Wes Craven’s original Last House on the Left is one of those films that stays with you. The premise is that two young girls get kidnapped, raped and murdered by a gang of criminals. Those criminals end up at the home of one of the people they murdered. The family then gets their revenge. Craven’s film was based on Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, and the subject matter also seemed to influence In the Bedroom. Craven’s original film has a documentary feel, and was shot on 16mm, so it has that voyeuristic quality, which benefits the film, which is clumsily staged at times. But all this does is add to the unease. It’s not a great film, it could be a terrible film (though Robin Wood has been a staunch defender), but it is unshakeable. More after the jump:
Remaking it is problematic. The 2009 film is not a documentary-type film, it’s just a straightforward narrative, and it eliminates some of the more absurd elements from the original. The plot is basically the same. Mari Collingwood (Sara Paxton) is the daughter of Emma and John (Monica Potter, Tony Goldwyn), they go to their lake home for a weekend. New is that Mari’s brother died recently. She goes into town and gets together with Paige (Martha MacIssac) for the evening. They run into Justin (Spencer Treat Clark), who offers to get them high. But when they go back to his hotel room Justin’s “family” shows up, including Krug (Garrett Dillahunt), Sadie (Riki Lindhome) and Francis (Aaron Paul). Such leads to the rapings, and murder of one girl, but another escapes. Then the gang end up at the Collingwoods.
Last House, when it was made in 1972, was a product of its time. One of the girls is named Sadie, which must have been a reference to the Manson killings, still fresh in the public’s mind. It also was exploiting real-world horror on a level that was still fresh for cinema. The 2009 remake is also of its time. Coming out in the midst of remake fever, it never does much to make you think there’s too many original thoughts going on, but it is well directed, almost to the film’s fault. It’s put together well, and you can’t fault Dennis Iliadis for too much, though the change-up of not killing one of the girls seems a bit of a cheat.
The main problem is that the film isn’t about morality. It’s just a straight revenge flick, which makes it more palatable. Though the rape sequences are uncomfortable, at the end of the original, the family is successful, but ruined in their revenge. Here, not so much. And I miss that moral gray. This is a perfectly acceptable horror/thriller, and I can’t fault anyone for not doing what they should, it’s just that the original was about something and left you with it. There’s nothing to chew on here.
Universal presents the film on Blu-ray in widescreen (1.78:1) and in 5.1 DTS-HD. As a film from this year, you better believe the movie looks immaculate. Both the rated and unrated versions are on the film, with the unrated version running 114 minutes, and the rated version running 110. Extras include nine minutes of deleted scenes (which are half deleted/half outtakes), and then “A Look Inside” (3 min.). which suggests not a lot of work went into this disc. A digital copy is included.