The Film: The Last House on the Left (2009)
The Principles: Alexander Iliadis (Director). Garret Dillahunt. Monica Potter. Tony Goldwyn.
The Premise: While on a mini-vacation with her parents, young Mari Collingwood (Sara Paxton) goes out for a night of goodtimes and catching up with her friend Paige (Martha MacIsaac). A quick pitstop for pot turns into an evening of torture, rape and murder for the two girls when they’re kidnapped. And if that isn’t enough, the killers take refuge from a storm with Mari’s parents. Shit hits the fan.
Is It Good: It’s somewhere in the middle. Craven’s original wasn’t necessarily a “god” film, but it is rather important and while there are a lot (a LOT) of things that did not work at all, the things that did work worked like gangbusters. It’s not the most shocking or violent exploitation film ever made, but it has a reputation, and it’s earned it. This one? Well, it certainly fixes the problems that the first had. The wacky music and slapstick comedic relief are (thankfully) gone and what we’re left with is a very well-put-together, tense, slick little thriller. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that – I enjoy those movies.
But here’s the problem – this isn’t The Strangers or Vacancy or some other one-off horror movie. This is a direct remake of a fairly infamous movie. And for everything this got right over the original, it got every thing else wrong. And everything else is the IMPORTANT stuff. I’m about to spoil two movies here (you’ve been warned), but the whole thing is predicated on Mari’s dying. With everything the original fucked up, it got the thematic stuff right. Without Mari’s death you lose the punch that pushes the Collingwoods over the edge and you lose that examination on grief and loss and how people let it manifest. As a remake of Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, Craven was able to keep all the thematic elements but take it in a much (MUCH) different direction, which is what makes it such an important film. With this version, they keep Mari alive. This is problematic because it robs the entire movie of EVERYTHING. I’m not saying it’s unbelievable that the Collingwoods would react that way to seeing their daughter in that condition, but you lose the subtext. And not only that, they do skimp on a LOT of what happens in the woods, so that paired with how slick everything is takes away the depraved exploitation magic. And once you rob it of all of that you’re just left with a bunch of superficial violence made for shallow, cynical shock value. And that’s what Last House ‘09 is – superficial shock value. And not really much else.
Is It Worth A Look: Sure, honestly. It IS a well-made movie and it’s really tense. If you haven’t seen the original and aren’t weighted down by that there’s a lot to enjoy here, but it won’t hold up to any sort of real critical thought weighted upon it.
Random Anecdotes: I watched the unrated version. It didn‘t deserve the distinction. Craven‘s was exponentially more depraved and violent and RED and he said “Fuck you, MPAA” and slapped his own R on it for distribution. Fuck your unrated, Last House ‘09.
Cinematc Soulmates: Every other shitty, neutered horror movie made in the last decade.