The Last House on the Left or The Hills Have Eyes?” width=”560″/>
Now: The Last House on the Left (2009)Then: The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
Another week, another horror remake. (See House of Wax, My Bloody Valentine, Friday the 13th, and so forth.) This time around, director Dennis Iliadis (Hardcore) gives Wes Craven’s brutal 1972 movie, The Last House on the Left, an update. Iliadis isn’t the first to remake a Craven classic: Just a few years back, Alexandre Aja did the same for the 1977 work The Hills Have Eyes, only to have most critics react with a major case of the shouldn’t-have-bothereds. Will Last House go down any smoother?
Our All-American Family in Peril
Last House on the Left: Manly doctor John Collingwood (Tony Goldwyn) and wife Emma (Monica Potter) retreat to their weekend home in the woods with their comely daughter Mari (Sara Paxton). All seems well until a violent storm descends, downing phone and electrical lines and cutting them off from the outside world.
The Hills Have Eyes: Salt-of-the-earth folks Bob and Ethel Carter (Ted Levine and Kathleen Quinlan) pack up the kids — bored college girl Brenda (Emilie De Ravin), her younger brother Bobby (Dan Byrd), eldest sister Lynne (Vinessa Shaw), her nerdy husband Doug (Aaron Stanford) and their baby — for a dusty road trip adventure.
The Winner: Last House on the Left. Somewhat believable dialogue and a sad back-story involving the death of a beloved son add an element of drama to the seen-it-before sitting-duck plot.
The Fatal Error That Starts It All
Last House the Left: Good girl Mari agrees to accompany a young stranger she meets on the road back to his hotel to smoke some weed, at the urging of her best friend Paige — a girl so annoying it’s only a matter of time before someone decides to shut her up.
The Hills Have Eyes: Gun-toting dad Bob (apparently unfamiliar with the horror movie genre) decides to take the road less traveled through the New Mexican desert on the advice of a drunk gas station attendant working in cahoots with a band of mutant cannibals.
The Winner: Last House on the Left. The set-up, and the harrowing way it plays out, feels totally plausible (particularly if you’re familiar with the decision-making process of the average American teen).
What’s Grosser Than Gross?
Last House the Left: Up-close shots of wounds being stitched, stomachs being tortured slowly with switchblades, and all manner of kitchen appliances being turned into implements of terror — kicked off by what has to be one of the most drawn-out, graphic, stomach-turning rape sequences ever to reach mainstream theaters.
The Hills Have Eyes: Head-splattering gun shots, gutted family pets, mutants suckling at the breasts of unwilling victims, and, yes, one particularly vile rape scene that will give susceptible viewers nightmares for weeks to come.
The Winner: The Hills Have Eyes. Torture-porn addicts should add this to their permanent collection.
The Remake Factor
Last House the Left: It’s never a bad idea to take a second pass at a movie that was somewhat flawed to begin with. Minus the hokey music, bad jokes, and embarrassing acting of the original, this remake takes the themes hinted at initially and multiplies them several-fold.
The Hills Have Eyes: A cool ’70s timepiece gets the expected modern-day treatment: Spooky lurkers-in-the-dark become nastily disfigured mutants; scenes that hinted at horror become graphic displays of violence.
The Winner: The Hills Have Eyes. Last House on the Left may work better as a stand-alone flick, but this mutant-madmen tale is more faithful to the original.
Last House on the Left: An entertainer that delivers sudden frights and over-the-top gore, and wraps it all up in a family-vengeance story that gives viewers an excuse to cheer on the violence.
The Hills Have Eyes: A sleazy, deranged tale that will appeal to fans seeking to satisfy their bloodlust, but has little to commend itself to the average movie fan.
The Winner: Last House on the Left. It’s refreshing (and fun!) to see a horror movie that satisfies new-school audience’s thirst for violence but doesn’t totally abandon good, old-fashioned suspense. An unexpected dash of camp just before the closing credits seals the deal.