The Last House on the Left
Unrated & Theatrical Versions
Directed by: Dennis Iliadis
Starring: Garret Dillahunt, Tony Goldwyn, Monica Potter, Sara Paxton, Aaron Paul, Spencer Treat Clark, Rinki Lindhome
Release Date: August 18, 2009
If someone hurt someone you love, how far would you go to get revenge?
That tagline perfectly sums up The Last House on the Left — the new horror movie remake of the 1972 Wes Craven classic. To look in the eyes of someone who has badly hurt or killed someone you love; that anger and confusion and complete uncertainty as to what to do next — a situation people can truly fear.
The movie follows John and Emma Collingwood (Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter), as well as their daughter, Mari (Sara Paxton). The family is off to their lake house for a traditional and much-needed vacation from their busy lives. Not long after they arrive, Mari talks her parents into letting her borrow the car to go and see her old friend Paige (Martha MacIsaac) who works at a store near the summer home. While visiting her friend at the store, a very nervous looking boy named Justin (Spencer Treat Clark) comes in and attempts to buy a pack of cigarettes and is asked for an I.D. he obviously doesn’t have. The conversation turns friendly-flirty and a deal is eventually reached that in exchange for a free pass on the smokes, Justin would provide Paige with some high-quality smoking material of the illegal variety.
This simple and playful little chain of events would be the flapping butterfly wings to an oncoming natural disaster when Justin’s escaped convict father Krug (Garret Dillahunt), his girlfriend Sadie (Rinki Lindhome), and his brother Francis (Aaron Paul) show up unexpectedly. Krug is an escaped con, and a murderer, and the dangerous group decides that the girls have seen too much and take them hostage, torment, and commit unspeakable acts against them before leaving them for dead. After this, they go to the nearest house — the last house on the left, to be exact — to seek shelter and medical care. The people who take them in and kindly care for them turn out to be the worried parents of Mari, and it’s only a matter of time before the puzzle pieces fall into place.
The Last House on the Left falls under what I like to call “realistic horror,” one of the many sub-genres of horror that tells a story that could absolutely happen in real life, if not already based on a real event. And even though an unstoppable serial killer or a horrifying monster that eats people is pretty scary, nothing is scarier than a movie with a horror situation that you can sub-consciously place yourself into while watching. Knowing that this could happen to you the second you walk out your door makes movies of the realistic horror realm the true kings of the mountain, and this is no different for Last House. The DVD comes with both the unrated and theatrical versions of the movie available to watch. I went for the former, of course, so I have no idea what’s different between the two. All that I do know, is that the unrated version was really graphic.
The movie does a great job of moving forward. It starts with a bit of a bang and moves into a more comfortable pace for a while. This allows you to relax a bit, laugh a few times, and cozy up to some of the characters you’ll be spending time with. After everyone is settled in and happy, the roller coaster shoots straight down, and from then on out, it’s pretty much a non-stop thrill ride of turning points. Most of this ride will leave you shocked and speechless, but oh, so very curious as to what’s going to happen next. Never underestimate the fury of an enraged father. They even end everything perfectly, with a seemingly happy ending that has you scratching your head just a bit, but then shoots one more firework off directly into your face.
All of the cast did a great job at playing their characters and helping the story to feel real and allow the viewer to connect to them. It’s still hard to imagine Monica Potter as a mother, but her and Goldwyn did swimmingly as the cool-turned-panicked parents. I was especially pleased with the work of Garret Dillahunt as the main villain. I’m not completely familiar with his work, but having seen him as the shy and paranoid simpleton in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, he’s proven to me that he has a lot of range, and a ton of potential to own many other big roles. With Jeremy Renner turning heads in The Hurt Locker, we’re finding out that Jesse James is where to look for talents right now.
I haven’t seen the original Last House on the Left (shame on me), so I came into all of this with a clean slate. From what I can gather, they did a really good job of keeping the main premise while incorporating their own story. This is a prime example of how to perfectly execute a really simple concept in a simple place and with a small cast. Too many films these days try too hard to do too much and they always stumble over themselves in embarrassing fashion. Take a simple story and an extreme situation, add some strong performances, and anyone could make a great horror movie like this. I can’t stress it enough: being creative and unique doesn’t always mean you have to be 100% original. Rollerblades had to be roller skates, first!
It’s obvious that I loved this movie. It’s rare to find any kind of horror movie out there that’s even watchable, so I become giddy when I find one. As far as I’m concerned, most scary movie makers out there — especially those who make the blasphemous kiddie horrors that are destroying the genre — should take pages of notes. THIS is how you should make a damn horror movie.
There’s really not a ton of special features on the disc. You’ll see a collection of unused scenes and then a short little video with director Dennis Iliadis, producer Wes Craven, and others talking about the remake.