The Last House on the Left (2009)

Rating: C+

Dir: Dennis Iliadis
Star: Tony Goldwyn, Monica Potter, Sara Paxton, Garret Dillahunt

Having not exactly been a fan of the original, I didn’t hate this as much as I expected – it’s much more the kind of remake I can get behind. The original was a pretty crappy affair, without much to remember it by except the performance of David Hess. While that aspect of things isn’t quite matched here, just about everything else is significantly-better. The basic plot is the same. Seventeen-year old girl Mari (Paxton) and her friend are kidnapped and brutalized by a gang of psychos led by Krug (Dillahunt), Fate conspires to send the perps to the remote house where Mari’s parents (Goldwyn and Potter) are anxiously awaiting their return: at first, neither party knows of the connection, but when Mom and Dad discover their daughter’s fate, they instictively decide to take justice into their own hands.

There are some minor changes, in the specific fates of the characters, and the focus shifts significantly off the rape/torture of the victims. Now, it seems that a good deal more time is spent on the parents and the revenge side of things. That might make it seem toned-down, but the end product is a more effective movie. The original was a grindhouse flick, with all that entails; the remake has more arrows in its quiver than sleaze, and as a result, doesn’t need to dive into the gutter to make its impact. Not that the rape of Mari is anything but very nasty. It’s simply better written: here, the father being a doctor serves a significant purpose, when in the original, there was no real point to this.

There are still no shortage of flaws: a big fuss is made about Mari’s brother having died, and this goes nowhere, while there is also far too much teenage chitchat, which irritates rather than anything else. However, the second-half of the film – when the teenagers’ contributions are running, screaming, staring blankly and being unconscious – significantly improves, despite a final shot which has laughing more than anything else. It’s still no classic, but it’s an example of a good remake, where the original had room for improvement.