Published Mar 12, 2009Though the trend of horror remakes seems never-ending, the good news is they're almost through all of the classics (A Nightmare On Elm Street is unfortunately up next). Most of these updates have been uninspiring and purely driven by money — the recent Friday the 13th being a perfect example — but a film like The Last House On the Left seems like one of the better choices, considering its undervalued legacy. Wes Craven directed the much lesser known original back in 1972 and it was not only ahead of its time but also bizarre, brutally violent and quite absurd in some parts.
Directed by newcomer Dennis Iliadis, this remake is — and I shock myself admitting this but — better structured and much more coherent than the original. For the most part, Iliadis stays true to the original story: when a family travel to their summer home, daughter Mari Collingwood (Sara Paxton) decides to take her parents' truck for a spin and visit friend Paige (Martha MacIsaac). The two teenage girls meet Justin (Spencer Treat Clark), who takes them to his motel room to smoke some pot but they end up running into his dad Krug (Garret Dillahunt), Sadie (Riki Lindome) and uncle Francis (Aaron Paul), three convicts on the run for killing a couple of cops. The girls find themselves held captive and dragged out to the woods where they're brutally attacked, raped and left for dead. Afterwards, the criminals trudge through a rainstorm to the nearby Collingwood residence, where Mari's worried parents, John (Tony Goldwyn) and Emma (Monica Potter), invite them to stay the night. Eventually, John and Emma discover what happened to their daughter and decide to exact revenge, setting up the role reversal that allows the viewer to lust for blood sans conscience.
The Last House On the Left uses the source material well, updating Craven's script to make more sense, cutting out all of the loopy comedic moments — the sheriff, his deputy and that crazy music are nowhere to be found — and questionable sequence of events. But that's the problem: where Iliadis's film goes awry is in trying to distance itself from the original. In doing this, he follows the sour and predictable storytelling formula of today's modern horror, over-explaining and feeding the viewer too much back-story (Mari's dead brother being an unnecessary plot device) and not utilising some of the original's individuality and amusement to make it stand out amongst the remake glut.
Of course, if I was a real stickler, I'd say how making Emma attack Francis the way Estelle did Fred in the original would have shaken up the pot, but I assume that's what the unexplainable and erratic final scene is for. For the most part, Iliadis did a fair job in his version, it's just a shame he couldn't make it look less like every other remake out there. (Rogue/Universal)