Starring: Tony Goldwyn, Monica Potter, Sara Paxton, Garret Dillahunt, Martha MacIsaac, Riki Lindhome
Director: Dennis Iliadis
Screenwriter: Carl Ellsworth
Because “The Beautiful Life: TBL” had its premiere last week, I wanted to see what the lead actress, Sara Paxton – a name that I’ve seldom heard, but never seen on an actual credit , was capable of, so I watched “The Last House on the Left”, a remake of the Wes Craven 1972 movie with the same name. And as I usually avoid gory flicks (I admit I am very sensitive: I only saw the first “Saw” and the first “Hostel” through my fingers and only because I was curious, a curiosity for which I’ve paid dearly), I was surprised to see that what was presented as a low budget horror movie was actually a very brutal thriller.
The movie starts with a random escape from police custody. The perpetrators are taking their time and start torturing the policemen, which shows that they either don’t care about their odds of freedom or they are just sadistic psychopaths. Spoiler: it’s the latter. On their path to freedom they come across two teenagers who they kidnap, torture and kill and rape, respectively. It’s unjust, cruel and vicious and it is presented in all its glory. And you want to see all of them suffer. Their luck changes when they are forced to seek shelter from a storm at a vacation house by the lake. The owners of the house happen to be the parents of the girl they raped and left for death. When the parents realize who they were helping, a no mercy survival and revenge war with no prisoners ensue. It is a very educational one too: ten ways of killing/torturing someone using only our household appliances are presented (I will never look at a microwave oven the same way again).
Although almost a freshman in the movie industry, Dennis Iliadis does a pretty good job, even if the camera movement is sometimes clunky and (intentionally?) oscillating between sudden and lingering. If there was ever a movie that required no script, this was it: what they say is not important, but what they do and how they do it say everything. I do not remember one line (and the villain has a scene where he tells the father how he raped his daughter, a scene from which I only remember faces and expressions), but I recall visual scenes, woods, lakes, pictures on a fridge, rain and BLOOD. The choice to not have everything happen in one night is a smart one, as it leaves room for one of the most effective scenes in the movie: the one where the teenagers are stabbed/raped/shot in the woods, a scene that is made even more horrifying by the fact that it all happens in broad daylight, close to a construction site, and the knowledge that they were so close to salvation makes it unbearable. That is the scene that prepares the viewer for what follows, and it seems hard to believe that the murderers could ever be rightfully punished. Well, prepare to be surprised.
Sara Paxton, the reason for my venture in the bloody depths of new age thrillers, is very good at conveying innocence and vulnerability, and that is her character’s main task: to make us hate the fugitives with the fire of a thousand suns for what they did to her. The parents, Monica Potter and Tony Goldwyn, are also good, their fear and rage is visible and understandable. The four criminals are convincing and menacing, they are each the embodiment of at least one different mental disorder: paranoia, schizophrenia, perversion and depression. Together they are a dangerous, destructive and self-destructive mix. The question being asked by the creators of the original and for which the creators of the copy are not to be given credit for is: what is the line between victim and criminal, justice and revenge, cruel and necessary? What would you have done? I, for one, would’ve fainted.
The movie brings nothing new to the growing industry of borderline snuff flicks, and it may seem long and tedious at times, especially for the ones that are attracted by its advertised violence. It may also fall into the avoidable category of films that are too violent for the sensible people (like me) and are not violent enough for the genre fans (like Skellington). It has some serious plot holes that stretch plausibility that I won’t discuss here. Over all, a decent attempt of reviving a seventies nihilist classic.