Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Last House of Irony

Whomever does NOT know that this movie is a re-make of the 1972 Wes Craven 'classic' should absolutely stop here. You should not even be on this blog, so perhaps it's time for you to go back to your endless surfing and leave us horror fans alone.

The Last House on the Left is yet another Hollywood snazzed-up remake. In this day and age of "why can't anyone think of anything original?" we are bombarded with updates and re-imaginings... will it ever end? Do I even want it to?
I pretty much like 80-85 percent of horror movies that I see, so bear with me if you hated this movie.

Much as I dislike unoriginal ideas, I will fess up to actually liking this movie.
When I put it in the DVD player, I kind of removed myself from the memory of the original, difficult as it was.

If Craven's '72 version had never been made, this movie could decidedly stand on its own.
Matter of fact, it would work well.
And it does.

That being said - it is a ruthless, brutal, and unforgiving movie - not for the faint of heart, or the not already desensitized horror fan.
Still sitting in the prominent producer's seat is Wes Craven himself, with son Jonathan along for the ride as well. Craven tapped Dennis Iliadis as director.

Starts out with Mari and her parents heading up to their secluded summer house. There's been a tragedy in the family - brother Ben has been killed in an accident about a year ago, apparently there at the retreat, so everyone seems on nostalgic pins and needles when they arrive.
Soon though, they are in the groove and Mari cons the car keys out of the folks (mom quite reluctant, dad giving in easily) so she can go to town to meet up with her friend Paige.

In the stupidest part of the movie, the girls make friends with a young stranger who has come into the store where Paige works. He offers to give them some weed in exchange for them overlooking his age so he can buy cigarettes. How assinine is that? Why would you even want ciggies if you had marijuana back at the ranch? Whatever.
Paige sells him the smokes then the girls both take off with smoke boy in tow. (Apparently Paige's boss doesn't care that she leaves the store unattended while they go get high!)

Back at the seedy motel, Justin (smoke boy) and the girls are having a grand ole time making merry with the wacky weed....until Justin's dad, uncle and the dad's girlfriend (Garrett Dillahunt, Aaron Paul, and Riki Lindhome) come back.
In a few moments time near the beginning of the flick, you have been shown that Justin's dad, Krug, is a killer. He is under arrest and being transported somewhere when his brother (Francis) and lover (Sadie) show up and wreck into the police car, breaking him out and making a bloody mess of the officers. So you know, when this group comes back to the motel, things aren't going to end well.

The girls find out just who these three are and the criminals know they can't let the girls get away. So they are driving (why they don't just shoot the girls in the motel and be done with it is beyond me - would've made the movie about 75 minutes shorter though...) out of town and Mari, being brave, thinks she can make a break for it by burning the girlfriend with a cigarette lighter. I'm thinking that wasn't her best idea, but hey..

Naturally that plan backfires big time and she jumps out of the car, making a mad dash into the woods - where the nasties of the original film took place.
Same goes here.

Both girls are violently attacked, demoralized and brutalized. Given the choice of watching the Theatrical Version or the Unrated Version, nine times out of ten I'm gonna pick the Unrated one, and this time was no exception.
If I ever purchase this movie, I want to watch the Theatrical version to compare exactly how much of this utter debauchery was show in the theater.
I've seen the movie Irreversible, and the rape scene in that movie is just about unwatchable. This clearly comes in a hard second. Poor Mari is brutally raped face down in the dirt and the camera never really breaks away. Your heart really breaks because unlike the character in Irreversible, Mari is more than likely a virgin - not that rape should be condoned in any case, but I'm just saying...

Mari's friend Paige has been stabbed repeatedly and left for dead. (Which is exactly what happened, I'm sure). No one is disemboweled though, as in the original - and I waited for it.
Mari is able to actually get away (though how she managed it after such an assault is beyond me) and dives into the river. Her rapist shoots several times into the water as she swims away - finally hitting her in the upper back of her shoulder. She is seen floating away and you pretty much assume she's dead.
I, however, never take anything for granted. I've seen too much.

The storyline of the original has the fugitives knocking on the door of their victim's parent's house.
And so does this one.
In probably one of the most ironic and implausible plot devices in cinematic history, Mari's parents (Emma and John, played quite well by Monica Potter and Tony Goldwyn) welcome the pathetic looking losers into their home, fixing their injuries (ones that their daughter and her friend in fact inflicted) and giving them a warm bed for the night.

Would you seriously do this?
In the original, none of the foursome looked even remotely normal, so in essence it does seem a bit more reasonable that in this remake they would let them in. And it's storming to beat the band as well. Lights and phones are out, making it impossible to call for assistance. Or for the criminals to see the photos of Mari on the fridge door. Also helping the credibility is the fact that Mari has taken their only vehicle, so they have no car to either take the four somewhere else or to go for help themselves.

But inevitably, due to the fact that poor Justin is riding a guilt trip like a surfer rides the waves in Hawaii, the truth comes out. Justin leaves Mari's necklace - which she lost during her attack - in the kitchen in plain view so Emma can see it.
And when everyone has bed down for the evening (the four interlopers staying in the 'guest house'), John finds a badly wounded Mari outside on the porch.
Naturally - in an "oh of course" moment - John is a doctor, so he is able to cauterize the wound and stop the bleeding. Oh, and put in a makeshift chest tube to drain blood from her lung. Oy.

Once John and Emma discover the reality - and gravity - of the ironic situation, it becomes a total tale of revenge and retribution.

And that's where it gets gory.
I won't go into all the gruesome details - because I think everyone should check it out for themselves. Suffice it to say, the bad guys get their due.
The only thing I seriously missed from the original was the mom performing her own kind of oral justice on the bad guy's man bits. Craven had a nasty streak back in '72 I guess. Maybe he's losing his edge.

There are many points of continuity between the original and the remake.
The smoking of the weed, the necklace, the stabbing and rape, Mari getting shot and floating on top of the lake, the son's anguish and regret, and of course the convicts coming to her parents house. But they have updated it for today's times, and to be honest - it works.

And in the end, it's microwave popcorn for everyone.
Okay....maybe not everyone.


Todd Mason said...

Of course, both HOUSE films are updates, of sorts, of Ingmar Bergman's THE VIRGIN SPRING.

And in IRREVERSIBLE, the woman who might or might not survive her assault is pregant, if you're still weighing relative tragedy.

Todd Mason said...

Or even pregnant.

(THE VIRGIN SPRING is better than the first HOUSE, and I suspect better than the remake.)