The Last House on the Left

2 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

What does a slightly less excruciating version of Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left mean to you? Will you take to the streets with exuberance? Does your interest in rape-revenge fantasies suddenly seem a tad more respectable? (Remind us to never sleep over.) When Craven, a former humanities professor, made his grisly 1972 debut, he didn’t feel the need to stress that his plot was lifted from Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring. Rather, his goal was to produce dread. He succeeded.

Now the story of young, ripe Mari (Paxton), left for dead by a violent gang that later wanders into the unknowing custody of her parents, is in the hands of Greece’s Dennis Iliadis. Despite that promising last name, the director seems to have but a rudimentary grasp of dramatic suspense, much less catharsis or irony. He does supply some awful stomach punching, and in actor Garret Dillahunt, the movie flaunts a truly scuzzy Mansonite leader.

But by dismembering Craven’s landmark extremities, Iliadis celebrates his source for all the wrong reasons. The Last House on the Left is not supposed to be a story about a younger, less-rape-inclined gang member coming to a sense of conscience. When Mari’s mother (Potter) discovers that the worst has happened to her daughter, her toothy vengeance should prey on the deepest male anxieties, nothing less. And, not to spoil things, but shouldn’t that daughter stay dead? Craven may have originally intended Mari to survive, but wiser sensibilities prevailed, thus providing his aggrieved parents with the blackest motive. Here, they just seem like frenetic yuppies looking for new things to put in their microwave.
--Joshua Rothkopf

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