In the never ending stream of horror remakes comes another one, a remake of the 1972 version with the same name. A movie that I did not see so I can’t compare them to each other and take that into account when reviewing this version. What I can say is that it shares a lot with other movies too. Films like I spit on your grave, Deliverance, Eden Lake and more all share similar themes and/or atmosphere. Basically all of them present the idea that living/vacationing in a remote area is more dangerous than you would expect. I can see why this is a recurring theme in movies: never ending woods are good for chase sequences and the idea of hopelesness, these areas supply justifications for the lack of official authority, not working cell-phones and that basically no one comes to the rescue. And filming in a forest is probably cheaper than in a studio or city.
The Last House On The Left uses all this and more…
The movie is about a family consisting of a surgeon father, a caring mother and a daughter who’s a gifted swimmer. All is not well in this family as a year ago their son, her older brother passed away. They go up to their second home deep in the woods for some needed rest. Just there the daughter, Mari, asks for the car and goes into town to meet up with an old friend who runs a store. Paige is her name. When young guy their age buys some stuff he mentions that he’s got some good weed back at his motel. Having never learned that you should not go with strangers the girls happily follow him and do some pot in his motel-room. But when his brothers and the girlfriend of one of them return to the motel room early all hell breaks loose. They are wanted fugitives and don’t intend to let these girls go.
This is only the set-up. The actual synopsis mentions that the attackers and rapist of their daughter come knocking at the door of the parents in the pouring rain because they need a place to stay not knowing where they end up. That’s the second half of the movie, making the movie feel more grand than a simple three-arch storyline. This grand feel is also enhanced due to the fact that we follow the daughter around for the first 50 minutes after which she has been raped and left for dead when she basically becomes nothing more than a prop and the movie focuses almost only on the parents using the villains to tie those two separate stories together.
I’m still wondering about a message the director wants to present to us. Mari and her friend are presented not only as two average teenage girls but also as lust-objects. Early on the movie consists of mari stripping down to her underwear and going swimming in the lake. We then get to see her shower and by coincidence who not get to see anything. When getting dressed the camera focuses too long on her getting a shirt and pants on and it feels like a display of her body. Her friend Paige runs around in a skirt that seems a tad too short and even though you don’t get to see anything you constantly get the feeling that any second now you do. From that moment on these girls were clearly meant for us (males) to view as objects of desire. Harsh is the scene that when they finally get it on, it is by rape. It made me feel dirty and my guess is the director wanted to evoke such a feeling.
The movie itself surprised me in a positive way, as I was expecting a cheap unpolished gritty exploitation movie like they were usually made back in the day. But the filming is beautifully done and the movie has a nice soundtrack to go with the visuals. The acting is OK, nothing extraordinary. The plot feels more substantial than the average horror movie due to its structure. There are the usual frustrations of course, things that keep coming back in movies of this type; the victim who has made it to the border of the civilized world only to be caught by the villains just before she could get help, the cell-phones that always have no signal just when having a signal is a matter of life and death. Luckily the cliche-filled first half is saved by the dark and scary second half when the parents slowly find out who their guests actually are. In its genre The Last House On The Left is a good addition.