A slick big budget movie to the ultimate low budget horror classic, 2009's "Last House on the Left" is without a doubt a "good movie" -- well acted, hitting all the right emotional notes. It has a great score, moody photography and delivers all the proper Hitchcockian thrills with precision.
What sucks is that someone didn't make a movie this professionally and have its premise based on original material. But in 2009, for a new, R-rated horror movie to be greenlit it pretty much needed to be a remake -- or at least a sequel to a remake.
What's odd about this remake is that film it was based on wasn't a popcorn movie. It wasn't the kind of film high school students went to in theaters or gathered around their VHS player to watch during slumber parties. It was not a cheese fest like "Friday the 13th". Films like that make financial sense as remakes. Movies like "Last House" ... well, it's hard to understand why they remade it, even when you factor in greed. This remake did not make much at the box office.
Produced with the blessing of Wes Craven, this "Last House on the Left" doesn't have the bite of the original. There is something so raw and powerful about that 1972 classic, even with its cheesy acting and dialogue, that it's difficult to imagine anyone reproducing it today. The new 2009 film certainly does not reproduce it. But it is an effective, big budget thriller with a beautiful cast and first class production values.
As in the first film, the movie has a family in a house on a lake, with a teenage daughter Mary () ready to spread her wings and hang out in town with her best friend. Meanwhile, the film's villains are on the run from the law, having just broken their patriarch (Krug, played now by Garret Dillahunt instead of David Hess) out of police custody. We learn just how nasty a character Krug is when he shows a dying police officer a photograph of his baby daughters, and says "Something he'll never see again."
Mary (Sara Paxton) and her friend Paige (Martha MacIsaac) eventually hook up with Krug's son, Justin, and hope to score some pot. Even if you're not familiar with the original, you should realize something bad is going to happen when Mary looks at her cel phone and sees there's no signal at Justin's motel.
Things follow along the events of the original film without being as explicit -- or disturbing. There was something about Craven's 1972 film -- a realness -- that this remake just doesn't have. The '72 film felt believable. This one doesn't. Perhaps its the absence of David Hess as Krug. The new Krug just isn't as menacing. He's more of a cardboard villain.
After the rape and killing and the woods, Krug and company eventually arrive at Mary's parents home and our helped out during a rainstorm. Mary herself eventually shows up alive, and through clues her parents (played by Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter) realize what happened to her and who did it.
The real bloodletting comes when the parents seek out their revenge. A rainstorm and power outage make things scarier as all out war between the Mary's educated, upper class family and Krug's uneducated posse breaks out. "You wanna hear what I did to Mary?" Krug tells the father, apparently bent on pissing him off more. "You wanna hear how tight your little homecoming queen was?"
The film's highlight has to be a scene involving a garbage disposal and hammer. There's also the most creative microwave oven killing since "Microwave Massacre" way back in the 1980s.
The new "Last House on the Left" has its moments, but it's too derivative, unbelievable and ultimately feels watered down. The "Texas Chainsaw", "Hills Have Eyes" and "Dawn of the Dead" remakes "reimagined" their source materials enough to make them feel like original films. This one basically takes the source material, diminishes it, slickens it up, repackages it and serves it up to cineplexes. It even has a happy ending, with Krug's son surviving and being rescued by his new-found family.
This entire review is based on the premise that this movie sucks just because it's a remake. Well I got news for you... The Original LHOTL was a remake of "Virgin Spring", so there goes that theory. And if you actually think that the original felt "more believable", you obviously haven't seen it in a while. Half of the original movie centers around a slapstick storyline involving bumbling hick cops, complete with pratfalls and banjo music. Oh, and there was absolutely no reason for the criminals to go to the house of the girl they just killed in the original.
Posted by horrorfan on June 14, 2009
This remake isn't as bad as the review makes it sound but there were still a lot of problems with it.
Posted by Psycho D on January 26, 2010
I live in England and we waited a looooong time to get a DVD relelase of the original LHOTL and being a life long horror fan it was top of my list of films to see once the "Video Nasty" ban was lifted. And I've got to say I've never been more disappointed in my life. Whilst the incredible impact of the rape and murders can't be denied the aforementioned bumbling hick cops (especially the "chicken truck scene", good lord, wtf was that about?) and occassional cornball banjo music really dulled it's effect. The remake is by no means perfect but I think is much better than some of the remakes mentioned. It does take itself way too serious at times and as horrorfan says still has problems but at least it didn't have chickens (even one of the cops at the start of the remake makes a sly reference to it).
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