If you've been a reader of this shambling mess of a website for any amount of time, you'll know that if there's one genre of horror I generally can't stomach, it's the "rape revenge" movie. And my overall distaste for this particular flavor of exploitation film likely stems from the fact that I was forced to watch Wes Craven's notorious video nasty Last House on the Left at a Little League barbecue ... when I was eight.
So when news came out that they were remaking the film as a glossy, studio-backed mall movie, I was pretty shocked. What's the point? Isn't the original's scuzziness and overall lack of polish (or even basic competency) its calling-card? Tossing $15 million and a bunch of TV actors at this premise would do rape and torture one worse by making it palatable to the mainstream. No, I thought: Let's leave this particular bit of ick to the grindhouses of days gone by.
So I was as surprised as anyone to find that The Last House on the Left is a pretty damn good horror movie.
First and foremost, the remake maintains an even, deliberate tone that from the first shot assures us that the filmmakers are not taking this project lightly. There are no blaring emo-rock transitions, no bitchy, disposable co-eds or killers with whom we're supposed to laugh as they carve their way through the idiot locals. This is not "B-movie exploitation" as Rob Zombie understands it, full of empty threats, bad acting, gratuitous nudity and unconvincing violence. This is legitimately disturbing, intense stuff, and the movie makes it clear from the onset that it isn't enjoying telling this story any more than you are watching it.
The film actually improves on some of the weaknesses of the original. The character of Mary (the daughter, well played by Sara Paxton) is vastly improved upon, and is given a much larger part in the overall story, which helps to connect the film's first and second acts. Gone is some of the icky debasement of the original's torture sequence (there's still a graphic rape, but it is handled as appropriately as that kind of thing can ever be handled, and with respect to the actors involved) but the forced lesbianism and other unnecessary exploitative elements have been dropped. The film also improves on the dynamic within the group of killers, with special emphasis being placed on Krug's son, Justin.
Oh, and it doesn't hurt that the actor cast as Krug (Garret Dillahunt) is hot as a fucking brushfire and runs around shirtless for half of the movie.
In a day when wide-release horror is in a state of diminishing returns, it's almost a shame that a well-rendered, carefully-considered like this one will no doubt be dismissed or unfairly compared to its source material (which, let's face it, is not all that great, sorry). If you're a fan of "home invasion" horror like Funny Games, The Strangers, Inside, Them and the like, this is a solid and worthy contribution to the subgenre that has mood, tension and gore to spare.
And as a side note, can I just say how laughable I find it that many of the mainstream reviews complain that the movie lacks the "gritty edge" of the original? First, they all apparently got the same memo that their journalistic integrity would be called into question if they didn't do so. And second, I doubt most have them have even SEEN the original, much less recently, or they might recall that the movie is considerably flawed. I was happy to take this remake at face-value, which I think it deserves.
And did I mention Krug's furry bitchtits? Yes? K. Guess I'm done then!
Labels: Last House on the Left, remakes, Reviews