Saturday, June 13, 2009

THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (2009) - slick, terrifying, remake

Adapted by the writer of the genuinely suspenseful RED EYE and DISTURBIA, this remake of the notoriously vicious horror flick, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, is satisfyingly nasty and surprisingly well-made. If the first film served as a commentary on the relentlessly brutal violence of a society at war in Vietnam and engaged in the civil rights struggle, the re-make comments on a society where "torture porn" rakes in the proverbial box office phat cash.

The film sets the tone of anticipated menace from the opening shot, wandering through a dark forest, followed by an extremely violent prologue as Krug is busted out of a prison transfer by his gang. The movie then shifts to a lighter tone - all the more menacing because we know we can't trust it. A spoiled, rich, beautiful teen girl and her lower class friend follow a strange boy to his motel to smoke pot. His father, uncle and their female hanger-on turn up, regret that the girls have seen their faces, and proceed to commit brutal acts of sexual violence. By a series of events that seem almost plausible, the criminals end up seeking shelter in the house of the parents of one of the girls they have just attacked. At first, the liberal, kind parents offer assistance. But when they realise what has happened they take brutal revenge.

I applaud director Dennis Iliadis for having the courage to depict violence in an unflinching, un-exploitative manner. I applaud him more for showing, in an extended middle section, the results of violence. As the father, a medic, tends to the wounds of one of the girls, we are forced to experience, through his reactions, the sheer physical destruction she has endured. This is no post-modern, teen-kicks horror. My only disappointment was in the final scene: it was so ludicrous it entirely broke the horrific mood of all that preceded it. I also note the screen-writer's deliberate choice to avoid the redemptive finale of the Ingmar Bergman movie based on the same material. A truly nihilistic message.

THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT was released earlier this year in the US, Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, Austria, Iceland, the Czech Republic, Russia, Estonia, Finland, Mexico, Taiwan, Greece and Kazakhstan. It is currently on release on the Netherlands and the UK. It opens next week in Hungary and Turkey. It opens in July in Portugal, Spain, Denmark and Romania. It opens in August in Italy and Singapore. It opens in Brazil on November 27th.

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