The original Last House on the Left birthed an entire horror subgenre, more popular now than ever. Inevitably, someone remade the original.

The Last House on the Left (2009)

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Directed by Dennis Iliadis.
Written by Adam Alleca, Carl Ellsworth, and Wes Craven.

Cast

Sara Paxton as Mari Collingwood
Martha MacIsaac as Paige
Garret Dillahunt as Krug
Aaron Paul as Francis
Riki Lindhome as Sadie
Spencer Treat Clark as Justin
Tony Goldwyn as Dr. John Collingwood
Monica Potter as Emma Collingwood

Full Cast and Crew information is available at the imdb

Available at at Amazon.

Premise:

After significant backstory, a a pair of teenage girls encounters a group of brutal, sadistic killers, led by a maniac named Krug. After Krug and his deranged band dispatch the girls, they take refuge in the titular home: occupied, as fate would have it, by the parents of their principal victim.

High Points:

The remake addresses several problems with the original script. More than mere coincidence takes the villains to the Collingwood home, and several other plot developments have more plausible explanations. The new film dispenses entirely with the idiotic police sequences, and directs the revenge portion of the film intelligently and with suspense. The girls—who fight back, even, in the original—now have greater depth of character and a sense of themselves.

The third act also taps potential for the revenge sequences largely ignored in the original, while avoiding the implausible traps.

Low Points:

The documentary edge of the original has been dulled. In place of the realistic-looking, slightly goofy Collingwoods of the first film, we have an idealized family right out of Hollywood blockbuster. In the final scenes, the film turns laughably Brukheimeresque, with fake-sounding dialogue and an artificial Fight Scene, complete with a jump through a glass window and a crash through a staircase railing. It’s difficult to reconcile these moments with the suspenseful tension we experience moments earlier, or Dr. Collingwood’s reactions as he examines the body of his daughter.

They also don’t quite fit in the same film that features a disturbingly graphic rape sequence.

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6. We have a remake inspired by a film based on an ancient ballad.

Effects: 6/6. Everything looks horrifically believable.

Story: 4/6. See High Points.

Acting: 5/6. The remake, technically better-directed, also features superior performances. Garret Dillahunt, in particular, gives a chilling take on the murderous Krug. I didn’t quite buy Clark’s Justin; he seems far too adjusted for someone raised under these circumstances. I wanted to like Riki Lindholme; I love her work as one-half of Garfunkel and Oates, and she’s turned in decent acting elsewhere. She’s awful in this film, and the fact that she spends much of it topless will not keep anyone from noticing her weaker-than-average performance.

Production: 5/6. The film features a creepy, if conventional score and some excellent shots. Unlike its predecessor, this House was built with a budget.

Emotional Response: 5/6. The remake dispenses with the prolonged humiliations of the girls, but it drags out the rape sequence interminably and amplifies the revenge-fueled violence.

Overall: 4/6. The original film has a crude artistic purity and a third act which raises some moral questions—though it hardly lingers on them. The 2009 remake features superior direction and a cleaner Hollywood feel, but it dodges entirely the moral conundrums raised by the revenge picture genre.

And some people might reasonably wonder if a slick Last House on the Left has any reason to exist at all.

In total, The Last House on the Left receives 31/42.

Notes

The Virgin Spring deals with the horror and emptiness of vengeance and concludes with the father repenting. The original Last House on the Left concludes with an ironic ending in which we see that the parents, in their bloodlust, have become something akin to the killers. The 2009 version concludes by pushing the revenge-fueled violence further over the top, in a celebration of vengeance.

The reader can draw his or her own conclusions about the relative healthiness of each film’s approach.