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The Last House on the Left a Worthwhile Remake

Published March 11, 2009 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Images property of Rogue Pictures
The Last House on the Left Poster The Last House on the Left
I was not fond of the original The Last House on the Left. I just felt it was dreadful, as in why would I want to watch this? It’s ugly filmmaking from a director who would become one of my all time favorites. The remake shows that there is a worthwhile story to be told and it can be done well.

Review: The Last House on the Left

This time, I am actually compelled by the events of the film. It begins with the traditional "kids going for pot" which is not morally “good” and you know it's going to lead to trouble. However, it is not outrageous to believe that teenagers would make a risky decision to score some weed.

The kid they go with is creepy from the beginning, but they really make it his fault, getting the girls into trouble by complicity. The evil is portrayed as concrete, like there's no alternative here. No reasoning with them, no outsmarting them, just bad. Whether in real life or in a fictional story, that’s plenty believable.

The film plays with the "don't go in there" moments so it's not exactly what you think is going to happen when it does. It even makes me hope the girls escape. I know they can't for two reasons, one being that I know the synopsis and two being that I'VE SEEN THIS BEFORE. Yet I feel like they have a fighting chance, only they seem worse off than ever for trying.

The sexuality is really interesting. The female character they choose to exploit the most is the villainess, who shows her boobies for no reason at first, then explicitly connected with violence. Yes, they linger on the bodies of the nubile young victims but it makes you feel bad for any lust you might feel, because at their most exposed positions you cry for them.

It might be too much to think this is a sophisticated deconstruction of the old rape/revenge genre, but at least it seems a responsible handling of an outdated convention. I'm personally glad rape/revenge died out with a few old exploitation movies because as a genre it didn't work. No revenge balances out a rape. Well, the bathtub scene in I Spit on Your Grave maybe. Problem is he dies from it and you’re talking about a lifetime of trauma…

Anyway, no real morality here. The point of this seems to be just plain old suspense. Once the inevitable happens, then you're waiting for the parents to figure it out, or the criminals to realize what they're getting themselves into. The film really builds suspenseful scenes. That’s the Hitchcock trick where we know what’s going to happen and we’re waiting for the characters to clue in. A particularly effective moment combines the elements of medical care and a power outage.

It feels like real drama, along the lines of Deliverance or even Funny Games where the hook is still the plot of horrific events, but you believe the characters enough that they don't seem to function only for the plot. And they do function only for the plot, so it's a big deal that they at least feel like they exist in a bigger movie than they actually do. I mean, hey, parents reacting to tragedy usually win awards. Here they’re just killing bad guys.

This is a classy and brutal thriller. There are so many elements you really don't know what's coming next, even though you know exactly what’s going to happen. There are a few scenes that are more shocking than <B>Saw</B>, and I've seen five of those so it's a really big deal that Last House still got to me.

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Compiled By (Sources)
Fred Topel
Sources: Images property of Rogue Pictures

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