I had no desire to see the remake of THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT; the whole concept kind of skeeved me out. Unlike the other slasher re-dos, this didn’t exactly seem like a fun flick that fans could all go hand in hand to and share warm nostalgic feelings about. The original is a definite product of its time and, for the most part, a grueling experience (and no WES CRAVEN, the bungling cop comic relief does little to help). Watching a gritty extended rape enacted by a bunch of out of shape hippies is one thing, but watching a glossy remix staring a bunch of would-be fashion models just seemed so very wrong. I’m sorry, maybe I’m old fashioned but I prefer my cinematic rapists to be comfortably fugly and their victims to be…you know, NED BEATTY. That said, a pal told me LAST HOUSE 2009 was pretty good and so I eventually watched it and I gotta say my pal was right.
Turns out LAST HOUSE is the perfect movie to remake because there is so much room for improvement and enough time has passed that the original’s flaws are pretty glaring. The new version makes a lot more sense and thankfully gives its characters not only more depth but also a much appreciated fighting chance. SARA PAXTON who plays Mari Collingwood, the young victim, gives a brave performance and her nail biting escape attempt comes off as heroic as hell. She doesn’t fare as well as one would hope, but that doesn’t make the attempt any less moving or courageous. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 6’s TONY GOLDWYN and MONICA (man, I can’t believe she’s old enough to play a mom now-but I checked, she is) POTTER hold equally strong ground as the sympathetic avenging parents. Nobody in the world can replace horror icon DAVID HESS as sicko Krug, but GARRET DILLAHUNT gets a passing grade by me. He may be way too soap opera buff, but he still manages to convincingly convey menace (some thanks go to his weird death skull beard ). Really, as far as the cast goes there’s not a weak link in the bunch.
This is a consistently tense movie; it’s rewarding though after you get past the harrowing rape scene (which for a mainstream film is pretty disturbing). The Collingwoods are easy to route for, they’ve already suffered the loss of a son and they serve hot chocolate to strangers; naturally it’s a blast to watch them kick some much deserving scumbag ass. Rather than take the easy route of being an empty exercise in revenge though. LAST makes attempts (mostly through Krug’s son) to convey that what we’re really talking about here is the value of a nurturing family. A hand does get shredded in the garbage disposal, but the idea of who is right or wrong is never the least bit foggy. After watching the technically inept OFFSPRING and the visual non splendor of a certain found camera footage movie, I found it a relief to experience a film where somebody knew how to set up a suspense scene and the cinematography took more than a moment of human thought. This is effective stuff and the atmosphere, once the homestead is hit by a well timed rainstorm, is perfect for late night viewing with the lights off. In the end I was reminded more of SCORSESE’s CAPE FEAR than the original shocker this was based on. There is one tiny little problem though…
This movie has the worst ending ever, the dumbest, most out of place, tacked on ending in the world. At first I thought I’d just ignore it and pretend it didn’t happen, but I’ve decided to embrace it. It may destroy in one instance the respect the film worked so very hard to gain, but it’s also, when you think about it, pretty damn funny.