If there’s anything to take from The Last House on the Left, it’s that you should never lend your teenage daughter the car. If you do, bad things will happen. Either she will start smoking marijuana, or maybe get raped and shot in the back. One or the other. Or both, like what happens in this film. Despite earlier scenes taking place in broad daylight and featuring happy people, this is not a joyous film.
After a seemingly random death scene, in which a man named Krug (Garret Dillahunt) is broken out of police custody, we fast-forward to the daytime, when Emma (Monica Potter) and John (Tony Goldwyn), along with their daughter, Mari (Sara Paxton), are driving to their cabin in the middle of the woods. After arriving, Mari asks to borrow the car so that she can go hang out with her friend, Paige (Martha Macisaac). Things go well until they meet a man named Justin (Spencer Treat Clark), who offers them some weed. Being on vacation, the two head back to a motel and proceed to get high.
Because no immoral act can go without punishment, Mari and Paige are about to get what’s coming to them. It turns out, Krug and his crew are associated with Justin, and by leading the girls to the motel, Justin has seemingly sealed their fates. It doesn’t seem to be intentional on his part, and the film tries to portray him as a stupid teenager who doesn’t want to hurt anyone. Soon enough, both women have been left for dead in the woods right near Mari’s family’s cabin.
Here’s where things get interesting. A storm starts up, and because it wouldn’t be safe to drive while cats and dogs are raining down from the heavens, Krug and his crew knock on the first door they see. They’re also kind of hurt, as the girls put up a bit of a fight. The couple who answers the door happens to be none other than Mari’s parents. They think she’s sleeping over at Paige’s, and therefore aren’t worrying about why she isn’t home. Krug and the cronies don’t know that they’re Mari’s parents.
I leave the plot here so that you can spend some time to think about what might or might not happen. Questions you should be asking: “Who will find out about the other party first?” “When that inevitably happens, what will be done?” “Will I get my revenge part of this rape/revenge horror film?” “Will all of this build-up lead to anything, or will it all just pass without any real action?”
I would kind of like to see a film with the guts to do the last one. Imagine, if you will, that these unruly characters show up at the parents’ door. The male parent is a doctor, and fixes up the damages that his daughter had done earlier — before she was shot in the back. Then, the rapists are offered a clean bed and food, and they stay the night. No incidents occur, and everyone is polite to one another, despite there always being some uneasiness between the characters. In the morning, breakfast is made, thank yous are said, and the parents can go about their day, waiting for their daughter to return. Then, the film ends, and there was no “revenge” portion.
Of course, that’s not what happens, but I’d be curious to see an audience’s response to it. It would definitely avoid being conventional, but I don’t think a studio would ever go for it. Anyway, eventually killings start again, and at this point you’re still only wondering who is being killed, and who is stabbing hammer claws into other people’s heads. I’m not going to tell you that, but I will mention that this is an incredibly (and shockingly) violent film, both in the aforementioned rape and in the multiple deaths afterward.
The question I always ask when thinking about a horror film is this: “Is this movie scary/thrilling?” In the case of The Last House on the Left, my answer has to be “no.” While it has some intense moments, they’re few and far between. There are no true scary moments, nor did there really seem to be many attempts. The biggest attempt I saw took place in broad daylight and was a predictable jump scare. You’re going to have to try harder than that, film.
The Last House on the Left also doesn’t know when to end, including at least one final scene that came across as unnecessary. There are a few moments like that throughout. Certain scenes are drawn-out much longer than they should be, which makes the pacing suffer. While there aren’t many boring parts here, we see the same thing over and over and it gets redundant. I wanted to see all of the character end things instead of prolonging my suffering.
The Last House on the Left is a remake of the 1972 film of the same name, which was already a remake of a Swedish film. Was this one really necessary? Not really. Is it well made? Sure. Enough intensity is captured throughout to keep things from getting boring, even if a lot of time is spent watching redundancies. The actors are strong — Garret Dillahunt is particularly menacing — but I still didn’t care about characters thanks to poor writing. Most importantly, I wasn’t scared. There isn’t a single moment in this film where I felt fear, nor was there a point when I thought that I should. Maybe this type of film just can’t elicit that sort of response. Regardless of whether or not that’s the case, I can’t say this is a film worth your time.