Saturday 30 October 2010

Movie Review: Last House On The Left (2009)

An uncompromising story of evil and the ability of normal people to slip into violent revenge mode, Last House On The Left is chillingly disturbing, with violent characters and events not far removed from reality.

Soon after arriving at a remote country lodge for some vacation time with her parents, teenager Mari (Sara Paxton) drives into town to visit her friend Paige (Martha MacIsaac). The girls meet Justin (Spencer Treat Clark), a mysterious teenager, and make the unwise choice of accepting his invitation to smoke pot in his hotel room. A big mistake, since Justin's Dad is Krug (Garret Dillahunt) a recently escaped violent criminal. Krug's brother Francis (Aaron Paul) and girlfriend Sadie (Riki Lindhome) are equally sadistic.

Mari and Paige are soon abducted and tortured. When they attempt to escape, Krug rapes Mari and both girls are left for dead in the unforgiving woods. Seeking shelter from an overnight rainstorm, Krug and his gang take a refuge in the first house that they encounter: the remote lodge where Emma (Monica Potter) and her husband John (Tony Goldwyn) are frantically worrying about their daughter Mari.

Wes Craven produced this remake of his 1972 low-budget classic horror film, and the update draws its power from the intense yet disarming evil generated by Krug, Francis and Sadie. We have seen these characters on the more grimy streets of most cities and in most newspaper accounts of vicious murders. Aaron Paul as Francis and Riki Lindhome as Sadie are creepy enough; Garret Dillahunt as Krug is outright terrifying thanks to his understated viciousness, the ability to turn on some smarmy charm, and his belief that the world owes him.

Sara Paxton gives Mari the necessary mix of naivete and strength, and enough personal appeal to ensure that the rape scene is nothing less than harrowing. Less convincing are her parents. The almost instant transformation of a typical husband and wife into a couple capable of contemplating revenge requires a leap of faith, delivered neither by the script nor by Potter and Goldwyn.

Last House On The Left avoids most horror movie cliches, and is gory, bloody and unflinching. But it rises above typical horror movie fare by presenting villains that are depressingly real in their cruelty.

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