Released to North American theaters in mid-March of 2009, The
Last House on the Left is a remake of an eponymous 1972 Wes Craven
horror film, which in turn was a sensationalized version of Ingmar
Bergman's The Virgin Spring. Bergman's film had been based upon a
Swedish folk ballad written circa 1400, which purported to explain
the origin of an old church (a real church still standing today) by
the story abbreviated below:
Per Tyrsson's daughters
When they came to the pastures of Všnge. They met
- Either you will be the wives of herdsmen or
would you lose your young lives?
- We do not want to be the wives of herdsmen. We
would rather lose our young lives.
They cut off their heads on a log of birch. And so three wells appeared.
- There are three herdsmen on our courtyard, They
have slain our daughters.
Per Tyrsson grasped his sword. He slew the two
eldest ones. The third one he let live until he could ask him:
- What is your father's name?
- Our father is Per Tyrsson in Všnge
- What shall we do for our sins? We shall build a
church of lime and stone. The church will be named Kerna
In the latest interpretation of this legend, two teenage girls
and their SUV are hijacked by a trio of sadistic criminals who are
dragging along the sensitive son of the head baddie. The gang ends
up killing one of the girls and leaving another for dead after
raping her and shooting her in the back. Unfortunately for the
fiends, one of the victims had earlier tricked them into heading
toward her parents' summer home deep in the woods, where the parents
soon size up the situation and exact all kinds of vicious revenge on
their daughter's tormenters, with some assistance from the sensitive
In a slight departure from the legend, no churches are built to
commemorate the events.
Movie Juice got a few chuckles out of the film:
"Welcome to that alternative universe where
cute and perky girls go to a weirdo's dumpy motel room because he
says his drugs are just that good. Listen, when a motel's sign
spells "HBO" phonetically, get your drugs somewhere else. Yes, that
alternate universe where creepy, dangerous strangers knock on your
door in the middle of the night - and you put them up in your
Last House on the Left is hardly for all
tastes, although it pales in comparison to the sadistic indignities
of the original. Still, it's uncomfortable to watch - and if I want
to watch something uncomfortable I usually watch CNBC. That said, if
you want to see bad guys get their comeuppance (which only happens
in the movies nowadays) then look no further than the Last House
on the Left."
As you can infer from reading the Movie Juice comments, this is
not a bad film for those who enjoy the whole "I Spit on Your Grave"
genre of sadistic, cheapjack revenge flicks. Although Last House was
obviously made with a minimal budget and features no actor more
recognizable than Tony Goldwyn, the film has quite a few strengths:
- The director managed to maintain suspense throughout the film,
not just occasionally, but in scene after scene.
- The acting is solid from top to bottom.
- The film never backed away from nasty violence nor cheated on
its graphic representation on screen. It's a brutal and sadistic
film, truly in the "I Spit ..." tradition. (By placing this
characteristic in the "positive" list, I'm assuming you consider
it an asset rather than a liability.) It includes not only lurid
brutality, but explicit medical procedures as well.
- The catharsis works. Audiences appreciated the acts of revenge
by cheering loudly for the family.
On the minus side of the ledger, the film is rather slow and
deliberate in all the build-up scenes, so it seems to advance slowly
when there's no violence. Of course, that was part of the director's
technique to heighten the dramatic tension, but the net effect is
that you should probably avoid the film if you don't care for the
brutality, because it will seem to you like a series of tedious
interludes you don't want to see leading to some ugly episodes which
you also don't want to see.