the original “The Last House on the Left” before I saw this re-imagining of the violently, brutal horror classic, but I think I can remember enough to write a balanced review. The original had that unrelenting graphically violent nature that is rooted around the premise of the lost of innocence, that left its mark 37 or so years ago. Wes Craven was still trying to find his style during the time, and now, he has been trying to revamp his past brainchild such as “The Hills Have Eyes” and even has a remake of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” in the works. This remake, while not as exploitive and stomach-turning as the original, is a decent entry in the books of horror.
 
Reeling from the death of their son, Ben, the Collingwoods made up of John (Tony Goldwyn), Emma (Monica Potter), and swimmer daughter Mari (Sara Paxton) decide to go up to their lake house for a little renewal and “family bonding”. 17-year old daughter Mari, however, has her different idea of fun as she hooks up with her friend Paige (Martha MacIsaac) that ends up with the two meeting up with a young man named Justin (Spencer Treat Clark) in a small motel. It turns out Justin is the son of a recently escaped convict named Krug (Garret Dillahunt), who along with his wicked girlfriend Sadie (Riki Lindhome), and Francis (Aaron Paul) plan to get out of dodge as soon as possible. Things turn for the worst as Mari and Paige is taken hostage and something truly horrific happens. Later on, Krug and his crew find themselves stranded and they seek refuge in the last house on the left…the very house owned by Mari’s parents. Payback is a bitch.
 
Directed by Dennis Iliadis, this re-imagining captures the main premise of the 70’s original with some small and some major differences in the screenplay. While the original was utterly violent and exploitive; it was a fine product of the times unleashed to an unprepared audience much like “I Spit on Your Grave” which gave it an image/title of “exploitation classic“, this new remake does try to give certain more fleshed out aspects; such as morality and vengeance, as well as a cautionary tale for teenagers. I find bloody vengeance films a lot of fun to watch, and “The Last House on the Left” is all about set ups, as we see destiny plays its hand in order to mess with both our good guys and bad guys. 

               Martha Macisaac as Paige in "The Last House on the Left."

                               A scene from "The Last House on the Left."
 
While the original was quick and painful, this remake decides to take its time. The film tries to transcend the usual horror clichés, overload of special effects and torture sequences in favor of subtle characterization and careful composition in its storytelling. The raw intensity of the original is lost, and what we see in its place is some subtle tricks in its photography that meanders and dwells on some emotion as we become privy to Mari’s ordeal. Director Iliadis tries to lean towards artistry in place of raw brutality--don’t get me wrong, the film is pretty brutal, it just follows a different approach. This remake is also less sadistic than the original, but it does definitely generate more sympathy through characterization rather than through its horrific scenes with grand displays of anger and rage. The brutality represented in the original was pure unrelenting violence that displays humanity’s sadistic side, it may prove a bit surreal that may distance some viewers from its emotions. The rape scene in the film is as disturbing and savage as in the original; but in this remake, there is no touches of crude humor. (no inept cops) 

                  Sara Paxton as Mari in "The Last House on the Left."
 
What is also interesting is the fact that Krug and his crew are brutal but they are brutal when provoked; it feels like they were just doing the brutal deeds out of necessity of the situation. When Mari and Paige tried to escape, their reaction is violent, and without regret. I’m still certain that the two would still be killed after all is said and done; but the script does try to bring some questions as to what would have happened if they just cooperated? However, the direction and screenplay gives no room to feel some sympathy towards Krug and his crew; they are vile, evil and despicable. They really deserved what is coming for them, which allows for the viewer to root for John and Emma all the way. The only one worthy of sympathy would be our mislead character Justin, and not entirely by much. The antagonists this time around are no mere caricatures and they feel a little more real. Krug is presented as a lethal, calculating bad guy who may have just left the Collingwoods after a night’s rest, despite the temptations of their baser killer instincts but then again, you‘d never know since Francis is somewhat taken by pretty Emma. 

             A scene from "The Last House on the Left."

                           Monica Potter as Emma Collingwood and Aaron Paul as Francis in "The Last House on the Left."
 
Purists are bound to be a little upset as even the trailers have shown Mari surviving the rape and while I do somewhat agree with their complaints. Mari’s death proved to be the major catalyst for the parents’ lust for brutal revenge, this time around the script tries to incorporate a different reason for Emma and John to take the offensive. They have to fight for their barely alive daughter’s survival, so they have the added motivation to lay waste upon Krug and his crew of despicable characters. Clues as to how they discover that they were the offenders that attacked their daughter are also handled well. I also enjoyed the scenes when the killing becomes easier for Emma and John after their first kill--all they became concerned about is getting their daughter to safety and woe unto anyone who would stand on their way.
 
Now this remake has its flaws. I did not like the last scene in the film’s end. I thought it was a little tasteless and pointless; left as a cheap device to satisfy lovers of blood and gore. That microwave bit just didn’t match the tone of the rest of the film. Also, some scenes may leave some viewers scratching their heads, that some scenes felt too convenient. (I found it a bit hard to believe that Krug’s crew didn’t leave a ‘sentry’) This unrated edition of “Last House on the Left” is 4 minutes longer. I read that the rape scene is longer, not so much as more violent but the camera lingers more to generate the effects of Mari‘s attack, which proved more unnerving than the theatrical release. There is some extended scenes of shattered necks and stabbing to satisfy fans.
 
More methodical with characterization and a bit more ‘artsy’, this remake stands as one of the best horror remakes of an American film. Rampaging parents in the quest for revenge who become cold-hearted killers is pure fun, and it sure helps when the victims are ugly, unsympathetic assholes. Iliadis took the film’s main premise and made it his own. No, it isn’t better than the original, but it’s almost like Rocky Road and Chocolate Brownie ice cream--both are mainly chocolate, but different flavors. It is a different film that can stand on its own.
 
Recommended! [3 ½ Stars]

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December 30, 2010
One of the better remakes like you said.
 
July 17, 2010
great review...dosent make me like the movie anymore but still made me think about other parts of it that i could'nt concentrate on when i was actually watching it.
July 17, 2010
thanks, vampire_eyez. btw, have you seen DAYBREAKERS?
 
August 27, 2009
I'm not usually one for remakes.  I can handle them, but upon seeing previews it just looks a little overdone (as most horror movies in this day and age are).  The original scared the living hell out of me because it felt very real.  The previews for this didn't look like that.  I've thought about seeing it, if only because I rather liked the original.  But I'm waiting for it to come on like HBO or something first.
August 30, 2009
I think the original is definitely more horrific than this remake. I'm not fond of remakes either, but I can tolerate American remakes of American films. This was alright, see it on a real lazy afternoon....
 
August 21, 2009
I hate remakes.
August 22, 2009
me too...although Cronenberg's "the FLY" and the remake of "The Thing" are among my favorite movies. I think I can tolerate remakes of American movies by Americans than American remakes of Foreign films. This at least was acceptable.
August 22, 2009
Me too, I think my Favorite remakes List only had 3 films on it, and for the life of me right now I can't recall what the other--oh yeah, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS.
August 22, 2009
How did I forget that one?? which version are you talking about? there are so many of them...
Did you see Dave79's review of this? He's a purist and he loved it!
August 22, 2009
Either one is good, but the 70s version is my favorite. No, I haven't read his review yet. I guess this means he's no longer a purist.
 
August 21, 2009
I have been wanting to see this one even if it means a cheap Redbox rental. Not sure I'm ready to purchase it but curious nevertheless. I do LOVE the original Wes Craven classic & am intrigued to see how this one will hold up. Awesome review bud!!
August 22, 2009
If this wasn't a remake, this would've been rounded up to 4. Check out Dave79's review of this movie...he liked more than I did and backed up his opinion. Thanks for the read, buddy!
 
1
More The Last House on the Left reviews
review by . July 19, 2011
Two of Wes Craven's early features have been bettered by their remakes. Alexandre Aja's 2006 retread of The Hills Have Eyes was clever, visually spectacular and far superior to the noisy, stupid original. Similarly, this second take on Craven's vicious 1972 directorial debut draws from all of its strengths while jettisoning its many overwrought flaws. Although the plot is similar - two girls are abducted by hardened criminals, brutalized and left for dead; parents exact revenge - it's …
review by . October 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
FOR A REMAKE THIS ONE IS ACTUALLY GOOD
      THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT      I remember watching the original film and thinking this is a pretty good movie, in fact Wes Craven's 70's classic is still a good film to this day. So when I heard that once again not only was Hollywood remaking an old classic but it would be another Wes film I was a little upset. Of course the remake of his other classic "The Hills Have Eyes" was actually good so I finally found myself giving this a …
review by . January 24, 2010
What would you do if someone hurt the one you loved?
If someone hurt the one you loved  how far would you go to make them pay? Would you go outside the law and take matters into your own hands? Would you  try and at least do the right thing and wait for the proper authorities to  come and   catch them? Well  the honest truth is that this film explores the latter. It explores  how one father and mother take justice into there own hands and get revenge on the people that hurt there young daughter. Now here's the real …
review by . January 02, 2010
If you like this sort of thing and know what you're getting into
   I’ve seen the remake of Wes Craven's original and it was pretty good plus disturbing. Having seen my fair share of disturbing films like “Cannibal Holocaust.” After watching this up to date version it seems a bit unbalanced and tame along with the unrated version. I say unbalanced because it seems to want to be two different films, in terms of genre and style. The last act and the only parts worth watching, seem to fall under the 'torture porn' genre, for example “Hostel,” …
Quick Tip by . October 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Caption
   This remake is actually good and while not as memorable as the original still manages to pull off some good moments.
Quick Tip by . June 22, 2010
Very disturbing movie all the way around. That being said, I found the plot and actions of the characters fairly unbelievable.
Quick Tip by . June 14, 2010
It might be a little softer around the edges than its predecessor, but this remake still manages to deliver the goods, even if it does take the safer approach to the moral ambiguities of the original classic.
review by . October 13, 2009
The Last on the Left remake was okay in my opinion.  I didn't care for the bad guys because in the original you got to know them better but in the remake they're pretty much your run-on-the-mill garden variety villains.They didn't have any real personalities and they just seem to be "there" so they can chase the two girls and deal some dirty deeds upon them.  The movie does stick somewhat to the original script but there is something missing from this film that really stood out …
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Director: Dennis Iliadis
Genre: Action, Crime, Horror, Thriller
Release Date: March 13, 2009
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Carl Ellsworth, Adam Alleca
Runtime: 110 minutes
Studio: Rogue Pictures, Scion Films, Film Afrika Worldwide, Midnight Entertainment
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