Text Box: DVDsleuth.com

Text Box:   


DVDSleuth.com is your source for daily DVD news and reviews.


The Last House on the Left (2009)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc released: 8/18/209

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Video: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/17/2009

If it's Monday, it must be remake time. Typically when we talk about remakes the question of "why?" arises, and normally "money" is the only answer which makes any sense. But, today we have a classic film where I can actually understand the motivations for a remake.

When Writer/Director Wes Craven and Producer Sean Cunningham unleashed The Last House on the Left in 1972, it was like a body-blow to the movie-going public. This incredibly brutal, yet cheap and dirty looking film, didn't pull any punches when it came to portraying disturbing violence. The overall seediness of the movie gave it a quasi-documentary feel which only adds to the effect. However, the dark veneer of the movie is nearly ruined by the cheesy bluegrass music and an odd insistence at featuring two bumbling cops and their slapstick shenanigans. While The Last House on the Left will always be considered a landmark film in the sub-genre of ultra-violent movies, the bizarre comedy does hamper the film. Thus, it's understandable that, nearly forty years later, Craven and Cunningham would want a do-over.

The Last House on the Left introduces us to two very different families. Dr. John Collingwood (Tony Goldwyn) and his wife, Emma (Monica Potter) (who works in education in some capacity), and their daughter, Mari (Sara Paxton), leave the city to spend some time at their lakeside vacation home. Meanwhile, Krug (Garret Dillahunt) escapes from police custody with the aid of his brother, Francis (Aaron Paul), and his girlfriend, Sadie (Riki Lindhome), and he's reunited with his shy son, Justin (Spencer Treat Clark).

Mari asks to borrow the car to visit her friend Paige (Martha MacIsaac), and her parents reluctantly agree. Mari and Paige meet Justin, who takes the girls back to his motel room for some drugs. However, the party ends when Krug arrives. The convict decides that the girls are a liability and must be dealt with. They take Mari's car to the woods, where the two girls are brutally assaulted. However, the car is damaged, so Krug and his group go to the nearest house looking for a ride. As fate would have it, this brings them to John and Emma. When the parents learn what happened to Mari, they seek their vengeance.

When we discuss remakes, we often look at how they are similar or different when compared to the original. Some are very close to the original, such as
Quarantine, while others, such as Prom Night, take the original film's idea and go off in a new direction. The Last House on the Left falls into the former category. Except for some mild discrepancies, the stories are very similar. In the original, Mari and Phyllis (not Paige) were going to a concert when they meet Junior (not Justin). In the original, Junior is a junkie and Krug uses drugs to keep him in line. In the new film, the escapees are put in the guest house and there's another mode of transportation which could be used for a getaway. Otherwise, the tale of rape, murder and revenge are quite close.

So, in order to dissect this new film, we must closely examine two important areas where the films align and converge. Just like the original this remake is quite violent and doesn't shy away from portraying brutality. The unrated version, which runs about 4 minutes longer than the theatrical cut, contains plenty of hits, stabbings, and more. The rape scenes are quite upsetting as well, although oddly, there is little nudity. At least two of the death scenes just go on and on. But, while this movie is certainly violent and will disgust most viewers, the most notorious death scene from the original film is not replicated here, so there is some restraint shown. Also, the clarity of the daytime attack scenes, especially when viewed on Blu-ray Disc, actually look good and don't have the same raw intensity of those in the original movie.

But, there is one huge difference between the two movies which essentially robs the remake of its power and purpose. I won't give that difference away, but it changes the entire moral fabric of the movie. It's difficult to discuss this change without spoiling it, but I have to question why this decision was made. I can't say that it ruins the movie, but it certainly changes the tone and makes the entire film seem unnecessary, for lack of a better word.

The Last House on the Left certainly has its pros and cons. There's no doubt that the intense violence is effective and the fact that the entire movie is played straight, without any comic relief, certainly separates it from the original. Yet, that one change from the original robs the movie of its power and changes the entire tone. And what's with that koda? Why would they want to end the film on such a stupid note? And was the popcorn setting used?

The Last House on the Left sports a non-sensical road sign on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The daytime scenes are very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The crispness of these scenes is unbeatable and it feels as if one could simply walk into the frame. However, these scenes look too good and rob the film of the rawness which it needs. The colors here are very good. In contrast, the night-time scenes are somewhat dark. Some of then show intense grain and artifacting. Was this an attempt to mirror the vile nature of what was happening in the story? The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track delivers clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are quite good, showing nice separation and detail. During the thunderstorm, the surround sound and subwoofer effects really kick in, showing the power of this muscular track.

The Last House on the Left Blu-ray Disc contains only a few extras. We get 6 DELETED SCENES which run about 9 minutes. All of these are simply longer versions of scenes from the finished film and don't provide any notable new information. "A Look Inside" (3 minutes) plays like an extended version of the trailer with comments from Craven and Director Iliadis.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long