The Last House on the Left
Yet another horror classic
from my childhood is being remade. I can't say how faithful The
Last House on the Left is to the classic 70s Wes Craven film, frankly
because I never saw when the original film.
I will say that the new
film is a scary and troubling suburban nightmare that takes a disturbing
hold on you but eventually goes just a hair too far.
It exploits a very basic
nightmare. A couple and their teen daughter are on holiday at a remote
vacation cabin when their lives intersect violently with a group of
It is all loosely based on
an old folk song - and more specifically the original storyline is a very
loose interpretation of Ingmar Bergman's 1960 Oscar-winning Best Foreign
Film The Virgin Spring. However, where Bergman's movie looked
at the dark side and moral and ethical cost of vengeance, in the new Last
House there is more of a "family-values" sense of black and white
entitlement. You fuck with my family, we're gonna make you hurt...
The Last House on the
Left is essentially broken down into two parts. The first part has
a teenaged girl (Sara Paxton) and a friend (Martha MacIsaac) meeting a guy
who offers to get them some pot, and then being captured, raped and left for
dead by the kid's crazy family - lead by a sociopathic escaped convict named
Krug (Garret Dillahunt).
The second half of the film
has the convict and his crew having to stay with a doctor (Tony Goldwyn) and
his wife (Monica Potter) during a torrential storm, only to eventually
realize that this couple were the parents of one of their victims.
When the parents find their badly injured daughter and realize that their
visitors were responsible, they decide to take revenge on the killers.
Much of this is very
disturbing but at the same time works as a look at the heart of darkness.
Particularly effective - for better or worse - are the scenes where Paxton
and MacIsaac are tormented by the killers. It is violent, ugly, evil,
hard to take and undeniably horrifying.
The later scenes, where the
Goldwyn and Potter take on their daughter's attackers, are more cartoonish
and commonplace horror stuff, but it is done with style and verve.
One reason the film works
well is the fact that this film is very well-cast for a horror film.
Goldwyn, Paxton, MacIsaac, Dillahunt and Potter are all extremely good
(It doesn't seem all that
long ago that Potter was playing the woman in distress herself, it's a bit
of a shame seeing her relegated to playing the victim's mother.)
Perhaps these actors are a little too technically good for a film of this
type, but the quality cast gives the film even more gravity than a typical
The movie is actually
surprisingly suspenseful through the great majority of the running time...
which makes the last few minutes doubly disappointing.
Unfortunately, at the very
end, the filmmakers take things two steps too far. They had a
perfectly satisfactory ending to the film. The bad guys were taken
care of and order had been returned to their lives somewhat, however the
filmmakers felt the need to tag on a coda which just makes the doctor seem
every bit as sadistic and evil as the criminals. This is shown when
the doctor doles out
two more acts of punishment. I'd have even gone with the along with
added act of vengeance. While perhaps a bit harsh, it actually kind of worked in the
storyline. The doctor had used his skills to dole out retribution.
I won't tell you what the
doctor does to get that retribution - nor how he followed it up - for fear of spoiling the surprise.
Let's just say that the payback was taken even one step farther in a sequence that
involves a household appliance. It is a variation of an old urban
legend, but it is also unnecessary and rather cruel and disgusting.
More to the point, from my understanding of that type of appliance, I do not
believe that it would physically be able to work in that manner. (I can't go
into more detail without giving the plot twist up, but when you see the
movie, you will know what I mean.) Let's just say that a very basic
safety measure of the machine seems to be just ignored in this shot.
This ending doesn't ruin
The Last House on the Left, but it does leave a bit of a bad taste in
your mouth on the way back up the aisle. It seems gratuitous and
unnecessary and sort of saps the well-earned sense of closure that the
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2009 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: February 19, 2009.