Wes Craven directed the 1972 original with a creepy, seedy home movie effect that made us wonder if all the horrid things happening were actually real. Craven (credited as producer here) based his tale on Ingmar Bergman's Virgin Spring, using the slow-moving psychological dilemma to opposite extremes putting all the stomach-churning cards on the table. The result was one of the top drive-in classics: not only did you gasp in disbelief at the extent of the sadistic rape and murder; you shuddered at the vile techniques of revenge.
This new Last House has the same basic plot: After kidnapping and brutally assaulting two young women (Sarah Paxton/ Martha MacIsaac), a gang led by a prison escapee Krug (Garet Dillahunt) unknowingly finds refuge at a vacation home belonging to the parents of one of the victims - a mother (Monica Potter) and father (Tony Goldwyn) who devise an increasingly gruesome series of revenge tactics.
The old-school version had the girls going out to see their favorite band, Bloodlust, falling into the wrong hands of a Manson-like group of psychos. This '09 version has two bored girls invited to smoke pot with a lonely guy, interrupted by the group of psychos, led by Krug.
Cut to Krug and clan terrorizing the girls, resulting in a brutal murder and horrific rape. Leaving the girls for dead, the murderers flee, turning up at the last house on the left-meeting with the aforementioned parents of the girl who was just raped and shot. All hell breaks loose when the daughter returns home hanging on for dear life. The '72 edition had devious game playing and discussion between the parents as to the ramifications of killing these monsters, in the redux the parents don't communicate with each other, they just stare blankly and go on a brutal killing spree of their own.
With virtually no development, characters are just defined from their inception and continue on their path. Devoid of any humor, House relies only on heavy gunplay and grisly deaths. For horror movie fans, there is a power outage, rain, darkness, creeping around the house wondering what's around the next corner, but all that still leaves us wanting more. Any suspense quickly dried up like the first victim's blood. The only intrigue in this movie becomes who's next and how long it's gong to take.
One can't talk about the original House without mentioning the uncanny presence of one David Hess as the original Krug. Acting as if in a Cassavetes movie he carried the film in such a disturbing, believable way that you'd swear Craven yanked him off the street, fresh out of prison. Dillahunt (No Country for Old Men, Deadwood) is a compelling actor, but he can't even muster up a decent persona for Krug to convey through this horrid, muddled script.
Directing his first American film, Dennis Iliadis gives House an eerie cinematic look, but never achieves a solid grasp as to why any of this is happening. All of the actor's motives become interchangeable. Krug and company seem to do bad things for no reason. The parents follow suit seemingly only motivated by revenge. The only thing I liked about this movie was the last death scene, but then the credits rolled.
Craven has said he made the original as an extreme commentary on the obscenity of Vietnam. In 2009, the statement is merely "watch us kill." The '72 version was all about desensitization to violence, leaving you feeling shaken and desolated. But now, it seems the remake is all about the glorification of gory violence. Unless you want to take a ride on the abuse/torture/sadistic band wagon sans any humor or intelligence, this is the last movie you should choose.
The Last House on the Left
Starring: Tony Goldwyn, Monica Potter, Garret Dillahunt, Martha MacIsaac, Sara Paxton. Directed by Dennis Iliadis