Wes Craven should be used to his movies being remade by now. It's happened to "The Hills Have Eyes" and I hear there's even talk about doing it with "A Nightmare on Elm Street". Personally, the latter is one they should leave alone, but this is Hollywood we're talking about. No classic is safe. Although his original "The House on the Left" wasn't considered a classic, it was still fair game for a remake which gives us the 2009 version.
In this update, the plot remains very simple. Four criminals are on the lam after helping their swaggering leader, Krug (Garrett Dillahunt), escape from a botched prisoner transfer. They happen to encounter a pair of female teens in a small mountain town and set in motion a horrific chain of events. After murdering one and brutally raping the other to leave her for dead, the gang seeks refuge at a nearby summer house. The twist is that it's the very home inhabited by the parents of the living victim, Mari (Sara Paxton). Upon learning that their house "guests" raped and tortured their 17-year-old daughter, the couple exact their own measure of revenge.
I was forewarned by E that if I got the unrated version, there would be on scene in particular that was a bit too much. Apparently, he must have underestimated my threshold for violence. I knew going in that the whole premise of the movie was based on a some pretty intense brutality. Not to mention the fact that we all know the movies in today age are trying to push the limits further and further.
It's more than just having the stomach to witness scenes like that. It's also understanding that it actually provides something to the story. The worst that scene was, the easier it made it to have a serious disdain for these criminals. You knew that whenever they got what was coming to them, whatever it was couldn't possibly be enough. You wanted to see them suffer for what they made Mari endure. Yes...it is a sick society we live in.
What I couldn't understand is why Mari's friend Paige (Martha Maclsaac) sold the girls out. She's pretty much the reason why the girls ended up in that predicament in the first place. When Francis (Aaron Paul), the most reluctant of the criminals is in the store asking to buy cigarettes, she refuses at first because he doesn't have id. That was the right move. Then she relents when he offers weed. So not only could she have gotten in trouble for selling tobacco to a minor if he was a cop, she could have also been busted for soliciting weed. In hindsight, getting in trouble with the law would have been a much better option than what ended up happening to her.
Mari's parents weren't much better when it comes to common sense. They live out in the middle of nowhere and there's a thunderstorm outside. When the criminals come pounding on the door at night, the dad (Tony Goldwyn) opens it without hesitation. No checking to see who it is or nothing. Had they read the recent newspaper, they would have seen these cats were wanted and could have avoided the confrontation. Of course, then they wouldn't have been able to avenge their daughter's dignity. Plus, I have no room to talk when it comes to not being up on the local news because I barely do it myself since I'm more into what's going on with the national scene.
"The Last House on the Left" was probably one of the better tense thrillers I have seen in quite a while. The way they built the tension up once the criminals get to the house was done masterfully. You are kept on the edge of your seat wondering if and when Francis will rat out the rest of the gang. You're trying to figure out exactly how long it will take the folks to figure out who these strangers really are. Then all the while, you can't wait to see how everyone involved will emerge from the situation.
Francis was easily my favorite character. Aaron Paul played him brilliantly as his character was obviously torn between a father who was the worst father figure ever and yet not fully knowing how he could get from under his thumb. Paul so convincingly portrays Francis that you can see the confliction in his face as Francis struggles with his own moral convictions.
I had never seen the original, but I understand the 1972 "The Last House on the Left" was a bit of shocker with its then exploitative violence. That should come as no surprise to anyone in the world we live in today. What did catch me off guard was how good the acing was across the board for this 2009 version. It made it one of the better thrillers I've seen in quite some time. Then you add to that a finale that was the icing on the cake and this film goes down as one of the year's best.
My rating: A-