The Last House on the Left
Released to North American theaters in mid-March of 2009, The Last House on
the Left is a remake of an eponymous 1972 Wes Craven horror film, which in
turn was a sensationalized version of Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring.
Bergman's film had been based upon a Swedish folk ballad written circa 1400,
which purported to explain the origin of an old church (a real church still
standing today) by the story abbreviated below:
Per Tyrsson's daughters
When they came to the pastures of Vänge
They met three herdsmen
- Either you will be the wives of herdsmen
Or would you lose your young lives?
- We do not want to be the wives of herdsmen.
We would rather lose our young lives.
They cut off their heads on a log of birch.
And so three wells appeared.
The bodies were buried in the mud.
The clothes were carried to the village.
When they came to the estate of Vänge,
Lady Karin met them outdoors
-And would you buy silken robes
That nine maidens have knitted and stitched?
Untie your sacks and let me see,
Maybe I will know all three of them
Lady Karin beat herself on the chest,
She went up to Per Tyrsson
- There are three herdsmen on our courtyard,
They have slain our daughters.
Per Tyrsson grasped his sword,
He slew the two eldest ones.
The third one he let live
Until he could ask him:
- What is your father's name?
What is your mother's name?
- Our father is Per Tyrsson in Vänge;
Our mother is Lady Karin in Skränge
Per Tyrson goes to the smithy
He had iron crafted around his waist
- What shall we do for our sins?
- We shall build a church of lime and stone.
- The church will be named Kerna
In the latest interpretation of this legend, two teenage girls and their
SUV are hijacked by a trio of sadistic criminals who are dragging along the
sensitive son of the head baddie. The gang ends up killing one of the girls
and leaving another for dead after raping her and shooting her in the back.
Unfortunately for the fiends, one of the victims had earlier tricked them into
heading toward her parents' summer home deep in the woods, where the parents
soon size up the situation and exact all kinds of vicious revenge on their
daughter's tormenters, with some assistance from the sensitive tag-along.
In a slight departure from the legend, no churches are built to commemorate the events.
Movie Juice got
a few chuckles out of the film:
"Welcome to that alternative universe where cute
and perky girls go to a weirdo's dumpy motel room because he says his drugs
are just that good. Listen, when a motel's sign spells "HBO" phonetically,
get your drugs somewhere else. Yes, that alternate universe where creepy,
dangerous strangers knock on your door in the middle of the night - and you
put them up in your guesthouse!
Last House on the Left is hardly for all tastes,
although it pales in comparison to the sadistic indignities of the
original. Still, it's uncomfortable to watch - and if I want to watch
something uncomfortable I usually watch CNBC. That said, if you want to see
bad guys get their comeuppance (which only happens in the movies nowadays)
then look no further than the Last House on the Left."
As you can infer from reading the Movie Juice comments, this is not a bad
film for those who enjoy the whole "I Spit on Your Grave" genre of sadistic,
cheapjack revenge flicks. Although Last House was obviously made with a
minimal budget and features no actor more recognizable than Tony Goldwyn, the
film has quite a few strengths:
- The director managed to maintain suspense throughout the film, not just
occasionally, but in scene after scene.
- The acting is solid from top to bottom.
- The film never backed away from nasty violence nor cheated on its
graphic representation on screen. It's a brutal and sadistic film, truly in
the "I Spit ..." tradition. (By placing this characteristic in the
"positive" list, I'm assuming you consider it an asset rather than a
liability.) It includes not only lurid brutality, but explicit medical
procedures as well.
- The catharsis works. Audiences appreciated the acts of revenge by
cheering loudly for the family.
On the minus side of the ledger, the film is rather slow and deliberate in
all the build-up scenes, so it seems to advance slowly when there's no
violence. Of course, that was part of the director's technique to heighten the
dramatic tension, but the net effect is that you should probably avoid the
film if you don't care for the brutality, because it will seem to you like a
series of tedious interludes you don't want to see leading to some ugly
episodes which you also don't want to see.
The film had some small bit of box office pizzazz. It opened with a solid
$14 million weekend in 2400 theaters, and finished with $33 million. I reckon
it must have made a profit because it was obviously not an expensive film to
Rotten Tomatoes 42%
Rotten Tomatoes top critics 42%
IMDb 6.9 (That's surprisingly high, but as I wrote above, it is quite
effective at doing what it intends to do.)
As one of the gang members,
showed her breasts in two different scenes, the latter of which is nasty.
As one of the victims,
Sara Paxton is
raped, but the nudity is more suggestion than reality. You will see her
butt from the side, but not much more. Fair warning again: very ugly scene,
almost no nudity.