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The Last House on the Left (2009)
The Last House on the Left is a 2009 American film directed by Dennis Iliadis and written by Carl Ellsworth and Adam Alleca. It is a remake of the 1972 film of the same name, and stars Monica Potter, Tony Goldwyn, Garret Dillahunt, and Sara Paxton. The film follows the parents (Goldwyn and Potter) of Mari Collingwood (Paxton), who attempt to get revenge on a group of strangers, led by a man named Krug (Dillahunt), that have taken shelter at their home during a thunderstorm. The Collingwoods discover that Krug and his group have shot their daughter and left her for dead. The film rights were picked up by Rogue Pictures in 2006, with the remake being the first film produced by Wes Craven's new production studio Midnight Pictures. Craven, who wrote and directed the 1972 original, was interested to see what kind of film could be produced on a large budget, as the limited funds in 1972 forced him to eliminate scenes he had wanted to film to tell a complete story. Alleca's original script included elements of the supernatural, which prompted the studio to reject it and bring in Ellsworth to perform a rewrite.
It's time for summer vacation and the Collingwood family -- doctor dad (Tony Goldwyn), teacher mom (Monica Potter), and daughter Mari (Sara Paxton) -- are heading to their isolated lake house for a little R&R. Sadly, the teenage girl will soon run into escaped killer Krug (Garrett Dillahunt), his son Justin (Spencer Treat Clark), the equally unhinged Francis (Aaron Paul), and gonzo gal pal Sadie (Riki Lindhome). Along with her buddy Paige (Martha MacIsaac), Mari will be tortured, abused, and left for dead. When the criminals show up at the Collingwood home looking for lodging, it's not long before the parents find out what happened... and when they do, the tables are turned and no one is safe.
If there is one thing that the 2009 remake of the 1972 sleazoid classic lacks, it's urgency. Last House on the Left was never a laconic or laid-back experience. Yet this update is not in your face so much as behind you, whispering quietly. Craven and Cunningham managed to get their sickening, sadistic point across in 84 explosive minutes. There was no narrative fat on their thrill ride, even if the bumbling sheriff and his dimwitted deputy seemed like leftovers from a bad burlesque act. But under the tutelage of filmmaker Dennis Iliadis, everything here gets slowed down and expanded. Clocking in at nearly an hour and three-quarters, someone should have stepped in with the editorial scissors. Scenes go on far too long; pointless encounters do little except extend the time before blood is shed.
While he shows some skill behind the lens, Iliadis forgets the first thing about creating viable tension: getting us to care. We do sympathize (sort of) with the Collingwood clan, especially with the newly trumped up backstory about a dead older son. But before we know it, Mari is off with her inconsequential friend, the two are doping it up with weepy loser Justin, and Krug and crew suddenly appear and start showboating. A car crash, stabbing, and rather intense rape later, and Mom and Pop are putting on the feedbag for our spree killers. Critics love to point out that the original murderers felt some manner of remorse before the Collingwoods went Voorhees on them, but nowhere in this update do Krug, Sadie, or Francis ever once act like anything other than cardboard cutout criminals.
With performances better than the material offered (especially from Paxton, who does some amazing, breakthrough work here) and a wonderful bit of last-act gore, this revamp is not bad, just bewildering. Instead of realistic, it's relaxed in its approach to atrocity. Somewhere between the Manson family and the Madoff scandal, Wes Craven went from a motion picture outsider to a staple of 'scary' movies. The Last House on the Left is reverent to his original. Too bad it's not as nasty.
The DVD includes unrated and theatrical cuts of the film, deleted scenes, and a making-of featurette.