The Last House on the Left (2009) Revisited – Horror Movie Review

Is the Last House on the Left remake from 2009 a black sheep for both remakes and late 2000s horror flicks?

Remakes have always been and will always be a tricky proposition. You could have something as pure and wonderful as 1982’s The Thing, which is objectively better than the revered Howard Hawks and Christian Nyby version, but be trapped in purgatory for way too long before it is decided that its proper and loved. There’s a bunch that are better in different ways or at least thoroughly enjoyable in their own right like John Carpenter’s masterpiece, Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and of course David Cronenberg’s The Fly. While you can argue the horror vs sci fi merits of any of these movies, their quality can’t be disputed. When it comes down to what you can or can’t remake, I think the gloves are off at this point. There’s very few sacred cows left and sometimes a remake can help. Something like The Fog really didn’t benefit from an update as the CGI of that time was a huge downgrade from the practical effects and the cast and crew that couldn’t hold a candle to the original. The Last House on the Left though? Even the original creator wanted to see what a bigger budget and some more professionalism would add to a harrowing tale. Today we will look at why that remake from 2009 (watch it HERE) is better than where it gets lumped into.

In 2006, popular movie house Rogue Pictures got the rights to the remake and signed on Craven as a producer with a new sub-company for Craven called Midnight for him to work on it. Fitting that his first big break movie was being remade as the first movie under this new studio. Craven didn’t want to direct as he wanted fresh eyes on the subject matter and was working on his own movie My Soul to Take at the time. Originally, Eli Roth was approached to direct, and he almost did but passed to make Hostel II instead. Greek director Dennis Iliadis was then chosen to helm the project. He really hasn’t done much of anything since and that’s a shame because the movie is shot well, and he gets good performances out of his actors. The script here is written by Adam Alleca and Carl Ellsworth with some things put in by Craven. There was talk early of having a supernatural element to the ending but it was made more grounded by the time it was completed.

Alleca has only 4 titles to his name with the other big one being the big screen adaptation of Stephen King’s The Cell. Ellsworth on the other hand is prolific in comparison with tons of TV projects before today’s movie including Anamorphs, Xena, and Cleopatra 2525. In the realm of movies though, he also has some hits with Disturbia, Red Eye, the Red Dawn remake, and 2020 surprise hit Unhinged with Russell Crowe. The movie opens with a prisoner transport of Krug by 2 officers when they are hit by a truck at a railroad crossing. The truck was driven by Krug’s associates Sadie, his girlfriend, and Francis, his brother. They viciously finish off the two cops and that viciousness shows us that this remake won’t shy away from the brutality of the original. It does, certainly, in ways that would be hard to pull off in the shiny 2009 setting vs the original lower budget gritty feel but absolutely does not mess around.

The Last House on the Left Black Sheep

The cast of criminals is a god one too with comedian and actress Riki Lindholme as Sadie, Aaron Paul as Francis, and Garret Dillahunt as Krug. Lindholm is one half of the wonderful and successful comedy duo Garfunkel and Oates and one of her earliest on-screen appearances was in Million Dollar Baby. She is primarily known as a comedy actress though, and her resume speaks to that between live action and voice over work. She’s menacing the entire movie and shows good sadistic range. Paul is undoubtedly best known for his turn on Breaking Bad but has turned in a multitude of quality performances from Westworld to Black Mirror to BoJack Horseman. Dillahunt is an absolute gem, and I can’t believe this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to discuss him. While he is typically a side character in things like Justified, Deadwood, and Looper to name just a few, he did have starring roles in Raising Hope as the dad and whatever he does, he is awesome and memorable. Here, he is just insane as Krug even if he isn’t as much of a comic strip character as David Hess played in the original.

We then see the other side of the coin in terms of characters with swimmer Mari, played by Sara Paxton, and her parents Emma and John played by Monica Potter and Tony Goldwyn. Honestly the weakest link here is Paxton but she’s not bad, just kind of overshadowed by her parent actors in the movie. She hasn’t done a ton of other horror, but The Innkeepers is reliably creepy. Monica Potter is Saw royalty and while she has been around for a long time, she picks her spots. She is also incredible in the show Parenthood as one of the matriarchs. Goldwyn is the bad guy in Ghost but has made a heck of a career as both good and bad guys over a stellar amount of time. The family is vacationing in a home that is, you guessed it, the last house on the left. Mari meets up with her friend Page and they run into the youngest of the gang and Krugs son Justin played by Spencer Treat Clark. Oh, and Page is played by Martha MacIsaac for the record. Everyone converges at the hotel and the movie really follows many of the same beats as the original.

In leu of just going through the whole damn movie I hear you saying Andrew, what are some of the differences, is the movie actually that good, where the hell is Lance? The movie is good, yes, even with its differences. It doesn’t carry any of the dark humor of the original which works for the era that it was made in. it’s dark, gritty, violent, and borderline nihilistic in a way other remakes of the time are. Think Hills Have Eyes, Texas Chainsaw remake and its prequel, and even The Hitcher. Don’t tell John Fallon or friend of the channel Eric Red I mentioned that one. Deal? There are some caveats here to what I said about being mean without any of the comedy as I will argue that the sexual assault scene in the original is still more horrifying than the horrifying one we get here. The girls in the original seem to have a stronger bond and empathy for each other too which adds to the heartache and empty space between the two. The movie does follow some of the same beats though with the ultimate death of the two girls, or does it? Probably the biggest change here is that Mari actually lives through the ordeal.

After the gang makes it to the, ahem, last house on the left, the very nice family including a doctor helps them out including fixing Aaron Paul’s nose. The effects in the movie run the gamut of really well done practical and necessary and mostly good CGI. That big change we talked about hits around the same time as our baddies find out where they are. Mari comes back and it adds a good new dimension to the film where the parents need to help heal their daughter and escape from the culprits when they find out, via a necklace left by Justin. While they search for a way out, they also need to protect themselves and no, for those waiting, Francis does not get his Aaron Paul bit off. There are a lot of similarities in the fights with the mom seducing Francis and the close quarter combat being visceral and frantic, but it goes back to the power of a 50 year old low budget movie just having that gross and grimy charm that is just damn near impossible to capture.

The Last House on the Left Black Sheep

The movie is shot with that familiar filter that the movies of the 2000s used to get that dark feel but at times it can be distracting, and other times just feel a little too artificial. The second big game changer ties into a plot point that is absent from the first movie and not really explored here but its that of a son/brother that Mari had who passed away. The payoff and difference between the films is that young Justin dies by his father’s hand in the original but actually makes it out with the family. It’s kind of nice to have these hopeful moments in a movie like this. Honestly it comes down to personal preference, but I enjoy the fact that not every horror movie made between 2000 and 2024 needs a jump scare or downer ending. Is it one of those choices that lessens the impact compared to the gut-wrenching view of Krug killing his own son? Yes, of course! We also don’t need any more shot for shot and beat by beat remakes like Psycho.

When all the fighting is done and the heroes and plus 1 have made it out of harm’s way, we still get to see one final act of revenge. While it isn’t the same level of insanity as the original and its chainsaw finale, its one of my favorite kills of the 2000s for one of the scummiest villains of all time. Using his medical expertise and a microwave that is on the fritz, our good doctor and angry father makes it so Krug can’t move his body to escape but can still be aware of what’s going on. From there he is positioned with his head in the microwave as it powers on. Exactly what you think would happen does and I’m only describing it because I wonder if YouTube would make the scene look like classified documents all redacted and unable to see. It is glorious and an explosive and cathartic end to a man and a movie.

Last House on the Left from 2009 is one of the few remakes that shows why we CAN take movies from the past and give it a new sheen of paint or different angle and make it ok. It doesn’t take away from the original in any way nor does it attempt to replace it. Completely different eras of filmmaking and ideals and that’s perfectly ok. If you haven’t seen it or seen it in a while, give it a try as it’s underappreciated and a black sheep for both remakes and late 2000s horror flicks.

A couple of the previous episodes of The Black Sheep can be seen at the bottom of this article. To see more, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!

Source: Arrow in the Head

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