THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT

Remaking Wes Craven’s 1972 horror film about a pair of girls who are raped and murdered by a gang of homicidal drifters only to have vengeance enacted upon them by one girl’s parents isn’t a bad idea. Since the original movie was such an exploitative, repulsive piece of work, a new version would have the potential to improve upon its predecessor. Unfortunately, this “toned-down” incarnation, co-produced by Craven, is full of predictable genre conventions beginning with “stupid things young girls do to get themselves defiled and killed in horror movies.” I don’t have a quarrel with the graphically depicted, vicious rape scene of the film’s ingénue (Sara Paxton) because it’s a brutally demeaning act that ought not to be sanitized in any form of artistic expression. However, once the trio (Garret Dillahunt, Riki Lindholm, Aaron Paul) of psychopaths get to the parent’s (Tony Goldwyn, Monica Potter) lakefront home, Adam Alleca and Carl Ellsworth’s screenplay becomes a cathartic exercise in watching the villains get dispatched in elaborately bloody and violent ways including (Warning, Will Robinson…movie spoiler fast approaching) an implausibly reprehensible sequence in which a paralyzed Dillahunt’s (NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN) head explodes in an open (?) microwave that earlier in the film was referred to as “broken.” Despite some above-average performances and deft handling of suspense by novice director Dennis Iliadis, this is little more than the sort of “torture porn in reverse” film that tries to separate itself from HOSTEL and SAW flicks with an implication that the bad guys in HOUSE deserve their prolonged suffering. But it still appeals to one’s basest instincts and heaven knows there’s always more than enough of that kind of material around.

CRITIC’S NOTE: The original 1972 Wes Craven movie actually retooled/”ripped off” the plot of an Ingmar Bergman film called THE VIRGIN SPRING (1960) about a deeply religious farming family whose daughter was raped and murdered by vagrants. The introspective work explores the universal question of why bad things happen to good people and where God is in such tragedies. It’s much worthier of your time that either version of THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT.