Theatrical Review: The Last House On The Left

A vicious criminal, Krug, is being transported, and along the way, he’s sprung by his brother Frances and his girlfriend Sadie. Krug, wondering where his son is, is told that he’s at the hotel where the gang is holed up. We’re then introduced to the Collingwood family, father John, a Doctor, his wife Emma and their daughter Mari, who’s a trained swimmer and they’re getting ready to go enjoy a vacation at their out of the way vacation home. Mari is immediately antsy and wants to go into town and meet up with her friend Paige. Once there, the two girls then get involved with Justin, little realizing that he’s the son of Krug, and then the action gets started…

The Last House On The Left is a remake of the original 1972 movie of the same name (which in itself is a bit of a remake of an old Bergman film) and I have to say, this new version is one of the better remakes that I’ve seen, a very effective terror/revenge movie that technically ups the ante considerably of the original. The original was Wes Craven’s very first movie, produced by Sean Cunnigham, who you know best as the originator of the Friday The 13th series, and both act as producers on this remake. My expectations were relatively low going into this movie, but I have to say, I came out plenty impressed.

Now, for the most part, if you’ve seen the original, this follows along a lot of the same path, but the remake is a better fleshed-out piece. The 1972 original is a classic in it’s own way, not necessarily for the story that it told, but more for the shock that it delivered at the time, doing some pretty taboo things that just weren’t seen in a movie of that period (it’s also very well known for it’s trailer, which introduced the classic line “It’s only a movie, it’s only a movie”). The original was made for about $90,000 in the day and it was purely designed as the type of B-movie that would play with other films regionally around the country. It’s not high art by any means, but still for fans of the genre (like myself), it brought in thrills in it’s own way for a pretty disturbing experience, and part of that disturbing experience included a very hokey cornball quality to the family scenes.

This remake dispenses with the cornball quality as well as with a couple of the major taboo scenes, to better focus on making the whole thing a more cohesive experience- it an audience of today is watching the original, then they’re seeing things that take some pretty huge leaps in logic in how they get from point A to point B. This remake fills in those leaps quite admirably, and credit for that has to go to the screenwriters and director Dennis Iiadis, as well as to Craven and Cunningham for having the sense to let this be updated in the way it has been.

One of the biggest things that I have to give them credit for here is the relationship between the parents, John and Emma which is actually a lot more grounded in reality than what other films might want to do. They also tend to up the ante with both girls, making them more fighters in this adversity than what they were in the original- it’s not forced by any means, and feels pretty natural to the situation that develops.

This has a pretty good cast to it, with maybe the most well-known to today’s audiences being actor Garret Dillahunt who plays Krug (you might be better familiar with Dillahunt through Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles where he’s played the cyborg Cromartie and now the A.I. known as John Henry). The best casting though goes to actors Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter who play the Collingwood parents, and they’re just terrific here. I also have to give notice to Sara Paxton, who played their daughter Mari.

The Last House On The Left is a pretty visceral experience that’s not for everyone by any means. I went into this more wanting to see the differences from the original and I was pleasantly surprised at how this remake drew me in and kept me with it on it’s own merits all the way through. If you enjoy this sort of terror/revenge movie (I wouldn’t call this or the original “horror” at all), then I’d certainly recommend it without too much hesitation- really well done on it’s own and when compared to the original, a worthy remake that takes that original and obviously goes forward with today’s audience definitely in mind.

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

15. March 2009 by Darren Goodhart
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