“Last House on the Left”
At Quality 16 and Showcase
2.5 out of 5 stars
Following in a long line of pointless horror film remakes, Wes Craven decided to produce a remake of his own 1972 film “Last House on the Left.”
To put it plainly, the remake is absolutely unnecessary. There was simply no reason to recreate the film except to make money. Still, unlike other recent, increasingly awful horror remakes (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “The Fog,” “House of Wax”) this film is pretty effective at achieving what it attempts to do: shock its audience.
The plot is so sparse that it can barely be called a plot at all. It’s a gruesome tale of two teenage girls who are savagely attacked by a gang of criminals. And, in an ironic twist of fate, the attackers later find themselves spending the night at the home of one of the girls’ parents. From there, the film transforms into a revenge thriller in which the parents do away with the murderers one by one.
The fact that Wes Craven (director of horror classics including “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Scream”) produced the film is probably the only reason it avoided complete disaster. Craven certainly knows what his audience wants — lots of bloody violence with very few complications (including character or plot development) getting in the way. At least in this regard, he delivered.
“Last House on the Left” is certainly not a “horror film” in the classic sense of the phrase. There is no suspense involved and even fewer of those “Boo! … Oh, it’s only a cat” moments that horror films rely on for thrills. It’s more about shocking its audience by depicting horrifying acts, the most memorable of which is the brutal rape of one of the teenage girls. The rape alone is considerably more shocking than the entire second half of the film in which the killers are slaughtered in various gruesome ways.
The main problem with “Last House” is that it seems to want its audience to pity these poor girls, and yet it has the look and feel of a snuff film. There are several moments in which the camera lingers over the girls a little too long, objectifying them and merely turning them into bodies. Even during the rape scene, the camera practically invites the viewer to ogle the girls rather than feel repulsed. The movie constantly borders on being offensive, and it probably would’ve been incredibly so if it weren’t so boring. The final effect is that audience members are left with a bitter taste in their mouths, unsure of just who to root for. Certainly they should be siding with the parents, but it doesn’t help that the parents’ revenge is absolutely devoid of emotion.
The movie might not be deep, but that doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining at times. The bad guys get what’s coming to them and the audience gets gore and some cheap shocks. In the end, it’s a pretty fair trade, especially because there’s no preachy message to bog down the film, unless the message is “Don’t buy weed from strange boys in convenience stores.” And that’s probably a pretty good message for teenage girls to learn.
This film functions as nothing more than a violent two-hour escape from reality. After that, it will be forgotten until someone decides to remake it again.