a critiQal film review The Last House on the Left (2009)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: The night she arrives at the remote Collingwood lakehouse, Mari (Paxton) and her friend are kidnapped by a prison escapee and his crew. Terrified and left for dead, Mari's only hope is to make it back to her parents John (Goldwyn) and Emma (Potter). Unfortunately, her attackers unknowingly seek shelter at the one place she could be safe. But, when her family discovers the truth, it's the strangers who should be fearful.

587 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 56s)
  • ...this Wes Craven horror remake does twist the classic horror flick setup nicely, but the lack of a real on-screen presence amongst the enemy lessens the effect the film could have had.

Once again, a horror movie remake makes it’s way to theaters, and I have yet to see the original. This latest, The Last House on the Left, similar to The Hills Have Eyes (2006), is a remake of a Wes Craven now-classic horror film.

Without having a frame of reference to rely on without seeing the original, I really had no idea what to expect going into this one. Would The Last House on the Left do as good of a job of updating a Craven film as The Hills Have Eyes (2006) did, or would I be sadly disappointed with just another run-of-the-mill slasher flick?

The cast of characters is widely varied. From recognizable names like Monica Potter and Sara Paxton to wow-I-haven’t-seen-him-since-Kuffs (1992) Tony Goldwyn, to the largely unrecognizable cast of strangers, the cast has varied acting experience, and unfortunately, it shows.

While Tony, Monica and Sara all jump into their roles with gusto, the villains of the picture aren’t as gripping. They do seem to put in an effort, but their presence isn’t as intense as it could have been. Even during the original attack sequence that sets off a whole odd chain of events, the attackers don’t quite seem entirely at ease in front of the camera, and seem almost relieved when the camera’s focus shifts away from them.

That being said, they do manage to pull off a rather disquieting first attack, almost in spite of themselves, which sets up the audience to plant themselves firmly on the side of attackee Paxton and her family in the events to come. This is mostly due to Paxton herself, who plays abused victim startlingly well.

This is key, since the events that unfold later exceeds the original attack in terms of violence, if not degradation. If the audience was not totally on the side of the attackee and her family, the scenes would play out totally different in the viewer’s eye. True, some of these acts are extreme, but after what their daughter has been put through at the hands of these people, audiences will not only accept the fate that befalls the strangers, but welcome it, even in (most of) it’s extremes.

The special effects – mostly concerned with gore and violence, are well-meshed with the film, and nothing is readily apparent as a fake. With the stellar ability of effects artists to keep the viewer guessing how much is real and how much isn’t, this should be a given in any film that comes out these days, but sadly, that isn’t the case. Thankfully, this film manages to incorporate the special effects flawlessly.

A brutal fantasy revenge picture, The Last House on the Left has a solid base that the audience will easily connect to: How far would you go to exact revenge if it was your daughter? With that thought firmly implanted in the mind, the viewer will stay solidly behind the family, even as they hack and slash their way through the attackers. An interesting twist on the basic horror movie setup, and one that will leave a positive – if slightly disturbed – vibe by the time the film is done.

Worthy of a rental, the lack of acting chops provided by the enemy does tone down the effect of The Last House on the Left, despite the intriguing horror film setup and the vibe it provides – which turns this remake from great into something less.

It’s a remake worth a rental – but I have a feeling the original was probably better.

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