Remaketober 2017 Week 3: The Last House on the Left

Wes Craven was such a towering figure in the horror genre, it's hard to remember that his ratio of good movies to not good movies was...tenuous at best. Oh he's definitely got some classics in there and a few just straight up good movies, he's also got a lot of stuff I don't think is very good (I hate the Scream franchise. There, I said it, I can't unsay it). But that makes the stuff that is worth defending very, very much worth defending.


Going to bat for The Last House on the Left is one of those things that makes me feel uncomfortable, because it's a very rough movie to actually watch. I end up defending it in the same spirit as I often end up defending Irreversible or Dogtooth, or maybe some of Cronenberg's more extreme work. It's definitely not for everyone and should come with a laundry list of warnings and caveats, but damned if it doesn't totally grab my attention the entire time I'm watching it.

Of course while Dogtooth or Videodrome are buoyed past their difficult to stomach content by some incredible filmmaking and solid themes, The Last House on the Left is much rawer, the filmmaking much less solid, but in a way that almost works in its favor. Its a punk rock approach to filmmaking, in the vein of Clerks or maybe Evil Dead, with enthusiasm and raw talent making up for a lack of polish.

Speaking of, one of the other things that gives the film a big boost is how relevant it feels to the moment it came out. I'm sure other critics have noticed the similarities in how the film is shot to footage coming out of Vietnam during during the same time, which gives the film a sense of reality that makes the horrifying goings on even more horrifying, especially given the similarities Krug and his gang have to the then-current Manson family.

None of this is to say the film is flawless, its still got some issues (mostly due to an on set learning curve that trips up...well basically everyone but the Coen Brothers). First movies are always a little rawer and shakily put together, but a good director can still take that and make a great movie. The Last House on the Left is a very hard to watch film, but its definitely one with an impact and and style that would be hard to replicate.


Which is why I suppose the remake didn't even bother to try. There were lots of directions the remake could have gone, from updating the imagery and themes to be more in line with the Iraq war footage of the time to putting it more in line with the then popular (albeit on its last legs) torture porn subgenre, and I half expected the latter going in. But I didn't expect the movie to just sort of...sit there.

To be clear, when remaking a movie whose primary selling points were its shocking content and how incredibly raw and of-the-moment the filmmaking was, you need to add a new selling point. The slick, high cost production value automatically discards the intensity and sense of reality given by the original's style and obviously the content can't be as shocking given that its just a recreation of the existing content (and, if we're being honest, far less extreme than other contemporary horror films like Saw, although given how much I hate Saw and its contemporaries, that's not a complaint).

Instead the movie just recreates the basic outline of the original film with only a vain attempt at a happy ending inserted to make you feel like there's a difference, which is missing the point a fair bit. Maybe if the film had ended Texas Chainsaw style, with the sense that even though some of the victims survived, they're permanently scarred by the experience, but the film can't even manage that much.

I've reviewed a lot of bad remakes for Remaketober, but aside from maybe the shot-for-shot remake of Psycho, this is probably the most pointless remake I've ever covered. Questions of whether it's good or bad don't even enter into it, it just has no reason to exist. If the original film is equivalent to Clerks then the remake is equivalent to Mallrats; the same basic bones of the story but somehow infinitely more soulless and empty inside.

Elessar is a 27 year old Alaskan-born, Connecticut-based, cinephile with an obsession with The Room and a god complex.