Moving out of the city to a new life in small town suburbia, Robert Forrester hopes to forget the tumult of his impending divorce from the volatile Nickie Grace by keeping a low profile in a new job as an aeronautics engineer. Each night as he drives home, he is drawn to a certain house and walks in the dark until he's close enough to see Jenny Thierolf washing dishes, cooking, carrying out domestic chores.
But one night he gets too close; Jenny comes out of the house and sees him. Initially troubled, Jenny sees vulnerability in Robert that stops her from immediately calling the police. Instead, she invites him in.
Unexpectedly, the tables turn and Jenny begins stalking Robert. Out of guilt and fascination, Robert is drawn into a relationship with Jenny that has dire consequences which will lead to his inevitable destruction.
Continuing the wave of horror remakes is “The Last House on the Left”, the original a 1972 Wes Craven torture-rape-and-revenge flick that shocked audiences during its day. But one suspects that audiences nowadays have a much stronger stomach for such genre pickings, seeing as how films like “Saw”, “Hostel” and countless other similar films have thrust the torture porn subgenre into the mainstream.
Greek-born director Dennis Iladis’ remake is a cleverly disguised exercise in this genre- while not as explicit nor as exploitative as other genre pictures, “The Last House on the Left” is still a deeply uncomfortable film to watch. Essentially, two teenage girls, Mari (Sara Paxton) and Paige (Martha MacIsaac) stumble upon a band of criminals in their search for some weed and end up getting beaten, raped and shot.
The difference is that Iladis plays it straight, never glorifying the violence or the sadism of the acts which the perpetrators engage in. It reels you in and rivets you with the sheer realism of its portrayal, exposing at once the brutality and viciousness of these acts. But the purpose behind the authenticity lies in the second half of the film, where the trio of assailants seeks refuge in Mari’s parents’ house and are served their due course of vengeance.
Once Dad (Tony Goldwyn) and Mom (Monica Potter) realize the nature of the guests they have put up, it isn’t long before they beat up, skewer and dismember the bad guys. Justice will be served- and in the same heinous manner that the crime was committed. Should we condone justice of this form? Should we applaud that the bad guys are getting their comeuppance? Should we feel guilty for applauding?
We’re not entirely sure- and Iladis, working from a script by Adam Alleca and Carl Ellsworth, intentionally leaves this open to your moral compass. What the filmmakers instead deliver is a taut and intense genre piece- indeed perhaps one of the finest in the genre- that grips you from the very start and never lets you catch a breath until the final scene. Quite unusual for a movie of this nature, the filmmakers have also assembled a great cast who deliver realistic, convincing performances that draw you into their respective predicaments.
There are those who will object to the violence and sadism in “The Last House on the Left”, the same people who will simultaneously never understand the appeal of torture porn. This film and countless others in the genre were never made for them- but for those who are drawn, perhaps somewhat inexplicably, to such flicks, this remake is a must-see, a breathtakingly gripping piece that you will not soon forget.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
This Code 3 DVD contains no extra features.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 is a treat, delivering an impressive surround sound experience that adds to the terror of the film. Visual transfer is also excellent, and the picture is near flawless both for the day and night scenes.
by Gabriel Chong
Posted on 10 December 2009