Wes Craven's original 1972 version is given the schlocky torturous treatment to the instant gratification of the MySpace generation.
The Last House on the Left has Craven as a producer on a dumb hard core picture, perhaps a sadistic delight for some, that deviates a bit from the original. Unfortunately, in a more sloppy, gratuitous way.
Director Dennis Iliadis is intent in presenting disturbing images and violence up close, not as a commentary on violence as a kind of protest against Vietnam.
This remake of a notorious, low-budgeted thriller again has violence initiated by a trio of sociopaths, led by convict Krug (Garret Dillahunt), assisted by brother Francis (Aaron Paul), girlfriend Sadie (Riki Lindhome), and reluctant son Justin (Spencer Treat Clark). The slaughter of a cop will have many cringing at the start and is a portent of what's on tap.
This time, the screenwriters manage a stormy nighttime thriller that turns horribly for the Collingwoods, physician dad John (Tony Goldwyn), wife Emma (Monica Potter, currently on TV's "Trust Me"), and 17-year-old daughter swimming team daughter Mari (Sara Paxton) on a break at their remote summer lakehouse. The family still is in mourning over the loss of son and brother Ben.
When John and Emma let Mari use their SUV to spend time with store clerk friend Paige (Martha MacIsaac), a chance encounter with Justin leads to some hotel hedonism, a kidnapping and something extremely unnerving before the criminals coincidentally find shelter and medical care. Of course, land lines are dead and cell phones are roaming just around the time the power goes out. The quartet are allowed to spend the night in the guest house.
Before this, the most riveting scene also takes place in the stolen SUV after Mari burns Sadie with a cigarette lighter. However, the direction and storytelling from here are anything but coherent as one might hope from the auspices of a producer like Craven.
There is nothing to offset the stalking vengeance as John and Emma learn of the ugliness surrounding Mari. Paxton (Aquamarine) works hard to bring humanity and endurance to her character, but like Potter, she wouldn't care to admit that this medieval-like tale, inspired by a 14th-century story, is nonsense. One only needs to listen to the continuous bad ear for dialogue as if the filmmakers only concern was the up close intense visual viciousness.
Yet, there'll be plenty of reaction to The Last House on the Left. Not as something scary, but, as it opens on a new month's 13th day, for its lurid depictions when it comes to a nose job, a garbage disposal, a hammer, and, finally, a microwave. It's horrifying, dank, and filthy, combining what drew audiences to The Strangers, as a cycle of remakes continue to turn the slasher film into roadkill.