Film Review: Last House On The Left

Posted in Film, Reviews
By Sam Bathe on 1 Jun 2009

Inspiring a phenomenon in the late 1970s and 1980s, the original Last House On The Left is credited by many as being the first slasher film, paving the way for iconic horrors like Friday The 13th and Halloween. Indeed, for a film that had such an effect on the industry, and had become so notorious in parts of the world, banned in the UK and unclassified until 2003, some 30 years later, it is somewhat surprising only recently a Hollywood remake was commissioned.

Following a similar story to the original, Last House On The Left is about two teenage girls free for the summer in an isolated town. After driving out from the city with her parents, to their summer house in the countryside, Mari (Paxton) heads into town to meet up with friend Paige (McIsaac). Sitting on the till for a while at the store Paige works in, an innocent-looking adolescent Justin (Clark) invites them back to his motel to smoke some weed.

While Justin might be harmless, his father, however, is not. Broken out of police custody by his brother and girlfriend, Krug (Dillahunt) is on the front page of every newspaper in town as the state’s most wanted man. Deciding it’s too risky to let them go, Krug and co. kidnap the girls, using their car to get out of town before deciding what to do next. Lost en route to the highway, Mari directs them in the wrong direction and towards her secluded family home, but after attempting to make a run for it, only leaves the kidnappers more angry as Mari and Paige’s escape become one for their lives.

While the lead-in isn’t as effective or believable as in the original, the story arc of Last House On The Left stands up to the original. And as the intensity ramps up towards the breakneck second half, though society is now dumbed down to gore and violence, as Krug has his way with the hostages, the remake is equally as effective. While the film seems to take longer to reach the forest chases and revenge sequence in Mari’s family home, when it does, it seems to run at twice the pace. Falling somewhere between several genres, Last House On The Left is a slasher film without much slashing (until right at the end when it comes in twice the dosage), a horror film without much horror and a revenge film with only one fight for revenge. But to be true to the original, this would always be the case.

Built now more so on the idea the richer you are, the larger your plot of land and so further away from neighbours and safety, one thing you might not have expected is the stunning photography and shots crafted by director Dennis Iliadis. With the second act rooted in a forest by a vast lake, beautiful shots and very slick sharply cut action streams give the film an art house feel at times. Though Iliadis’ work may be a pleasure to watch, this new sheen takes away from the grim nature that made the original so great. Effects technology improves the blood and gore but the remake doesn’t boast the edgy feel of the original, something a big budget would also condemn.

While Martha MacIsaac struggles to deliver more than a clichéd kidnapped teen, Sara Paxton is much better, showing a lot of promise for future role. Similarly Garret Dillahunt is effortlessly calm and suave as escaped convict Krug, and fans of TV series Breaking Bad will get a further kick out of seeing Aaron Paul, this time adding a harsh backbone to his bumbling character on the small screen.

Fun, certainly, but not as fantastic as the original, as remakes go, Last House On The Left is at least a decent addition to the 1972 classic, and bring the iconic slasher to a whole new audience and proving a few nail biting moments along the way.


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