Tuesday, August 18, 2009
DVD review: "The Last House on the Left"
For fans of the horror genre, these are dog days.
Between wimpy PG-13 watered-down scareflicks that elicit more derisive laughs than fear, and grisly "torture porn" movies that substitute carving of flesh for ratcheting up tension, those of us who enjoy films that truly frighten have not had much reason to anticipate the latest offerings.
Perhaps it's no surprise that horror merchants have turned to remaking classics of the genre for an unsuspecting new generation of fans. The "Halloween," "Friday the 13th" and "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" franchises have all enjoyed lucrative recycling.
"The Last House on the Left" is the latest and, surprisingly, best example of this trend. This remake of the 1972 debut of director Wes Craven ("Nightmare on Elm Street") actually manages some genuine thrills.
It's certainly violent -- and the unrated DVD version pumps up the blood-letting over what audiences saw in theaters -- but director Dennis Eliadis has a nice eye for composition as well as a flair for generating a sense of paranoia.
Both the original and remake employ the set-up of Mari, a teen girl vacationing at a remote house with her parents. While out to score some pot, she and a girlfriend are captured by a gang of murderers, who torture and rape the girls. As it happens, the killers show up on the doorstep of Mari's parents, who eventually discover that the unexpected guests are their daughter's tormentors, and seek revenge.
Garret Dillahunt gives a satisfyingly creepy performance as Krug, the head of the gang, who is trying to initiate his young son into his twisted sense of manhood.
As for extras, it's very meager fare. There are a handful of "deleted" scenes, most of which are just slightly re-edited versions of existing footage. And there's a very brief making-of featurette that is little more than marketing hype, where the filmmakers tell each other how great they are.
Movie: 2.5 stars
Extras: 1.5 stars