I had heard good things about this film, even though I hadn’t actually watched it myself before. It follows in the same foot as some of the master pieces of this genre namely, I Spit On Your Grave. This is a remake of Wes Craven’s 1972 classic which goes by the same name. It remains fairly honest to its source material and is able to extract decent thrills. However the problem with this film lies in the fact that we have seen plenty of its type in the last decade or so. When Craven’s classic released, it was way ahead of its time. That factor contributed heavily to its success and almost classic status. But many years from that, in 2009 we have already seen almost anything that can be dished out in this line.
The story revolves around a gang of criminals who after kidnapping and brutally assaulting two young women, unknowingly find refuge at a vacation home belonging to the parents of one of the victims. The parents of the tortured girl soon find evidence connecting the trio to their girl’s sorry state and then devise an increasingly gruesome series of revenge tactics on the trio. What starts off as an effort of the parents to save their daughter, who somehow managed to reach home, from being discovered and subsequently killed, gradually turns into the parent’s taking a hearty revenge on the trio who had tormented their daughter.
The film boasts of some really solid performances, particularly from Sara Paxton who plays the helpless girl to perfection. In her essay, the viewers find their link to the movie and also their reason to hate the three criminals. As the story progresses, she meta-morphs from a self-sure and “trying to rediscover her happiness”- girl into a wreck who is brutally raped and shot. Paxton is able to makes you believe in her character. Garret Dillahunt playing the principal baddie is another strong performer. He is perfectly hateable as the rapist. He has a towering persona and is immensely difficult to pin down. His overwhelming physicality further makes him scary and the sequences involving him are affective. Aron Paul who plays his brother works equally well even though he has little to do. Riki Lindhome as the third partner of the trio, Sadie is good. The only weak links are the parents who are unable to convince you of their predicament and even though they put in an effort to show their anxiety they are just not convincing enough.
The film is interestingly artistic for a slasher flick. Be it the long takes of the road leading to the lake house, the panning on the form of the girl, or for that matter the shots showing the girl swimming, the director takes his liberties with the art. However the torture scenes are straight forward and on your face. The rape scene specially lingers a tad bit longer deliberately to increase the tension. The outcome is riveting as this scene is bound to leave you exasperated. On the other side, the way Aron Paul’s Francis is murdered by the parents is an equally gruesome watch.
This was never a film to have subtle drama or for that matter rousing takeaways. It is an overtly repulsive entertainer which tries to thrill you with its scary villains, sexual violence, gore and tense set pieces. It also shows us to what extent the seemingly sane and soft parents of a tortured soul can go to extract revenge on the perpetrators. However the cons of the film are evident too. The story is done to death. There are no fresh thrills or chills for that matter. Had it not been for the actors, the film would have nosedived miserably. Looking for reason or logic is pointless and even the scare factor dips towards the end as you can practically predict what will happen next.
Having said that, the film will still ranks as a worthy remake of the classic. Even though the 1972 version is still hauntinglyreal and scary, this version comes close to being an apt remake. It is able to understand the mood of the original and sticks to it as if its life depended on it. The performances comes to the rescue of the film in many junctures and as already discussed are a high point of the film. The unabashed violence, gore and sexuality will keep the adrenalin charged junkies happy who will walk in to see the exploitation. The Last House on The Left could have been an exhilarating ride if the screenplay and characterizations were worked on a little more. Some performances could have been better too. Still a very watchable slasher flick.