"If bad people hurt someone you love, how far would you go to hurt them back?" This is the question posed by the poster for this remake of the 1972 Wes Craven directed original. It's certainly a loaded one that could bring up a lot of "what if?" moral situations but the makers of this redux aren't overly interested in that instead gunning for outright shocking and unsettling moments. Which is really too bad but, at the same time, doesn't really harm the movies effectiveness.
Our opening scene introduces us to the villain of this piece in the form of Krug (Garret Dillahunt) who's being transported by some smug detectives to prison. But his gang's there to break him out and after slamming their truck into the side of them they soon cold bloodedly dispatch of our officers and disappear into the night.
From there story within stays pretty faithful to the original as we meet teenager Mari (Sara Paxton) who's going to the cottage with her parents (Monica Potter, Tony Goldwyn) for the summer. It promises to be just another lazy time by the lake where they can all relax and try and forget about the death of her older brother the prior year. But it's about to turn into the vacation from Hell.
When visiting her friend Paige (Martha MacIsaac), who's working at the general store, they hook-up with seemingly shy teenager Justin (Spencer Treat Clark) who overhears Paige talking about scoring some marijuana and invites them back to his hotel room to sell them some. This, of course, turns out to be a horrible mistake as Justin's father is Krug and he doesn't approve of guests. This leads to a fairly gruelling mid-section where Krug, his girlfriend, and his brother take the girls captive only to end-up killing Paige and raping Mari (and leaving her for dead) when they try to escape.
The final third of the movie concerns Krug and his gang taking shelter in a nearby house during a storm when they've crashed their truck where their hosts just happen to be Mari's unaware parents. Then the revenge begins when they find out the people staying in their guesthouse (and who they've been nothing but hospitable to) are responsible for hurting their daughter. Cue up the "getting your just deserts" scenes which aren't nearly as brutal as expected and not as satisfying as what Craven put his baddies through in the original - don't be expecting the 'penis bite' or chainsaw moments of that film, because they're not here. There is one awful final shot you can mull over though, if you aren't blinded by the anger I was when it happens.
The Last House on the Left is a pretty successful updating of Craven's classic. It's not as uncomfortable to watch as the original and it feels a bit dragged out during the finale and its constant "look at me, I'm creeping around in the dark" scenes but director Dennis Lliadis does a good job of keeping things tense and even goes as far as staging a fight scene in a bathroom involving Krug's topless girlfriend and a shower rod. Even though I would've liked a bit more pathos from the script (having Riki Lindhome's character cry upon realizing what she's been a part of is a nice touch but not given enough play), what's on display here works pretty darn good. It earns it's R-rating during its extremely difficult rape scene and it does sling a bit of the red stuff but it gets a lot of its traction from the cast members.
Paxton is put through the ringer in her role and does a good job conveying a distraught confusion while Potter and Goldwyn shift their characters from regular parents to remorseless killers quite tidily as well. Dillahunt certainly isn't the original Krug, David Hess, but who really is? He does fine though and is given decent support from Lindhome and Aaron Paul (as his brother, Francis). Only Clark is a bit weak in his role - which might not be his fault considering his character isn't given a solid fate (he plays the "boy who cried wolf" and is pretty much given a free pass during the finale).
There is absolutely no way this was going to match the low-budget effectiveness of Craven's original (even with that film's annoying comic relief cops) but, as I stated before, it does its job efficiently and, along with The Hills Have Eyes, makes the track record of Craven remakes 2-for-2. (Chris Hartley, 3/29/09)
Directed By: Dennis Lliadis.
Written By: Adam Alleca, Carl Ellsworth.
Starring: Monica Potter, Tony Goldwyn, Garret Dillahunt, Sara Paxton.