Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Last House on the Left (2009)

Some stories are pretty classic, Romeo and Juliet for example has been re-told many times, having the original performed as stage plays, radio plays, and eventually adapted as various films and television series (some better than others), but each new adaptation brings something different to the story.

Then there are other stories which, although classic, don’t have a lot of differences in the adaptations. The Virgin Spring(1960) is based on a medieval Swedish ballad where a man’s daughters are killed and he takes his revenge on the killers. In the original ballad the killers are also the fathers children, whom he sent away at a young age. In the 1960 film, the killers are goat herders who rape and murder the daughter of a local family, who, after being discovered by the parents are in turn murdered as well. The father (powerfully played by Max von Sydow) suffers a crisis of faith over the issue and resolved to build a church with his own bare hands to make up for the crime he feels he must do for his murdered daughter.

In 1972 Wes Craven (of Nightmare of Elm Street fame), made Last House on the Left, which in my opinion is one of the most harrowing film experiences I’ve ever sat through. The film follows two girls who get mixed up with a very bad crew of people who rape and murder them both. The villains then unknowingly stay at the home of the parents where they are discovered for who they are and the parents brutally murder the killers. I probably watched this film at around the age of fourteen and although I couldn’t stop watching once I had started (the film pulls you in very quickly), It is not a film I ever need to see again.

What I did see however was the 2009 remake. In this version all of the same events happen (although the death of the daughter’s friend isn’t nearly as graphic as it was in the 1972 version – thank goodness), the villains brutalize these girls, end up staying at the parent’s home and after being discovered are brutally killed. The difference between this version and the 70’s version came down to (for me) the fact that I recognized most of the actors in the film from other movies. The acting is much better than I expect from horror films in general (especially that of the lead villain, played by Garret Dillahunt and the daughter played by Sara Paxton) and the film does a great job of setting up a foreboding atmosphere, but honestly, from the point of view of a parent, watching the girl who played the mermaid from the family film Aquamarine getting raped and nearly murdered was an awful experience. I’m not saying that actors shouldn’t expand their work into different areas, I’m just saying it was really rough.

The trick of this type of film is to show the villains doing such horrible things that when the tables are turned on them the audience will cheer for the extremely bloody deaths delivered to these killers. The film actually does a clever trick in that it lets the main villain play the role of the “Final Girl” in a limited fashion, having him come upon the bodies of his friends and being hunted down by people who wish to kill him.

The main difference in the 2009 film is to keep the daughter alive. Although raped and shot by the villains, she manages to get home and her parents do double duty, nursing her back to health while brutally murdering her would-be killers. As a thriller the film is quite good, but the graphic nature of the subject matter was definitely too much for me.

No comments:

Post a Comment