Continuing on with my Wes Craven month and in continuation of the last post, The Last House on the Left was remade in 2009. While still flawed, I find this version to be the more tolerable of the two. While still a rape-revenge film, at least this film has a better depiction of the sheer amount of damage the human body can sustain. Also the focus switches from the brutality of the rape to the visceral brutality of revenge. This version is also more constant in tone lacking the bumbling police officers, so I can now say with certainty that the lack of police does in fact increase the enjoy-ability of the film.
Rather than do a blow-by-blow of the story line as the story is virtually identical I will point out the films differences from the original’s story. Mari (Sara Paxton) this time around is an athlete a swimmer to be exact, that excels in her chosen sport. When she and her parents, John (Tony Goldwyn) and Emma (Monica Potter) visit their summer home on the lake, Mari simply goes to visit her friend Paige (Martha MacIssac) rather than attending a party. While visiting Paige at work they meet Justin (Spencer Treat Clark) and go back to his hotel room to get marijuana off him. They end up staying and get taken hostage when Justin’s father Krug (Garret Dillahunt) along with Francis (Aaron Paul) and Sadie (Riki Lindhome) arrive. While in the car Mari notices she’s near home and tries to escape causing the car the crash in the process. Paige tries to flee, but is captured and brought back to the accident where she’s stabbed to death. Mari is then raped by Krug and after the rape attacks him with a rock, thus managing to escape to the lake where she tries to swim to safety. Unfortunately Krug still manages to shoot her in the back. Krug and his gang now trapped in a storm find their way to Mari’s parents home and seek shelter. Inside Justin realizes that they’re Mari’s parents. After realizing this he leaves Mari’s necklace on the counter, outside John finds Mari on the porch, having survived the bullet wound, swimming home and crawling her way from the lake. Emma finds the necklace realizing that Krug and others are the ones that did this. This prompts John and Emma to take revenge on Krug and his fellows, eventually aided by Justin while searching for the boat key in order to get Mari to a hospital.
First off, like I said the absence of the comedic relief style police vastly improves this film. This due to making the tone of the film far more consistent when compared to the 1972 cult classic. Slap-stick comedy simply shouldn’t be in a rape-revenge film, it’s simply too insulting to the subject matter being addressed.
Next while certainly not downplayed, the rape and attack against Mari and Paige is far less brutal than the attack in the 1972 version. This version simply doesn’t linger as long on this aspect, instead focusing more time on the parents reaction to their daughters attack and their revenge. Which in my opinion matches the brutality of the attack on Mari and Paige. Where in the last one the revenge portion took up a scant 14 minutes of the films run-time, in this version that amount of time is more than double. Which works far better.
All that said. I do have to say that the 1972 version is the better horror film, for a number of reasons. Primarily this is due to the somber ending of the original, where here it has a happy ending that feels nearly forced. But not to such a degree where I feel that it detracts as there is still enough negative feeling and connotations to go around. Another issue I have is with the character of Justin, who once again feels like a weak character, but not nearly to the degree of his previous incarnation. Here he does stand with the parents rather than kill himself and fighting back against his father does give the character a more solid arch as a character.
In fact, this time around all the characters feel more complete and fleshed with much stronger story lines. While I want to claim this is due to better writing, its most likely has to do with longer running time allowing the characters more time to grow in complexity. Also the film has a much better cast than the 1973 classic, but due to the actors being recognizable makes them feel less real. It’s harder to be drawn into a character when I keep thinking, wait didn’t you betray Patrick Swayze in Ghost?
Final thoughts, the more upbeat ending even if a little forced I feel gives the film a sense of closure that it needs. The on-screen brutality of parents revenge feels more visceral and therefore enjoyable. As I want to root for the parents and their quest for revenge, not the rapists. My only real issue with this version that heavily detracts from the film is one thing, the death of Krug. Which is campy and honestly laughable. So 1972 is a cult classic that leaves you feeling hollowed out and mildly insulted. The 2009 remake feels toned down and has a forced ending, but is the easier watch. So here it’s very much a pick your poison and if I have to choose, I choose this one. 7/10