Last House on the Left (2009)
Director: Dennis Iliadis
A group of scumbags learn the hard way that the last place you want to spend the night at, is at the home of the parents of the teeny bop gal (Paxton) you just raped, shot and left for dead. Like really…THE LAST PLACE!
If bad people hurt someone you love, how far would you go to hurt them back?
Wes Craven's 1972 shocker THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (which was itself a take on Ingmar Bergman's 1960 opus The Virgin Spring) is pretty much worshipped within the horror community and I am one of those who "liked it" and respected its audacity but at the same time found it to be mucho flawed. The comic relief cops didn't work and the sad sack actors that played the parents somewhat diluted what should've been a satisfying finale. Moreover, the rape shit was so harsh and tough to sit through that I vowed I’d never see the film again.
So I wasn't against this remake when it was first announced; cause in my book if you redo something that has its fair share of boo-boos its all good in the woods. That's what remakes should be ALL ABOUT if ya ask me. Somebody should forward that memo to Holly-lazy. So how did the Last House redux do on my white ass? Pretty good! Now I'm going to try real hard to not spend the bulk of my time comparing this update to the original; because although similar, they are two different critters. Where The Last House on the Left 1972 echoed its time (Vietnam War, The Manson killings) this update was just a lean, mean revenge machine that played it simple: you f*cked my family, now I f*ck yours plus taxes!
I was personally caught in this one’s net immediately via the clear cut manner it established its situation and players. Bad guys here, good guys there, event that brings them together and BAM! Let the games begin! Even though I knew where Last House was going form the get-go (I wonder if I still would have known had I not seen the original), I still fell for it like a crack whore fixated on a piece of ice balanced on the tip of my dong. Director’s Dennis Iliadis’ remarkable imagery and the haunting score at work mucho contributed in snagging me in so quickly. The flick was deliciously polished aesthetically, not Studio like though, think more of on an atmospheric Indie level … with some money in its back-pack. The fine cast at hand helped in jacking up the stakes of the proceedings too. The killers were portrayed in a realistic fashion (hence making them human and scary), the teens looked and acted like real teens and it’s hard to go wrong with actors of the ilk of Monica Potter and Tony Goldwin as the parents. The latter brought their A Game to the mix and made it all happen!
And it’s that level of competence and realism that made the shenanigans that went down hit real hard. Now granted the flick was softer than the original but that actually worked in its favor for me in the sense that YES I was repulsed by the vicious acts but not to the point where I wanted to leave the theatre. The movie got me riled up at just the right level, and then all it had to do was deliver the payback with oomph and that it did for the most part. Lets face it here, this update was at its core a 1-2-3 vigilante flick (one of my fav subgenre BTW) and as that, it got the 8 Ball in he hole. The film tugged on the right emotional cords, got the intended reactions out of me and kept me in its grasp till the last frame. Tag to that natural dialogue, an effortless pace and random suspenseful bits and you get an efficient buck and half of nastiness that hit the spot. What spot? THAT spot!
Any peeves with this jamboree of rape and bodily harm? A couple. Yes the script was see-through in terms of its set ups (of course the dad is a doctor – we’ll need that later) but that didn’t bother me much. What pissed me off the most was that it missed the boat in building on some of the goodies it had going. The dysfunctional marriage of the parents for example, hinted at but not strongly enough for it to have much impact. The bad girl although well performed by Riki Lindhome wasn't given much to do other than look sexy and flash her tangerine titties. Hey I'm all for that jive but I wished her role had more meat to it. They should've ran with her sexual deviant nature instead of just suggesting it. Then we had the last act that either got it right or stumbled like a drunken drunkard in terms of pacing and chain of events.
I kept feeling that the parent’s progression from normal folks to vengeance driven murderers needed to be explored more and that the physical get down begged to be tightened up. In addition the heavy handed cap-off of the film fell flat as to its nature and how it fit within the whole. It reeked of a scene that was taken out of sequence and tacked on the finale for whatever reasons. Result was; leaving me on a bad note. The film had played its card pretty damn honest up to that point, finishing its run on such an over the top and left field move was not the way to take a bow. Finally, the flick should've pushed the envelope a bit more in the femme nudity department. Not that I'm a perv or nothing (well I am but it’s not the perv in me talking in this case) but the lack of nudity in the rape scene SCREAMED Hollywood and took away from the realistic vibe they were going for. Just me and my pet cock talking yo!
All in all though, I came out of the theaters a satisfied horror fan. THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT wasn’t brain surgery but that’s okay! I’m always up for a solid and back-handing revenge tale, and this tense, well acted and often powerful effort came through. Will it work for you? Your call mofos and mofettes! I just waste here…
The flick had a couple of howlers: stabbings, bullet hits, a hammer in the head, more stabbings, a blown up head, some nasty surgery moments and more! Not as nasty as the original but ugly enough!
Garret Dillahunt (Krug) pulled off a nifty juggling act. He was likeable and nuts hence daunting. I was surprised by his approach to the role. I thought it would be more obvious. Aaron Paul (Francis) had the wide eyed; I’ll rape anything that moves shtick thing down pat. Monica Potter (Emma) brought the right balance of vulnerability, viciousness and sympathy to her part. Tony Goldwyn (John) had a couple of really strong moments as to his part’s inner conflicts, I wish there were more, but what I got worked! Spencer Treat Clark (Justin) did the wounded puppy shit perfectly. Sara Paxton (Mari) nailed the “regular nice girl” that all dudes want to date and all dames want to hang with bang on! Riki Lindhome (Sadie) did aces with what she was given, but the script was not her friend, easily the less developed role of the film.
T & A
Riki Lindhome (Sadie) was the only one to give up the goods via her many tit shots. Funnily enough I've read reviews where they complained about it…okay… we must be from different planets. Mucho thanks to Miss Lindhome for the show, they looked great and were much appreciated.
Dennis Iliadis got me in his corner as to his visual approach. Beautiful shot compositions (loved that underwater stuff); striking cinematography and his use of silence to amplify some of the more brutal moments (like the stabbings) were gold. He also showcased a strong handle on building suspense and maximizing momentum. Loved his eye and will now pay attention to the dude’s career.
John Murphy put out an emotional, solemn and affecting score that elevated the film on higher plane. WANT TO OWN IT!
Sue me on this one, but I dug the LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT remake more then the original. Although the story was fairly similar, this update didn’t repulse me to the point where I shut off. It reached the limit and then brought it all home with gusto. Granted, the script was maybe too straightforward for its own good, the bad chick needed more meat to her and that last act could’ve benefited from some tightening up and a different last scene but overall, visiting this house was swell times and I definitely recommend that you get in your car and tap that pad for yourself.
Sara Paxton's more recognizable role before this film was as a teen mermaid in the 2006 teen flick AQUAMARINE.
Director Dennis Iliadis only film before this was the crime/drama Hardcore (2004).
Garret Dillahunt (krug) is mostly know for his role in the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles TV show. He plays John Henry and Cromartie.
VISIT THE OFFICIAL LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT SITE HERE