Last House on the Left

 (2009)

by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

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 three herdsmen.

- 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 tag-along.

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 guesthouse!

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.

DVD Blu-Ray

THE CRITICS AND ACADEMIES

2.5 Roger Ebert (of 4 stars)
2.5 James Berardinelli (of 4 stars)
42 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)
42 Metacritic.com (of 100)

 

 

 

 

THE PEOPLE

   
6.9 IMDB summary (of 10)
B Yahoo Movies

 

 

 

THE BOX OFFICE

Box Office Mojo.  The film had some small bit of box office pizzazz. It opened with a solid $14 million weekend in 2400 theaters, and finished with $33 million. I reckon it must have made a profit because it was obviously not an expensive film to create.

 

 

 

 

NUDITY REPORT

As one of the gang members, Riki Lindhome shows her breasts in two different scenes, the latter of which is nasty.

As one of the victims, Sara Paxton is raped, but the nudity is more suggestion than reality. You will see her butt from the side, but not much more. Fair warning again: very ugly scene, almost no nudity.

 

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Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:

C

Competent revenge film for a limited audience. It does what it sets out to do.