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Movie Review

The Last House on the Left

The Last House on the Left will undoubtedly be dismissed by most as another entry in the ever-expanding category of Unnecessary Horror Remakes (see: The Hitcher, Friday the 13th. Or, rather, don't). Which is unfortunate, because under the direction of Dennis Iliadis, this House is a huge improvement over the campy 1972 slasher flick that bears the same name. That film, which was a sort of remake of Ingmar Bergman's 1960 classic The Virgin Spring, marked the film debut of Wes Craven, the man who would go on to give us the Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream series. What sets the new version apart is a smart script by Adam Alleca and Carl Ellsworth, taut direction from Iliadis, and a superior cast that elevates the material.

The plot revolves around a trio of killers who kidnap and torture two teenage girls, leaving them for dead in the woods. The killers then find refuge in the only house around for miles -- which just happens to be inhabited by the parents of one of their victims. Bloody revenge ensues, complete with lots of gore, running, and gruesome home surgery.

Pains are taken to make the plot somewhat believable -- the only car available is crashed and a storm knocks out the phone lines. Thankfully, the characters behave fairly reasonably, not making the stupid mistakes we've seen insult an audience's intelligence time and time again in the genre.

The actors are appropriately likable -- or, if need be, hateable. As the parents who will do anything to protect their daughter, Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter are stalwart and determined. They manage to look appropriately terrified, but they also kick ass when required. As Krug, the leader of the bad guys, Garret Dillahunt is pitch-perfect. Often cast as slack-jawed yokels (such as the clueless deputy in No Country for Old Men or Jesse James' henchman in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), he is terrifying without verging on caricature. Aaron Paul, so good at playing dumb on the AMC series Breaking Bad, expands that character as Krug's brother and right-hand man. Riki Lindhome lays the white trash on a little thick as Krug's girlfriend but is effectively frightening. The best scenes involve this group of sociopaths trying to act "normal" in front of their hosts, complete with awkward smiles and affected voices. Spencer Treat Clark also contributes nice work as Krug's teenage son, and Sara Paxton makes a sympathetic victim.

In the end, Last House is gory fun that won't win any converts to the genre but should please fans who enjoy their splatter with a bit of brain.

Genre: Thriller
Written by: Adam Alleca and Carl Ellsworth
Directed by: Dennis Iliadis
Starring: Garret Dillahunt, Monica Potter, Tony Goldwyn, Sara Paxton, Aaron Paul

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