What is a critic to do when faced with those films that are more superior productions than their originals, but still aren't terribly... well, original? Certainly reviewing them higher is not a valid option, but shouldn't each film be viewed as an entity all its own, regardless of what came before it?
If so, this recent bad horror remake still sucks! Yes, I'm talking about The Last House on the Left, a remake of the edgy 1972 film that director Wes Craven and producer Sean Cunningham created to break themselves into the horror big-time.
Of course, a better question might be just why this thing even got remade. Clearly the answer is "Money" and "The current Bad Horror Remake Trend". Ounce-for-ounce, The Last House on the Left wasn't a terribly good or well-done film, nor was it even close to being "original" (being that it was an unauthorized and uncredited remake of The Virgin Spring).
What was it? It was extreme, graphic and hard to watch this succeeded in granting it enough controversy to get it banned in England as a Video Nasty, a status that, ironically, translated to "horror immortality". It was also controversial enough to have imitators and unofficial sequels coming out of the wood work and keeping the name alive. That's not even to mention the names of its creators who went on to kick off both the A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th Franchises. Thus, due to recent trends, by Whoreywood standards, it had to be remade.
This 2009 remake (from Rogue Pictures) is one of the more faithful remakes in this wasteland of "re-imaginings". The plot is basically the same, with minor changes. The actors are better and the production is slicker. By today's standards, the film is also violent, disturbing and depraved, with plenty of cruelty, sexual humiliation and other crap smeared all over the tarnished silver screen. However, there is a serious lack of immediacy to the film. At no point does the ostensibly Cunningham/ Craven-Produced remake approach the realistic, documentary feel that the original did. Further, though the brutality is there, the film also has a muted and watered-down feel to it, focusing quite a bit on justice and good-guys than the sick society. In short, you won't have much trouble reminding yourself that "It's only a Movie!"
Director Dennis Iliadis (whose only other directing credit is for 2004's indie Hardcore) introduces us to young and sweet Mari Collingwood (Sara Paxton), a pretty, young teenaged swim-team champ. According to the adapted screenplay (based on Craven's original and credited to Adam Alleca and Carl Ellsworth) she's an only child after the untimely death of her older brother, which makes her wanting to break out on her own during the family vacation all the more troubling to her mother Emma (Monica Potter) and her father John (Tony Goldwyn).
But they let her take the car to hang out with her friend Paige (Martha MacIsaac), who soon hooks them up with creepy young Justin (Spencer Treat Clark) for some apparently incredible marijuana. So that's the key to getting cute chicks into your sleazy hotel room... always have good pot. Damn it, I always kept it to myself. Sigh... you reap what you sew.
Speaking of which, it's not long before the chickens come home to roost, including Justin's father, the recently escaped convict Krug (here played by the strangely cast Garret Dillahunt), uncle Francis (Aaron Paul) and Krug's surprisingly hot and occasionally topless girlfriend Sadie (Riki Lindhome). Krug and Sadie. What a pair... and... WHAT A PAIR! Seriously, folks, there should be an episode of Dr. Phil or something about them. "Women with Fantastic Breasts and the Scum-bag convicts who love them!"
Incredibly, Sadie isn't enough for the Krugenator. In that "Krug and Company" are on the lam, the fact that Paige and Mari see them show up means that they aren't about to be let go, especially with Motley Krug's face on the front page of the paper! Anyone who has seen the original film knows what happens next and after that and after that. And anyone who has seen the promotional material for this crappy version knows exactly what the last act is going to be (whether or not you agree it's the "Sex Crime of the Century"). Hell, just watching the movie trailer will give you every significant piece of this film, save the nudity. In short, why bother watching it?
In truth, much like the original film, the last half is remarkably satisfying as the resulting promise of the "Revenge Thriller" pays off in big ways. However, director Iliadis seems to have been controlled in some part by the eight producers (including Craven and Cunningham). The film seems to walk its razor's edge between shockingly edgy and Hollywood Safe. From the tangible threat, to the "there but for the grace of God", to the justified revenge to the just safe enough ending, each stab made at art is trumped by another drenching by mean-spirited intent. There's little question that each step is calculated to shock, disturb and offend... just not a whole lot, when the chips are down. The key word here is "calculate", as in profits, as in the bottom line, as in... Bad horror remake!
And that's the truth about The Last House on the Left. It's one of the more faithful (bad horror) Remakes to its original source, but the original source wasn't so great in the first place. Further, the shock-based horror of the original is there, but is watered down just enough to make it somewhat palatable to the mainstream. In short, you're better off skipping this one and watching the original. Then again, you might want to skip the original and jump directly to the better works on the creators' resumes. In slightly-less-short-short, it's not worth more than Two Stars out of Five (at best). Why, oh, why do I pay to see these pisser remakes, when I know for certain they're going to suck hooves? After all, isn't just reviewing them publicity in-and-of itself? Am I so hopeful and positive that I still believe that something vaguely watchable will sprout from the organic bed of this now-shit-fertilized garden? No. Alas, No. With the noteworthy exception of My Bloody Valentine 3-D, they're all going to bite like a scared Hamster! But I'll keep coming back, not out of support, not out of a vain hope that these pieces of piss will get better. No... Here's why: I get thousands of page hits per day, thousands of individual readers each day and tens of thousands of individual readers each month. If I spend my Costco-laundered ten bucks to watch and review these Ten-Ton-Theatrical-Turds and I manage to prevent one, just ONE, of those thousands to skip one of these time-wasters and tell their friends to not even let their ill-trained puppies wet on one of these Bad Horror Remakes, then I've done my dubious work. I'll see you true-believers in the next bad horror reel!
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