MOVIE REVIEW- Re-tried scenes: <i>Last House</i> will thrill... sickos


In an age of somewhat more original movies Wes Craven was able to remake The Virgin Spring as The Last House on the Left without spawning a rash of horror remakes of Ingmar Bergman classics. Imagine what might have been done to Persona, The Seventh Seal, Fanny and Alexander or, God help us, A Little Night Music"

You may not have to imagine for long if the 2009 version of The Last House on the Left is a hit. In Hollywood today nothing gets greenlighted unless it's been done successfully before, in some medium, by someone.

Greek director Dennis Iliadis, making his American debut (with South African locations subbing for the U.S. of A.), has done an efficient job of combining a few moments of suspense with several of bone-crunching brutality. If that's not your thing, you've no reason to read further.

The movie breaks down into four segments of about 25 minutes each. Aside from the opening scene, all the rough stuff is in the second and fourth quarters.

First we meet Krug (Garret Dillahunt, looking like Josh Brolin), as his brother Francis (Aaron Paul) and girlfriend Sadie (Riki Lindhome) break him out of police custody. Then we meet the Collingwoods. Mari (Sara Paxton), 17, is a champion swimmer. She and her parents, Emma (Monica Potter) and Dr. John (Tony Goldwyn), pile in the car and take off for their summer home, an isolated house by a scenic lake.

(Yes, you take the left fork to get to it, but it's the only house on the road, which makes it the first as well as last. In fact, they're six miles from their nearest neighbor– and why are developers letting all that beautiful lakefront property just sit there? It would have been more accurate to call the movie The House by the Lake, but that title was used for a similar ‘70s thriller that hasn't been remade yet.)

As soon as they settle in, Mari borrows the car to visit her friend Paige (Martha MacIsaac), a local who's her summer BFF. Paige wants to smoke some weed, so they accept an invitation to accompany a sweet-faced boy, Justin (Spencer Treat Clark), to his motel.

That's where Act Two begins. Just as the kids get mellow, they're interrupted by Justin's father– Krug– Uncle Frank and Sadie. Before you know it, one of the girls has been stabbed, the other raped and shot. They inflict some damage too, but females in this movie couldn't be treated more brutally if Rihanna sang on the soundtrack. (You wanted equality...)

By the time Act Three begins it's a dark and stormy night. Krug and the gang arrive at the Collingwoods' lake house. They've had an accident and need a phone. John and Emma are hospitable– John patches up Francis' broken nose– and everyone's as polite as in a Noel Coward comedy. The gang is offered the guest house for the night.

To this point, Krug and the gang don't know their hosts are the parents of one of their victims, and John and Emma don't know anything has happened to their daughter, let alone that their guests were responsible. That all changes, setting up Act Four, which proves, among other things, that dishwater isn't dull when someone's being drowned in it.

In testing the audience's endurance, Iliadis tests that of the characters as well. Everyone bounces back from blows that, if not fatal, should at least put them in a coma for six weeks. Maybe this is the kind of movie that should win awards for sound effects editing because that certainly adds to the visceral impact.

To show how jaded we've become, the most controversial aspect of this remake, from the early buzz, is a microwave that functions with the door open. Coincidence isn't a problem because Mari steers the gang toward her family's house, and excessive violence– well, if you can't stand the heat stay out of the multiplex.

The acting won't win awards, but it gets the job done, as do the other technical aspects. The Last House on the Left is a well oiled machine that will please the sick, perverted fans of this sort of thing while making decent, God-fearing folks sicker than a bag of salmonella peanuts would. You know which camp you belong in, so choose accordingly.

Either way, Wes Craven, who's now producing remakes of the films he once wrote and directed, will earn enough to build a guest house onto his lake house.