The Last House On The Left Review: (Skull) Smashing!
If Drag Me To Hell is a hilarious, Looney Tunes bumper car of a thrill ride, The Last House on The Left is like plummeting down a waterfall, looking imminent death in its hairy face, whilst stuck in a canoe.
As you catapult into oblivion, breathless and pushed to the edge, you somehow emerge unscathed but you’ll need a swift cup of char to fully recover. This re-make of the 2009 original has a gritty realism that taps into the worst fears of every teenage girl (and their parents).
Whilst on vacation at her parents’ lake house, Mari Collingwood and friend Paige meet blank, shifty Justin and go back to his hotel to get high. Unlike other tourists, Justin’s family aren’t ageing hippies, nudists or birdwatching enthusiasts, oh no, they’re bloodthirsty, borderline psychotic, ex cons. It’s like Hi-de-Hi! if Su Pollard had been crossed with a rabid dog. In a bid to kidnap the girls, the criminals – Justin’s father Krug, girlfriend Sadie and uncle, Francis – steal Mari’s car and attempt to make a speedy getaway.
In a risky but inspired move, Mari directs them towards her holiday home instead of the freeway. As the girls are victims of serious abuse from the gang, Mari is shot and left for dead. An epic shot of her toes floating in the water sets this film apart from the usual teen-flick drudgery. It is poignant, tragic and beautiful.
Any film that contains graphic violence must make important style choices early on. Whether to go for an Eli Roth gorno splurge-o-rama or to take a more subtle approach to the torture, is a dicey decision in the grand scheme of cinema. Dennis Iliadis has been careful to handle the taboo rape scene in a way that reiterates the fragility of the central character, Mari. High praise indeed, when the same sequence could easily have been butchered into a crass hack-job by someone with less experience.
Conversely, the stand-off between Mari’s parents and the trio of murdering swine is epic in it’s brutality. A riotous circus featuring The Human Smoothie, Mr Explosion-Face and The Angry, Naked Golfer explodes onto the screen and we see more references to commerical horror box office hits. Needless to say, it does get a bit silly, but you forgive The Last House On The Left this indiscretion, as it performs so well to this point. The laughter that comes with the gruesome violence is not the product of humorous cartoonisms, but rather the vocal expression of relief at the bad guys being beaten to a bloody pulp and justice finally being restored.
Though it won’t be winning any Oscars, this is definitely one of the most enjoyable realist horror films I’ve ever seen and definitely worth a watch, if only to while away an otherwise empty afternoon.