Both the original 1972 movie and the recent re-make are notoriously disturbing. The original was a low budget thriller with a taste for bad taste, but all the same was brilliant at what it intended to do, which was disturb. The re-make is surprisingly good, despite the fact it’s been done before.
’The Last House on the Left’ was re-made in 2009 and directed by Dennis Iliadis and written by Carl Ellsworth and Adam Alleca. It is a very similar remake of the 1972 film of the same name, and stars Tony Goldwyn, Monica Potter, Garret Dillahunt, and Sara Paxton. The film follows the parents of Mari, who attempt to get revenge on a group of strangers that have taken shelter at their home, they do this after learning the group have attacked and shot their daughter, leaving her for dead.
The original followed a similar storyline, with one huge difference, it was far, far more disturbing to watch, and almost had similarities to a snuff movie.
’The Last House on the Left’ (1972) was written and directed by Wes Craven (’A Nightmare on Elm Street’, ‘Scream’) and produced by Sean S. Cunningham (’Friday the 13th’ ). The story is based on the 13th century Swedish ballad ‘Töres dotter i Wänge’, which was also adapted into the 1960 Swedish film ‘The Virgin Spring’, directed by Ingmar Bergman.
Both movies centre around a young girl named Mari (played by Sandra Cassel in the original) who plans to celebrate her seventeenth birthday by attending a concert with her friend, Phyllis Stone (Lucy Grantham in the original). Phyllis and Mari go to the city for a concert, and on the way, they hear a news report on the car radio of a recent prison escape, involving violent criminals by the names of Krug Stillo ( David Hess), his son Junior (Marc Sheffler), Sadie (Jeramie Rain) and Fred "Weasel" Podowski ( Fred J. Lincoln.)
The girls ultimately come into contact with the gang and are beaten, raped, and ultimately killed in a manner of horrific and grisly ways – not to mention cruel. The original was one of the video nasties in the seventies and was banned, it has never had a completely uncut DVD release because of its graphic nature.
The 1972 version was okay, but due to the nature of the film it was very uncomfortable to sit through. Wes Craven and Sean S. Cunningham are back as producers in the re-make; as they should be, considering they created the original film. Perhaps this is why, ‘The Last house on The Left’ re-make works where so many other re-makes of classic horrors fail abysmally. The 2009 re-make took a lighter approach to the sadistic material and added some twists into the movie, keeping the tension at boiling point, which ultimately made the film more entertaining to watch.
Mari Collingwood (this time around played by Sara Paxton) is the star of the film, and her character development plays out nicely. She’s a very talented actress, and unlike Sandra Cassel, she plays the role of Mari as a strong young woman. Cassel (who quit the movie business after making the original) did a good job, but took Mari into a very vulnerable place. So it was nice to see a stronger lead girl. That being said, the roles were reversed; in the original, Mari’s best friend, Phyllis, was played as street smart and strong, by the talented actress, Lucy Grantham. The re-make shows Mari’s best friend, Paige (Martha MacIsaac) as the weaker of the two girls once they are kidnapped by the gang this time around.
In both movies, the girls get into trouble by looking for marijuana. In the re-make, Mari is blameless of this act though, and it falls on Paige’s shoulders alone; giving Mari a more final girl look. A lot of the movie delivers Mari as more of a Final Girl formula, much more so than the original did.
The gang is played this time around by Justin (Spencer Treat Clark), Krug (Garret Dillahunt), Justin’s father; Francis ( Aaron Paul), Justin’s uncle; and Sadie (Riki Lindhome), Krug’s girlfriend. The gang are not as talented, or as menacing as the gang in the original, in particular, Krug ( the name was later to be used by Wes Craven as Kruger in A Nightmare on Elm Street) and Sadie are played more cool headed and not as sadistic. The original gang were all played superbly, and were truly menacing to watch.
Emma (Monica Potter) and John (Tony Goldwyn, the bad guy “best-friend” in ‘Ghost’) play Mari’s parents this time around, and the second half of the film is much stronger than the original. Although, maybe not as much fun to watch, as the original parents came up with some truly innovative ways to wreak vengeance on the gang. Emotionally, the scenes between Mari and her parents are upsetting, but sweet to watch; and the revenge the parents take on the gang is well done; though the end scene could have lasted longer and been better explained. Goldwyn is a very strong actor, and here, he plays the role of Mari’s caring and loving father wonderfully.
Both of these films are good, and even though they tell the same story, they are very different in tone. Some fans will undoubtedly prefer the grainier, more disturbing original, with its relentless cruelty and violence. While other’s will prefer this cleaner, more Hollywood style thriller. Both movies are strong though, and are worth a look. The tension is kept high in both films, and the first half’s are incredibly difficult to sit through. All in all, a good re-make, if slightly pointless.
(USA = PINK) (UK = YELLOW)