Well, it seems we had some nice feedback with our first Original Vs. Remake
two weeks ago. Hence, I've been giving the green light to move forward with the next one. As for the initial bout, everyone was in happy horror agreement that the remake of The Hills Have Eyes totally blows away the original. Was it surprising to already have a new version trump its predecessor? I suppose in our beloved genre, anything can happen, so let's keep on movin'!
Our second O Vs. R battle coincidentally involves another Wes Craven classic. The dude really had a knack for generating shocks through high forms of brutal bodily violence. This was oh so evident in The Last House on the Left and when a remake was announced, many wondered how it would be translated for today's sensitive cinemas. Let's find out below how it all went down!
The original Last House wastes little time in getting to the depravity of the bad guys. In the opening scene, young Mari already leaves her parents' vacation house and heads out for some fun with Phyllis. Then, Krug and his fiendish family strike quickly. The twist of the baddies ending up at the home of one of their victims happens kind of close to the end, which feels a little bit rushed, though satisfying nonetheless.
I have to commend the writers of the Last House remake for actually caring about the story and not rushing anything. All the characters are fantastically developed and scenarios are adjusted here and there to hit even harder. Where the original came off as a tad campy at times, the remake feels hardcore, intense, and real throughout the running time. And I must say that the main difference from the original of having Mari survive the ordeal was a masterstroke.
For 1972 and for the amount of violence Krug and his family inflict upon poor Mari and Phyllis, the gore effects are chillingly effective. In fact, it is downright gruesome. When Sadie puts her hands inside Phyllis's gutted stomach and pulls out part of her insides, it works as one hell of a jolt.
The remake fortunately doesn't shy away from the gore factor as well. The blood is a tad more subtle here, but that doesn't mean it ain't flowing consistently. There's a particularly nasty bit involving 'Jesse' from Breaking Bad getting his hand stuck in a garbage disposal. And we are treated to one final (unnecessary?) burst of bloody grue involving an open microwave.
Okay, yes there are some goofy officers of the law in the original as well as one whacky chicken truck driver. Perhaps these were included to balance out the other hardcore subject matter. Beyond that, the actors do a very solid just selling these dire circumstances. David Hess makes for a loathsome lead bad guy while Sandra Peabody and Lucy Grantham really shine in their victim status. Richard Towers and Cynthia Carr do an adequate job conveying grief and rage as Mari's parents.
Sara Paxton absolutely knocks it out of the park as 'Mari' in the remake. Her quiet reserve and desperate fear anchor the film and makes the payoff all the more enjoyable. And Garret Dillahunt is a slimy standout as 'Krug'. In fact, Aaron Paul and Riki Lindhome all exude evil as the bad fam. Special mention to Unbreakable's Spencer Treat Clark, playing Krug's son. Lastly, Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter are both fantastic as the parents forced to do whatever it takes.
As soon as Mari and Phyllis enter the room of Krug and his family, an uneasy feeling instantly grips you. By the time they are all in the woods, your heart starts to sink. Just when you think those evil shits can't push their level of depravity toward the two girls any further, Krug lays on top of Mari. The intensity level gets amped up even further when Krug and his clan take up residence with Mari's parents. By the time the parents discover their daughter's body, the "oh shit!" factor is off the charts.
The terror feels even more ramped up here in the remake. Mari and Paige's meeting with the Krug family in the motel room is ridiculously tense because there is not a drop of mocking humor. From there, we are unnerved by a frantic car crash which leads to a painfully extended abuse scene of Mari. Then, when we get to the last house on the left, the tension goes through the roof on that dark, stormy night as the Collingwoods realize exactly who is staying in their guest house.
Okay, admittedly, Sandra Peabody and Lucy Grantham are definitely a pair of extreme 70's hotties, but considering what they are subjected to, I kind of feel a little weird about gushing over their hotness. But, for the sake of the column, I will say that they both look incredibly sexy in their birthday suits. I honestly don't consider any other females in the flick good looking.
Oh, Sara Paxton, you sweet, delicate, gorgeous genre film flower. Her eyes, her mouth, her ass! No wonder Krug couldn't help himself (no, that is just awful!!!). Her beauty is also complemented by the fiesty Martha MacIsaac, a nicely naked Riki Lindhome, and the completely sexy MILF that is Monica Potter. No contest. Remake wins.
This was Wes Craven's first directorial credit and the man certainly busted onto the scene with a bang. To be able to convey such harsh subject matter yet still dish out a satisfying film is no easy feat. Especially during the darker scenes, the subtle silent shots of the baddies' hands dirtied with blood and grass speak volumes. I only wish he hadn't incorporated the odd bits of comic relief that come off more as cheesy than relieving.
Dennis Iliadis was selected out of a list of at least 100 directors to make this remake. Clearly, his status as an intriguing director helped earn him the job and it certainly shows in Last House. He treats us to some beautiful shots of the forest and grounds surrounding the house, perfectly contrasting the evil that is about to occur. And man, can this guy set up tense scenes! Case in point, the Colingwood's storming of the guest house hosting Krug and his family in the dark and in a thunderstorm.
The Last House on the Left ('09)
Hold on! Did we just have another remake defeat an original?! Already? And a second film to fall from the man who made Freddy? I hope Mr. Craven doesn't decide to abduct and torture me. Once again, I've gotta hear from you, the AITH people! Is the Last House remake a step up from the original? Or was Craven's classic unfairly beat down? Fire them bullets below! And if you have any flicks you'd like to see in this column, give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org