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Last House on the Left (2009) Dir. Dennis Iliadis 2 July 2009

Posted by jordanfarley in Cinema Review.
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Summer is an odd time to release horror films but with Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell rising above the dirge of most of this season’s genre releases I did walk into Last House on the Left with some hope, it couldn’t be worse than Wes Craven’s sordid original could it? Could it?

The plot is exploitation cinema at it’s very worst and follows the 1972 version to almost every beat. Sara Paxton and Martha MacIsaac (Superbad) play two young girls who end up in the wrong hotel room at the wrong time when Krug (Garret Dillahunt who played terminator Cromartie in The Sarah Connor Chronicles) and his band of merry murderers show up only to take the two girls into a nearby forest, rape and brutally kill them. The twist here is that by some convenient plot contrivance the killers are forced to spend the night at the home of one of the girls and it isn’t long before her parents (Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter) find out the truth and set about enacting their revenge.

Dreadful from start to finish there was absolutely no reason for this film to exist beyond making more money for its bloated producers. Wes Craven’s original is a terrible starting point, significant only because of the controversy it caused at the time (it wasn’t passed uncut in the UK  until recently) and it’s importance in the history of horror cinema. It’s certainly not a story that needed to be told again, but for fans of the original there was certainly scope for improvement, and improve they have. Gone are the bizarre musical interludes, the cringe-inducing comic relief characters and the awful plotting, in its place is a slightly more watchable, glossier version with some perfectly acceptable performances for this kind of thing and an attempt to make it all hang together a bit better with a more logical narrative, albeit one that’s still ridiculous.

The infamous forest murders still feel disturbing, but modern shooting techniques fail to recreate the nauseating sensation of watching the grimy original. They’ve also managed to completely destroy any kind of perverse satisfaction viewers might have had from the parents revenge climax by dwelling too much on their reluctance to commit murder. It was a neccessary choice to make the characters in any way believable but I always did quite enjoy the sheer stupidity of the original’s booby trap finale.

The action is much more visceral this time around, as expected, with some nasty one on one fights, rapid cuts and a suitably vacuous soundtrack, but it hardly matters when the story has zero emotional impact. Unforgiveably it’s also perverted the original’s ‘message’ that violence is never the answer into the exact opposite. In this film violence is the answer for the parents and everything turns out hunky dory for them when they turn to it.

The re-make of Last House on the Left is significant in one way, however, as it contains the most blatantly gratuitous final scene in the history of cinema. I wont spoil the surprise for those who get off on this kind of ‘torture porn’ but needless to say the film would have been much better without it (though that’s not saying much) as it serves only to offer one last talking point for audiences in a film bereft of any others. Despite improving on Craven’s original then the film is still truly awful, really what was the point?

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