Last House disgusting, but well made

Toronto Sun
By Liz Braun, Sun Media
March 13, 2009

When Wes Craven unleashed The Last House on the Left on an unsuspecting public back in 1972, you could hear jaws dropping all over a movie theatre near you.

The film was part of a new wave of terrifying horror movies that included such treats as the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and for the era, The Last House on the Left represented a new high for the genre.

Or a new low, depending upon how you view these things.

The new remake of The Last House on the Left opens in theatres today, and perhaps the most interesting (and frightening) thing about the movie is how the graphic violence has been amplified for today's audiences.

The movie concerns a chance meeting between a trio of cold-blooded killers and the two teenaged girls they decide to sexually assault, torture and leave for dead. The killers then move on, taking shelter during a thunder storm in a pleasant country house. The house just happens to be owned by the parents of one of the brutalized teenagers, and once they realize who their guests are and what they've done, mom and dad turn the tables and begin a bloody good job of revenge.

Er, self-defence. Sorry.

The Last House on the Left was never an original idea to begin with, having been more or less lifted from Ingmar Bergman's film, Virgin Spring. But never mind. That's not the problem.

This is the problem: On one hand, The Last House on the Left is a film involving such brutal violence and degradation that it made this viewer, and a few others we polled, physically sick. Some of the images are truly horrifying, and the content is generally disgusting and often unwatchable. It is a disturbing movie, which would seem to be the point. In moral terms, the film rates zero stars out of five.

On the other hand, in film terms, it must be said that The Last House on the Left is really well done, with impressive performances, masterful creation of dread and tension, perfect pacing, intense storytelling, haunting cinematography, truly sickening sound effects, and all that. The cast has several surprises, including Sara Paxton and Martha MacIsaac as the tortured teens and Tony Goldwyn as the dad; the bad guys, played by Garret Dillahunt, Aaron Paul and Riki Lindhome are wonderfully calm, cold and menacing.

Positive elements aside, it should be said that many people have no interest in looking at horrible images of rape, torture and human terror. We really hated experiencing The Last House on the Left and would un-watch it if such a thing were possible. But we can, and do, appreciate how well it was put together -- hence the three-star review.

And for those who do have an interest in looking at horrible images of rape, torture and human terror, The Last House On The Left, for all we know, is too tame to titillate.

One last thing. What should one make of the class elements in The Last House on the Left? Is it wise to release, in this economy, a tale about social riff-raff who dare attack nice, middle-class people -- and then get butchered for their efforts? Discuss.