The Last House on the Left (2009)

poster_last_house_on_the_left2009I almost feel sorry for young horror fans. In my day, a lot of the slasher movies weren’t exactly original, but at least they weren’t remakes of the previous generation’s slasher films. In the last few years, ‘70s and ‘80s horror has been strip-mined, yielding rehashes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead, Halloween, Friday the 13th, and even My Bloody Valentine. It was only a matter of time before they got around to Wes Craven’s notorious Last House on the Left. Mind you, Craven’s film was itself an unofficial grindhouse remake of The Virgin Spring by none other than Ingmar Bergman. Last House was also remade unofficially a few years back as the ineptly grotesque Chaos. To be generous to the new, official remake, compared to Chaos it’s The Virgin Spring.

What it’s not is a crude shocker on the level of Craven’s film, which I guess can now sport the clichéd motto “often imitated, never duplicated.” Craven’s 1972 original retains considerable power, which is inextricably connected to its faults. There’s that goofball “comic relief” subplot with the two idiot cops, for instance. But that’s better than no comic relief at all, which is what we get in the new version. There’s no goofiness, no personality. The movie is grim yet studio-slick, with recognizable B-list actors like Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter as the parents of ill-fated Mari Collingwood (Sara Paxton, swimming like a fish again after Aquamarine), who along with a friend gets abducted and tormented by a quartet of lowlifes led by escaped criminal Krug (Garrett Dillahunt).

The anguish out in the woods, as Krug and company take their wrath out on the two teenage girls, is blandly staged; the cartoonish sadism is gone, replaced by a workmanlike cruelty. No longer a loutish demon who pops a child’s balloon for a laugh, this movie’s Krug keeps his eyes on the bottom line — he isn’t a hippie freak run amok, like David Hess in Craven’s film. Yet the plot still keeps Krug’s bisexual moll Sadie (Riki Lindhome) and his remorseful son Justin (Spencer Treat Clark), and the fourth, most vicious of the lot, Frank (Aaron Paul), is now Krug’s brother. But the hippies-vs.-square-generation subtext of the 1972 film is lost. It’s no longer a ripped-from-’70s-headlines exploitation of teenage and parental fears alike; it’s just an impersonal Saturday-night revenge flick, of the sort that Michael Haneke’s Funny Games (either version) eviscerated and made irrelevant.

Indeed, when the killers (as implausibly as ever) wind up at the parents’ vacation home, this Last House turns into the anti-Funny Games, with supposedly cathartic counter-viciousness against the criminals that now, because of the loss of the earlier sadism, seems almost disproportionate. There’s a glimmer of class resentment, mostly on the part of Sadie, who snarls about rich kids “with silver spoons up their asses” and remarks to Mari’s mother, “How many homes do you have?” But if director Dennis Iliadis (yet another foreign horror director lured to Remake City, USA) and writers Adam Alleca and Carl Ellsworth intend this to be a have-nots-vs.-haves thriller to reflect the current economy, that isn’t followed through. There was no particular reason for this story to be told again, except for Rogue Pictures to throw its hat into the remake ring. My question is, What classic American horror films from today will Hollywood remake twenty or thirty years from now? There haven’t been many. Kids today don’t know what they’re missing, unless they hit up Netflix.

Explore posts in the same categories: horror, remake

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