Last House Q&A!
Back in 1972, Wes Craven's THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT caused quite a stir. It was a graphic and unflinching look at two teenage girls taken hostage and brutalized by a gang of thugs. It was terrifyingly relevant for that era. Every day America was looking at Vietnam through the eyes of the media, as it continues to do so. And with Last House, audiences were given a glimpse of the brutality that we commit against each other, our fellow men. It was a statement that Wes and fellow producer Sean Cunningham wanted to make. The film, which was inspired by Ingmar Bergman's THE VIRGIN SPRINGS, caused quite a commotion. In one famous story told by Wes himself, while he was the guest at a dinner party, someone found out that he made that particular film and proceeded to walk out, refusing to sit down with such a filmmaker.
And now, in 2009, THE LAST HOUSE OF THE LEFT has been remade with Wes producing and director Dennis Iliadis making a parents worst nightmare come true. And I was lucky enough, along with a few other online folks, to get a first glimpse of the film, and get to talk with Wes Craven and the film's stars Sara Paxton and Garret Dillahunt!
After the screening, we all made our way to the Velvet Margarita in Hollywood for drinks and some genre talk. I waited patiently to speak to Wes as I was curious as to what was the purpose of revisiting all his classic films. While I may not necessarily agree that they should all be made, I do appreciate the fact that he'd rather it be done under his watchful eye, as opposed to somebody else's.
But with this latest excursion into already charted territory, I was very surprised at how well the story worked. The newest incarnation of Last House is simply a better made film than the original, yet it also lacks some of the raw and undeniable power of the original. Garret Dillahunt brings to a modern day Krug, a quiet storm that is waiting to explode. Mr. Dillahunt comes from theatre and it certainly shows in his performance. His previous work including NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD and “Deadwood” seem to pushing him into a strong and respected actor. He was attracted to Last House for many reasons, “It's such a great character. Such a great story and for me, it's all about story. And part of this story is there has to be a bad guy and he has to be significant. You know, he has to be a real force for these people to deal with.” And truly, his force here has a strong, subtle and emotional edge.
One of the biggest changes, and one that I question why they would put it in the trailer, is what happens to the young teenage daughter Mary played by the absolutely lovely Sara Paxton. But I respected her take on the role and working with Garret as the two of them had worked together before. During the Q and A held directly after the screening, the two actors talked about handling a very sensitive sequence. While filming a sequence with such a strong, violent, sexual nature, it must be a very uncomfortable experience to say the least. Sara and Garret shared with us that she wanted him to take it to the next level and was afraid he might be too nervous to really pull it off. But this didn't seem to be too problematic as the two were able to tackle an intense sequence that, while not as disturbing as the original, it still packs a wallop of an guttural punch.
The original film was made in a very turbulent time politically speaking, which Wes added during the Q and A, “I think it is a film for this time. It's been a very chaotic eight years, eight years of what we all know and reactions to 9/11. 9/11 was perhaps the ultimate home invasion. Certainly it was profoundly shocking to the American psyche. So I think there is relevance to this film.” Once again, while some might argue that it is purely the financial possibilities of another remake, I found that Mr. Craven really felt that the time was right to tell this particular story with a new director and a new vision. Will this be as shocking and controversial as it was back in 1972? Not likely, as even Wes had this to say about the kind of film they wanted to make this time around, “In a way, it is a more crossover driven film… we made the one that made them keep their children away from the director. Which literally happened. So let's make one where they think horror is maybe worthy of an Academy Award.”
Award worthy or not, horror remakes are doing well as of late, and they are not likely to disappear all too soon. While it would be fantastic to see Americans taking on original stories that have the power to terrify a modern day audience, I am happy that Last House has improved on as many levels as it does here. And of course, I am looking forward to see what audiences will find when they visit the last house on the left. The film opens this coming March 13th.