The Last House on the Left (2009)


(director: Dennis Iliadis; screenwriters: Adam Alleca/Carl Ellsworth/based on the film by Wes Craven; cinematographer: Sharone Meir; editor: Peter McNulty; music: John Murphy; cast: Tony Goldwyn (Dr. John Collingwood), Monica Potter (Emma Collingwood), Sara Paxton (Mari Collingwood), Garret Dillahunt (Krug), Spencer Treat Clark (Justin), Martha MacIsaac (Paige), Aaron Paul (Francis), Riki Lindhome (Sadie); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Sean S. Cunningham/Marianne Maddalena/Wes Craven; Rogue Pictures; 2009)
“It’s pretty to look at and ugly to digest.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Greek-born director Dennis Iliadis (“Hardcore”) in this glossy remake of the vile 1972 Wes Craven cult rape-revenge shocker picks up in the gore department where that one left off, but with more sophisticated visuals and more disturbing violence effectively done on serious real time instead of as made for laughs camp. The box office success of the cheapie original was responsible for opening up a new onslaught of slasher horror movies. This do over is still the usual tawdry B-movie exploitation slasher/horror film, that in a well-designed flat business as usual manner covers the violent rape and gruesome deaths that follow suit leading to the centerpiece revenge shot of the exploding head in the microwave (thereby bringing the viewer down to the film’s low level depths of ‘violence begets violence’ and ensuring that the paying moviegoer can get off seeing justice served slasher film style as the violence is revved up for today’s audience).

It’s pretty to look at and ugly to digest, a horror story right out of today’s tabloids. Without a sense of taste, it can only accomplish technical feats of excellence. It’s a film not meant for the squeamish or those with some kind of sensibility about perpetuating violence in an already crime-ridden society, and does not provide anything more than how enjoyable is such bloody trash to watch. In fact the film thrives on making the gratuitous mayhem entertaining (that scene of a garbage disposal chewing on the psychopathic man’s hand is shot in close-up and goes on seemingly forever, as if this was a shot of great art to be fixed in one’s mind), and offers in return for sitting through such a vile experience only a well-made and well-acted film (which admittedly is more than most films in this genre offer).

Screenwriters Adam Alleca and Carl Ellsworth base it on the film by Wes Craven, that was an amateurish vulgarization of Ingmar Bergman’s 1960 Oscar winner The Virgin Spring.

Krug (Garret Dillahunt) is a prison escapee through the courtesy of his thuggish brother Francis (Aaron Paul) and the escapee’s sadistic girlfriend Sadie (Riki Lindhome), who kill two cops by smashing their car that was taking him to prison with their SUV. The ugly trio return to their motel room and find that Krug’s nerdy and abused teenage son Justin (Spencer Treat Clark) is smoking weed with two 17-year-old girls, the local shop clerk girl Paige (Martha MacIsaac) and the rich visitor Mari (Sara Paxton). Krug takes Mari’s SUV and the girls hostage, and in the cramped quarters of the car the girls try to escape which results in the car crashing in the woods and then Mari raped doggy style by Krug and the feisty Paige tortured to death by knife cuts to her quivering stomach. Mari escapes though shot and swims in the lake through the heavy rain to safety to her parents’ isolated vacation lakehouse in the woods, where her doctor father John Collingwood (Tony Goldwyn) treats the unconscious vic and her mother Emma (Monica Potter) picks up the kitchen knife when she realizes the ones who did this to her girl are the riff-raff clan staying in the guesthouse after telling them their car broke down in an accident. Because of the storm there’s no phone service, so the nice middle-class couple must act on their own to protect themselves and they get their revenge by turning the table on the evildoers.

The nonsensical message here is that pot leads to more deadly things, such as leaving yourself open to sociopaths, and revenge on such nasty criminals is a sweet way to get instant justice. Otherwise this film like the original has no point to make except to use graphic violence such as rape, torture and human mangling to seemingly give the public what it thinks it wants in cheap thrills.