Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

The last line of the synopsis of this remake of Wes Cravens' 'The Last House on the Left' states '...a mother and father who devise an increasingly gruesome series of revenge tactics', and this would be in reference against those who have brought grave harm to their daughter. That's pretty misleading. Not having seen the original and reading that synopsis I was of the mindset that these criminals stumbled upon the wrong house and the Collingwood's just happen to be a group of psychopaths in their own right executing their own special kind of justice, when nothing could be further from the truth. One scene was certainly 'devised' but in actuality the main focus of the family was to hopefully save the life of their seriously injured child and ultimately survive the night in lieu of worst house guests in history of the planet earth. Killing these house guests, if that is indeed what happens, was merely a by product of those primary goals. And it made for a much better movie.

The afore mentioned Collingwoods consists of young swimming phenom Mari (Sara Paxton), her lovely mother Emma (Monica Potter) and her M.D. father John (Tony Goldwyn). They are getting away to their little family cottage, which is the ONLY house on the left much less the last house on the left for like miles around. The family is also dealing with a recent tragedy, the death of Mari's older brother Ben a year or so ago by some unknown means. Or maybe I missed that part.

Anyway, Mari heads into town to visit her old friend Paige (Martha MacIsaac), against the wishes of her somewhat over protective mom, but dad gives the okay-go ahead and off into town she goes. Hanging with her girl at the little five and dime she clerks at, they run into young Justin (Spencer Treat Clark) who offers to trade some primo weed for some ciggy's, and apparently Paige really likes weed. So they go off to Justin's motel, Paige smokes some weed, Mari Watches Paige smoke weed when she really should've been heading home because now Justin's old man Krug (Garret Dillanhunt)

has come home. This is a really bad turn of events for the girls because the film opened with Krug, his brother Morton (Michael Bowen) and their community psychopathic girlfriend Sadie (Riki Lindhome) murderizing a couple of unsuspecting cops, this after robbing a bank or something. Now it's torture, rape and murder time for our poor kids. Mari tries to be cool under pressure and takes her chance to be free when it arrives, but alas, things don't go so well... but the girl does have heart.

As intense as all that was the movie really hasn't started yet because as circumstance would have it our crazed crew of killers, in need of a place to hole up after thinking they've just rape and murdered a couple of teenaged girls, end up at the Collingwood's who as we are told live at The Last House on the Left. Our unsuspecting couple, who believe their baby girl is spending the night with her weed loving buddy, open their home to these head cases, welcome them in, feed them, treat them for an injury or two and house them for the evening. Until they discover the real deal. Which leads to, as we mentioned earlier, a rather hellish night of survival.

I suppose another thing that throws me off on how 'The Last House on the Left' was going to be like is that it is classified as a horror picture but in reality it's a thriller. There are a few horror elements tossed in here and there but make no mistake, this is a thriller and a pretty good one at that. Director Dennis Iliadis has created a film that quite simply is not easy to watch. Almost from the first scene up until to the last there is steady sense of foreboding and dread in the man's movie, one that is filled with tension, upheaval and some pretty gruesome and graphic scenes of violence. There was a scene of rape in this movie that's getting some scrutiny and I didn't think it was nearly as bad or graphic as it could've have been. Not that it was easy to watch and it was effective in giving us even a clearer depiction of these characters we are dealing with, if we didn't know already how cracked they are, but considering I'd seen the repulsive 'I Spit on Your Grave' a few months back, this was almost tastefully done by comparison. The rape is just a piece of the carnage that Iliadis has crafted for his movie as there are all kinds of horrific images of death on display in this one, with the director seeming to particularly enjoy watching bad things happen to peoples heads.

There are solid performances all around from the likes of veterans Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter. We may as well call young Sara Paxton a vet since she's been acting almost as long as the kid has been alive, but Garret Dillahunt, who I'm sure is a really nice guy despite this laundry list of horrible characters he plays in various movies and TV shows pretty much takes the movie over as the completely reprehensible character of Klug. It's always good to watch a movie where a dude is so uniformly awful that there is almost nothing that they can think of to kill him in a way he deserves. The did try though... oh did they try.

'The Last House on the Left' is not a movie I'd want to watch a second time, that's for sure, but being trapped in my theater seat with nowhere to go to get away from it, it was fairly horrific and completely effective thriller of a film.

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