The remake of the 1972 Wes Craven horror classic, The Last House on the Left, is not as realistically sadistic as the original but does follow (for the most part) its predecessors’ storyline. The basics are there but new beneficial elements and occurrences have also been introduced.
Mari Collingwood (Sara Paxton) being reinvented as a swimmer could just have been thrown into the film to give her character pseudo-depth but it is actually used rather effectively in the film. At first she uses her extra-circular activity for her own pleasure and gratification. It is also a momentary excursion for her from the sorrow she feels over the death of her brother. Later in The Last House on the Left (2009), it is used as a primary plot point and is one of the best filmed sequences in the film. The viewer may actually be surprised at how well the beginning of the scene is shot. The viewer may also be pleased that Mary’s father, John Collingwood (Tony Goldwyn), is not a doctor in name only, something off-screen never utilized after a brief introduction.
The comedic aspects of Krug’s gang have been removed, relegated to their past incarnation, supplanted by bitterness towards the upper-class and affluent whom some of them believe have everything they have ever wanted and possibly hold dominion over something very important to them: their dreams. As Yeats said: “I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread upon my dreams.” This microcosm gives the high school educated members of the Krug gang a unified social background and a motivation for some of their ignominious and vile actions, besides their own delight and satisfaction.
Krug (Garret Dillahunt)’s taciturn son, Justin (Spencer Treat Clark), no longer a back-birth with a drug addiction, is the would-be conscience of the gang, the only member with a viable one still intact. How this is possible is never explained, since, while Krug was incarcerated, he was in the care of two degenerates, Krug’s brother Francis (Aaron Paul) and his would-be girlfriend Sadie (Riki Lindhorne).
Krug 2.0 is more realistic this time around, one of the common types of criminals modern societies breed. He is used to getting his way (a wink to the 80’s: “Greed is Good”), a creature you could easily find prowling the through-fare of HBO’s OZ. Though ruled by twisted sensibilities, he is never over the top, thus more believable and intimidating. He could be standing next to you in line at CVS and you would never know what was so close to you. That is the strength of his character in the film. He tries to instill values in his son but the mantras are criminal in nature. Krug is smart enough to operate by himself and be a leader yet there is not quite enough charisma there for him to headline his own standalone film.
After Sarah and her friend Paige (Martha MacIsaac) are heinously brutalized and the Krug gang finds themselves at her parents’ summer home, it is only a matter of time before they find out what the Krug gang did to their only remaining child. Once they do, a fire ignites in their bellies and only “revenge, sweet, lasting revenge” will satisfy it. Though the first death scene for the gang is brutal, the rest do not hold a candle to the creativity and savagery of the 1972 originals. The horror in that film was all too real, making it special, stand out amongst the herd, and ameliorate its age (except for its severely dated music and bumbling police element). The Last House on the Left (2009) is stronger in many respects from the first version (already enumerated) but weaker in others (e.g. no surprising events transpire). Keeping the fact secret that Mari survives her initial run in with the Krug gang might have been one of them.
Dennis Iladis’ The Last House on the Left (2009) is a remake that could have been as enriching to the horror genre as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes remakes were. Unfortunately, a happy ending was tacked on as well as an out-of-place and ridiculous death scene involving a microwave. The former was pure Hollywood and the latter left the taste of a cartoon in your mouth.