A scene from THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (2009)

With THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, the masters of horror have come together again to bring us a truly terrifying film.

In 1972, The Last House on the Left was the film that launched Wes Craven‘s career, so it only seems right that, if it is going to be remade, he oversee it himself as co-producer, along with Sean Cunningham (Friday the 13th), who produced the earlier version.

Good Against Evil

The story pits good against evil, with two families fighting for their lives after their worlds get intertwined. Mari (Sara Paxton) and her friend are kidnapped, abused and left for dead by a sociopath prison escapee Krug (Garret Dillahunt), his insane girlfriend (Riki Lindhome), sadistic brother (Aaron Paul) and powerless teenage son (Spencer Treat Clark).

A scene from THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (2009)

Mari manages to make her way home, only to find the deranged family taking shelter there from the storm. When her parents (Monica Potter and Tony Goldwyn) find out about the torture their daughter has been through, anger and revenge take over, leading to a head to head battle between the two families.

The original version was made with the technology of that time.   Thirty years on this re-visioning exhibits not only much more depth and creativity but also access to a much larger budget. And while having more thriller elements this time round, it still remains pretty graphic.

Truly Terrifying

These days success for this type of film is all about the blood and gore, and there’s certainly plenty of that, with images of a nose being stitched and a hand being  torn apart.   The film skilfully uses the terror and scares on screen to evoke that same reaction in the audience. The violence is truly terrifying, especially the highly disturbing scene of sexual assault.  Actress Sarah Paxton in her role as Mari is tremendous in this sequence, which must have required great courage on her part; her screams and facial expressions are so believable that at one point you have to turn away from the screen. Even worse is Krug encouraging his son to participate.

A scene from THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (2009)

Other incidents which are used to create fear include someone bumping their head on a sink (ouch!), a seemingly trivial incident, which still has a part to play in the building of suspense and anxiety, as does the setting of the woods at night, riven with lightening and claps of thunder, while the way in which Mari’s parental tag team use available resources rather then just grabbing a knife or gun to attack is very creative and make the story unpredictable.

At a time where many successful horror films are being revisited – Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, Halloween and Friday the 13th to name but a few – it seems fitting Craven and Cunningham perform the action themselves. This way they are able to stay true to their original creation while developing elements they never could before. My praise goes out to them.

Dir. Dennis Iliadis, US, 2009, 110 mins
Cast: Garret Dillahunt, Aaron Paul, Sara Paxton, Monica Potter, Riki Lindhome

Review by Michelle Moore

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