2009 may go down in history as the year of the unnecessary horror remake. It’s only mid-March and already we’ve seen a re-do of My Bloody Valentine, updated to include 3-D blood and gore and a new take on Jason Voorhees reign of terror in Friday the 13th. Coming soon are reimaginings of the George A. Romero classic The Crazies, Children of the Corn and (God help us) Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds from producer Michael Bay. This weekend sees a new version of The Last House on the Left, the terrifying Wes Craven movie from 1972 that was so gruesome it was banned for 32 years in Australia.
The story is a simple tale of revenge. Horrifying revenge. After kidnapping and torturing two young women a gang of thrill killers led by escaped convict Krug (Garret Dillahunt) inadvertently find shelter at the summer home of the parents of one of the victims. “What are the odds, man,” says a taunting Krug. The couple—Monica Potter and Tony Goldwyn as Emma and John Collingwood—don’t bother to call 911, instead they all manner of creative ways to get even with the thugs, including death by microwave!
How times have changed. The original Last House on the Left was a depraved unpleasant little movie—a dirty little movie with the production value of a snuff film—that took a strong stomach to endure. It caused an uproar and was banned in many places. The new film, also unpleasant and depraved, is getting a wide release and will likely be playing at a multi-plex near you this weekend.
It’s a little too slick to be truly revolting, but the arty shots of wounds being cauterized and close-ups of the sexual violence border on the stomach turning. It’s a nasty piece of work that, unlike some of the other remakes of recent months isn’t played for laughs. Friday the 13th, for instance had some good gross fun moments. What’s missing from Last House are not the gross moments, but the fun that can be had at a good silly slasher flick.
The first 45 minutes contain enough violence to keep even the most hardcore gore hound happy and make everyone else squirm in their seats, but what the movie doesn’t do is set up a sense of dread. Bad things are going to happen, that’s obvious, but instead of building toward those moments the film limps along when the fists aren’t flying. Long dull stretches precede and proceed the movie’s big set pieces and it isn’t until the second half, when the revenge theme kicks in, that the movie works up a head of steam.
The manner of violence should grab connoisseurs of the genre. Who knew kitchen appliances were such effective means of offing bad guys? The Collingwood family’s motto seems to be: “Wherever I try and kill my guests, they seem to like my kitchen best.” But by the end of it all, after witnessing a year’s worth of terrible violence in a mere 100 minutes I had to wonder who the real psychos were—the bad guys with the guys, the “good guys” with the deadly microwave or us for paying twelve dollars to see it acted out on screen.