STUDIO: Lions Gate
RUNNING TIME: 86 minutes
• Commentary with director Gabriele Albanesi
• L’armadio short film
• English & Spanish subtitles
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre had a one night stand with The Last House on the Left and they made a sploshy mess.
Actors: Daniela Virgilio, Daniele Grassetti, Gennaro Diana
Director: Gabriele Albanesi
Aurora (Virgilio) is at a bit of a crossroads in her life. She’s not sure if she’s in love with her boyfriend Rino (Grassetti) anymore. Should she break it off or continue to stand by her man? Well, it doesn’t matter because before she can make up her mind a group of punks out for kicks beat the shit out of Rino and attempt to rape Aurora. Before the thugs can have their way with Aurora, a seemingly kind gentleman (Diana) comes along and rescues the two; whisking them away to his house in the woods. While initially relieved to be safe from the bad guys, Aurora soon realizes that she may have just stepped out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Fellow Chewers, let me introduce you to Italy’s own Gabriele Albanesi; A Filmmaker of amazing ineptitude, purveyor of unintentional laughter, and a man who seems to have a much bigger view of his film The Last House in Woods than should be allowed. Sure, this movie could be summed up by simply saying it seems like a piece of fan film made by a fourteen year old who loves gory movies but has no clue as to how to make one, but that would be too easy, so lets dissect it.
A love of low budget horror movies allows one to look past many of the faults the movies they crave may have, as long as they deliver on the promise of scares, a few nervous laughs while anticipating the next shock, or on the basest level, some good gore. I certainly could deal with the amateurish acting of Evil Dead the first time I saw it because the raw energy of the picture didn’t give me much time to think about the ensemble cast, and I never even noticed that the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a nearly blood free horror movie on my virgin viewing because I was much too wrapped up in the tension that seemed to ratchet up by the minute. I liked Last House on the Left for the same reasons as above, but also because it had the great twist. I mention these three classics of low budget horror, because these are the three movies that Last House in the Woods is trying so desperately to aspire to.
Director’s commentary quote #2
And try it does. Albanesi throws everything into the mix; you got a beautiful girl in peril, lunkheaded frat boys, a family that could be the Italian relatives Letherface never knew he had, and tons of blood. But what it doesn’t have is any smarts. It’s poorly conceived, poorly shot, and poorly directed.
It seems Albanesi figured that by mashing the storylines of every movie he has ever seen into the Last House in the Woods script he could come up with the ultimate in low budget terror, but it doesn’t come across so well on the screen. Sure, he puts the characters into scenes that are very remenicent of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Last House on the Left, but he doesn’t seem to understand the subtext of the films he is mimicking. Not to get too scholarly, but it could be argued that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre at least hints at the idea that the industrial revolution lead to a complete warping of the nuclear family of the fifties, what with the slaughterhouses not needing people to hit cows with hammers anymore. It also has to do with the counter culture of the sixties (the hippy-drippy kids in the van) clashing with the ideals of their elders (grandpa and his family). Last House on the Left, while on the surface is nothing more than a sleazy story with a crazy third act, could also be seen as the hopes and dreams of the sixties counterculture being completely destroyed by the completely disenchanted seventies, only to have justice served by the nuclear family of the fifties (sorry for that, lecture over, and maybe I’m 100% wrong, but at least these films can lead to this type of discussion). Last House in the Woods doesn’t really look for any subtext to what it is doing. To be fair, there is a small explanation at the end of the films that details why the family is crazy, but it’s a gimmick and not much of an idea to wrap a whole movie around.
Director’s commentary quote #3
That’s, not to say that movies must have deeper meanings to be good. Films like and Evil Dead and Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste are fantastic gorefests that don’t aspire to do much more than shock and entertain the audience. Those films are different though, because the creators knew the limits of what they had to work with, and they made the budget work to their advantage, and most importantly, they had original ideas to work with.
About half way through the movie my mind must have snapped, or I got a bad cue from a dramatic lighting change, but I decided that the director must have intended for his movie to be a tongue in cheek homage to his favorite films. With this in mind I actually began to enjoy the terribly conceived “twists” in the film and found myself laughing at many moments. It wasn’t until my second viewing , this time with the commentary on that I was shocked to learn that while some humor was intended, Albanesi was mostly playing it straight. In fact, the director couldn’t for the life of himself figure out why audiences laughed at parts of it that he thought were very serious.
Director’s commentary quote #4
In the commentary, this poorly deluded director likens the “style” of his film to the works of other, possibly better directors, Such as Jean Luc Goddard and Michael Mann. He does it a lot too. Almost every scene in the movie seems to remind the director of who his stylistic guardian angel was. Albanesi’s crazy thoughts on his film are actually the best part of the viewing experience, and I must admit that watching it with the commentary was rather hilarious. How could it not be with all the “it’s just like how Argento did it” talk (I like to write, but I am not about to compare myself to Hemingway any day soon)? Not to be snarky or anything, but if Albanesi wants to compare himself to other directors, he may want to get a little more learned in the works of Fred Olen Ray or J.R. Bookwalter.
Director’s commentary quote #5
I could forgive Albanesi for aping other people’s work, likening his style to that of some pretty big names, if it was at least competent impersonation. A good forty percent of the scenes in Last House in the Woods are either too dark to see anything, out of focus, or zooming all over the place (it’s meant, as Albanesi explain, to convey the freeing of the film from normal film structures, fuck you if your too stupid to understand the meaning behind his “vision”). Last House in the Woods was shot on HD video, but it really looks like bad early 90’s camcorder. I suppose some of this could be to blame on the transfer of the film to DVD, but after spending time with the director’s commentary, I believe the fault lies more with him and his crew.
Director’s commentary quote #6
As far as acting goes, the three leads actually hold up there end of the bargain and turn in pretty decent performances. Daniela Virgilio has her first starring role here and she makes for a pretty good scream queen; all heaving chest and not afraid to be completely drenched in fake blood. Daniele Grassetti plays his role as Aurora’s boyfriend with the right amount of shock in his eyes, and Gennaro Diana does indeed make for a pretty creepy screen presence. Everyone else is playing their parts pretty over the top, which comes off as amateurish most of the time, no matter what famous director that Albanesi claims he was channeling while directing them.
I don’t mean to be too harsh on The Last House in the Woods. I am sure that if you got a group of friends together and made a drinking game out of how many times Albanesi mentions much better directors (I pray for whoever gets Leone) you could have quite a night. That is the only way I could recommend this movie at all. Watching it alone…Twice…did indeed lead to drinking, but it wasn’t the fun kind. It was more like the crying and whispering “why me…why me…” kind most of the time.
Directors commentary quote #6
(and yes, most of the movie looks like this)
Aside from the chuckle filled commentary, there is a behind the scenes Last House in the Woods set visit, and a short film from the auteur Albanesi. Also, if you may not have guessed it already, this film is in Italian with English Subtitles. The commentary is also in Italian with English subtitles and you need to do a little fiddling with your subtitle setting to get the directors commentary. Being that Last House in the Woods is part of the Ghost House Underground DVD series, there are some trailers for other low budget horror fair that looked pretty fun (The Substitute was quite good) also included on this disc.
2 out of 10
And Now, a few more people that Gabriele Albanesi likens his work to…