The Last House on the Left remake is a film in two halves: the first, unflinching trenchant horror in the spirit of, and perhaps even eclipsing, the original. The second degenerates into superhuman butcher silliness, perhaps the influence of Wes Craven co-producer Sean Cunningham (Friday the 13th).
Champion teen swimmer Mari Collingwood takes off with the family car, prematurely bailing on a bonding summer cottage excursion with her folks to hang with townie friend Paige. But poor Paige’s would-be weed deal goes sour when the dealer’s family turn out to be…ESCAPED MURDERERS and their accomplices.
FYI, with drug deals, much like when soliciting a building contractor, it’s important to get a few references.
Soon, the two young friends are on a road trip they’ve not consented to, driven into the deep dark woods for some abuse that is harrowing enough to compete with the first LHOTL.
The industrious Mari isn’t resigned to her fate, grabbing a car lighter and burning her female captor’s face (and leaving a permanent scar that only a late night infomercial plastic surgeon could fix). Her backseat disruptions send the SUV rolling into a ravine, so the audience can catch a breather.
And there you have it. Half one is beautifully shot, gut-wrenching, sinister. Half two is incorrigibility ridiculous, with a faux goth “twas a dark and stormy night” aesthetic.
The SUV accident occurs in the immediate vicinity of Mari’s family cottage, though they’re unawares, noshing on a fancy dinner and guzzling vino.
Her parents, enjoying a night of candle-lit dinner / wine repast, are left unawares.
Soon, evil Krug and his injured company are at the Collingwood family cottage and being given a warm welcome by the doctor and his wife, who think their daughter Mari is staying in town for the night with Paige.
The Last House on the Left very effectively contrasts the good people the Collingwoods, with Krug and his evil gang; seldom in horror movies do we get well fleshed out characters and not merely flesh. There’s also a nice touch of class envy subtext (“How many houses do you own?” the not-exactly-grateful evil house-guests ask when they’re given room and board in a rainstorm.)
However when the Collingwood’s learn their daughter’s fate and exact their revenge, they’re not plagued by moral uncertainty but almost gleefully cross over (the doctor is particularly good at turning the Hippocratic Oath on its head in the film’s absurd kitchen implement-centred finale — please see our book, Death by Umbrella! The 100 Weirdest Horror Movie Weapons)
Also lacking, the gallows humor of the first Last House.
*** (out of 5)