• Last House On The Left, The (2009)

    Released by: Universal Studios
    Released on: 10/18/2009
    Director: Dennis Iliadis
    Cast: Garret Dillahunt, Riki Lindhome, Sara Paxton, Monica Potter, Tony Goldwyn, Martha Macisaac, Spencer Treat Clark, Aaron Paul
    Year: 2009
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    The Movie:

    Remaking a film is always tricky, particularly when it’s as iconic a picture as Wes Craven’s The Last House On The Left. If you change too much you alienate the fan base but if you stick too close to the original you wind up with little more than a carbon copy of something that’s already found an audience. It’s rare that a remake seems to succeed, but Dennis Iliadis’s take on Craven’s classic, produced by Craven and Sean Cunningham, isn’t a bad effort. It doesn’t trump the source material, but it’s an entertaining and often times quite tense picture in its own right.

    The film follows John and Emma Collingwood (Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter) who, along with their seventeen year old daughter, Mari (Sara Paxton), head up to their vacation home somewhere in rural Oregon (well, they don’t tell you what state it’s in but the license plates and the Bridgeport IPA give it away) for some rest and relaxation. As soon as they arrive, Mari wants to hook up with her friend, Paige (Martha Macisaac) and, once her parents let her take the car, that’s exactly what she does. They meet up at the store where Paige works and the two take notice of a ‘cute boy’ who has come in to buy cigarettes. This boy, Justin (Spencer Treat Clark), takes the girls back to his hotel room where they smoke some pot but the party ends quickly when Justin’s cop-killing escaped convict father, Krug (Garret Dillahunt) and his girlfriend Sadie (Riki Lindhome), and his uncle Francis (Aaron Paul) show up earlier than he expected. Needing a ride out of the area to avoid the police, Krug and his cronies decide to take Mari’s truck and keep the girls as hostages. When the pair tries to escape, the truck gets wrecked, Paige is killed and Mari is raped and then shot, left floating in the lake…

    With no vehicle and a nasty storm coming in, Krug, Sadie, Francis and Justin take shelter at the Collingwood’s summer home, unaware that the kindly couple letting them in for the night are Mari’s parents and that it’s all going to hit the fan before morning.

    Despite omitting two of the original film’s most infamous set pieces (and if you’ve seen the original you’ll know what I’m talking about and if you haven’t, well, we don’t want to spoil it for you!), Iliadis has delivered a remake that’s worthy of checking out. It’s a considerably glossier picture than the one that came before it and it doesn’t quite have the sleaze factor inherent in the low budget seventies classic but considering that this is a major studio production it is a surprisingly strong film. The rape scene is particularly grueling and leaves little to the imagination and while the violence might not be as gory or bloody as it could have been, it still packs a pretty hefty punch and delivers considerable impact.

    Like Iliadis’ early film, Hardcore, it’s a beautifully shot film. There’s no shortage of striking cinematography on display and the framing and use of contrast in the film is nothing short of excellent. On a whole, the picture is very well put together and very well made. The one thing that stands out though, that you really can’t help but hold against it, is the casting. Garret Dillahunt, probably best known for his work on Deadwood, is good as Krug but he just doesn’t have the natural scuzziness that David Hess brings to the role. That’s not to say he doesn’t make for an often times very imposing villain, but it’s impossible not to compare him to Hess’ Krug and see that he instantly comes up short despite some good effort. The same complain can be levied against Lindhome as Sadie and Paul as Francis/Weasel and Treat Clark as Justin who is considerably more sympathetic here than he is in the original picture, a change which doesn’t really do anything except make the finale more predictable. Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter are good as the parents but don’t quite have the same righteous anger that made their actions in the first film almost justifiable if not completely understandable.

    Once you stop comparing the cast and get over that not insurmountable hurdle, and you can take this one as a standalone picture, it’s not a bad movie. It delivers a couple of strong performances (you really do feel for Mari and Paige) and a few memorable set pieces. It’s entertaining, it’s creepy, it’s sleazy and it’s well made, even if it is completely unnecessary…

    This Blu-ray release contains both the theatrical cut and the unrated cut, which is four minutes longer and noticeably stronger in certain scenes.


    The Last House On The Left looks quite good in this 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen 1080p AVC encoded transfer. There are a couple of shots that are grainier than others (a couple of which are surprisingly so) but aside from that there’s not much to complain about. The film makes use of a fairly subdued color palette so it don’t expect it to pop off the screen at you but skin tones look good and black levels stay strong. Shadow detail is good in the darker scenes, which is important during the last half of the film, while background detail is also quite strong. There aren’t any problems with mpeg compression or obvious edge enhancement to note, and generally the image is consistent and stable.

    The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track on this Blu-ray disc also sounds quite good. There’s some nice rear channel usage evident during the car crash sequences and the big finish in the house while ambient noise and background effects are used throughout to build atmosphere. John Murphy’s score sounds nice and bass response is strong and tight. Dialogue is well balanced and easy to understand and while this may not be home theater demo material, it’s an all around very strong effort on Universal’s part – the movie sounds great. Subtitles are provided in English, French and Spanish.

    Here’s where this release really disappoints, as the extras are pretty slim. Universal has included ten minutes worth of deleted scenes (presented in non-anamorphic standard definition widescreen) and a three minute promotional piece entitled A Look Inside that’s really little more than a trailer with a couple of sound bites from Wes Craven and Dennis Iliadis thrown in… and that’s it. Of course, there are menus and chapter selections as well as Universal’s My Scenes bookmarking option included and the disc is D-Box motion code enabled and Blu-ray live enabled as well, but there really isn’t much here of any substance when there could and should have at least been some interviews or a commentary track provided. A second disc in the keepcase contains a digital copy of the film.

    The Final Word:

    Despite a couple of questionable changes to the original’s storyline, Iliadis’ remake of The Last House On The Left, when judged solely on its own merits, is a pretty decent take on the material. It’s incredibly well shot, and quite tense. Universal’s Blu-ray release stinks for extras but it at least presents both versions of the movie in very nice quality and as such is worth checking out.