My local moviehouse had more faith in the Last House on the Left remake than I did.
They opened it on two screens simultaneously in their complex and scheduled 10 sessions a day.
You can't accuse the distributor, Rogue (a division of Universal), of dumping the movie.
The '72 original is what it is. A hardcore, technically awful horror flick with a couple of killer performances -- David Hess, in particular. It broke taboos and showed enormous courage. It redrew the boundaries for screen violence. Its default documentary style worked in its favor, giving the film its power.
Its flaws are well known if you're a genre buff, so I won't repeat them here.
The 2009 Last House on the Left is best measured in an artistic context, not a political one.
Craven claimed the original was some sort of anti-Vietnam diatribe, but I never bought that.
Certainly its proximity to the Vietnam period was undeniable, but that it was making an anti-violence statement seems specious.
Dennis Illadis's Last House on the Left is not too bad at all. And in a weird kind of way, my awareness of the events of the first film increased my anxiety. I knew what lay ahead for the girls, and it kinda bothered me. It bothered me a lot, actually.
Which was the filmmaker's intention.
The set-up is tight and solidly directed. For a refreshing change, we get classic compositions that hold between blinks, and there is some economical character sketching at work.
There are one or two pleasant surprises, too, which I won't divulge, because they're surprises.
It was inevitable that Garrett Dillahunt's Krug would be compared to David Hess's, so it's no big shock that Hess's Krug trumps Dillahunt's. The more recent Chaos (2005), a mostly dreadful Last House rip-off, offered the excellent Kevin Gage ('Waingro' from Heat) in the Krug-meister role, and he inched close to Hess's mantle.
Unfortunately, he was let down by the crappiness of the film itself and the appalling writing. It's not that Dillahunt isn't good. He's just not as memorable as Hess, who was there first.
John Murphy's score is a major plus of this remake. Seesawing between string and synth, he creates a menacing, understated energy that adds important weight to the more troubling scenes.
The rape of Mari Collingwood, nicely played by Sara Paxton, is in real time and and is not visually graphic. It is very impactful, however, and adequately conveys the horror of human defilement. At the same time, Mari's friend Paige (the excellent Martha MacIsaac) is left to bleed to death after being brutally stabbed. This anxious sequence is directed with discipline and clarity.
The revenge of Mari's parents on the rapist killers is bloody and brutal, but it's also where the film faulters. When Mari's mother allows her daughter's rapist to enter a room where the battered girl is lying, I felt like the writers were milking tension from an illogical development. Most of the revenge stuff has been seen before, so don't expect a revelation . In the 70's, Last House was new and shocking; now it's a genre.
Despite several climactic misgivings, Last House on the Left - 2009 is a quietly harrowing treat.
The Los Angeles Times came at the film from a different angle:
Wes Craven's Last House on the Left has been a favorite of mine for a very long time.
The remake takes Craven's structure (which was taken from Bergman's The Virgin Spring, which was taken from...) and builds a worthy thriller around it that is mostly successful.
Many have complained that the remake lacks the original's nihilism. Yes, of course it does. It's a fucking studio picture for Chrissakes! I knew that going in, so I wasn't expecting shit. No studio ever produced something as grimy as the original Last House. And they never will. Deal with it.
The thing is, you don't go to church to bang a dirty whore, although you might get to look at one in nun's clothing.