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The Last House on the Left (2009)

If bad people hurt someone you love, how far would you go to hurt them back?

Directed by:

Dennis Iliadis

Rating: 5/10

Running Time: 110 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 18

Country: United States

Wes Craven’s original take on The Last House on the Left is pretty much a universal love it or hate it thing—from what I hear, it’s the only film in Leonard Maltin’s movie guide to receive no stars, and for the people who hate it, it’s reviled. The thing it had, though, was its shock value, and while debaters can debate ad nauseum about why audiences crave gore and sadism, it is what it is, and for what it was, the 1972 version was WAY out there. This remake is a much better film; if you’re going in blind, I could see how it would be suspenseful, it’s shot well, the effects are good, the acting is pretty high quality … and yet, it’s all rather bland.

The trouble all starts when Mari Collingwood (Sara Paxton) and her friend Paige (Martha MacIsaac) set off on a quest to liven up their small town night by buying weed from a dude named Justin (Spencer Treat Clark) that they meet at a convenience store. Things go from a fun little pot-smoking romp in his motel room to a bunch of torture, rape, and murder when his escaped felon dad Krug (Garret Dillahunt), Krug’s woman Sadie (Riki Lindhome), and “Uncle” Francis (Aaron Paul) come back and find out their incognito hideout has been compromised. As luck would have it, though, the four fugitives have to seek shelter in the middle of a storm in the vacation home of Mari’s parents (Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter), and once they figure out what their visitors have been up to, it’s a vengeance free for all.

I won’t use my space here to rant about the why oh why of why doesn’t anyone make original horror films anymore—just know it underlies everything I’m about to say. And the weird thing is, this is a remake that’s actually well made, offers some new twists, and, if you don’t know the premise going in, I think it could be suspenseful. Pretty much, though, if you’re going to see it, you’ve either seen the Craven original or you know all about it, so that element is lost. Performances are strong, and the casting is good all around, except for Lindhome, who could’ve been a much creepier Sadie but comes off less deranged, more along for the ride. Where the film misses the mark can’t really even be blamed on the movie itself—it’s just that it feels so … dare I say … safe? The original may have been horrible, but it pushed the envelope, and while I don’t need outlandish gore to enjoy a horror film, I need it to not feel sanitized, and while there are definitely some brutal scenes in this one, there’s an overall aura of blasé predictability that shouldn’t surround one of the most shocking “classics” of modern horror cinema.

It's Got: A few new twists, Good casting, Some moments to cheer.

It Needs: More shocks, More scares.

Alternatives:

Funny Games, Last House on the Left (1972), The Hills Have Eyes, The Strangers

Summary

Not a bad effort, but well made as it is, it suffers from the predictability that its predecessor didn’t have to worry about.

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