Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Last House on the Left

Unhappy Family

Karmic retribution, or what goes around comes around. The odds for the logic of this film to work is like a million to one, where those who trespass against you, well, you will decide to trespass against them and return them the disfavour when they literally walk into the lion's den. Yours. With home territory advantage, it doesn't need rocket science to predict what would happen next.

This remake of the Wes Craven's 70s movie of the same name, had its entire premise unfortunately spoilt by the trailer designer, who had spelled out every major incident, twist and turn, including the climax of course. So if you're still in the dark about what the story's actually about, then skip the trailer altogether, though it'll still work if you're in the mood for a revenge flick that doesn't flinch from executing its payload. Well, actually most films of today are truly graphically realistic in nature, and not having seen the original will disallow me to compare which of the two had more a more satisfying gore factor, in case you're wondering.

In some ways the film resembled Taken in its base premise, as if issuing out a veiled warning to its teen demographic audience that Parents know best, and any deviation in hard-to-obtain-approval teenage plans, like taking the car for a spin, going out on your own with dubious friends, come complete with red flashing light warnings if you fail to stick to them, and exploit the situation through winging it on the blind side. The downside of course to such irresponsible behaviour, is the cautionary bad things that will happen to you mantra being repeated, and not every parent a trained covert black ops person, or a skilled doctor with superb anatomical knowledge to bail you out, and/or inflict maximum pain with minimal effort.

It's a tale of two halves which director Dennis Iliadis seemed to have helmed two separate films instead of one. The different generations of the Collingwood family get their respective focus in each half (with those not in focus conveniently parked aside), while that of Krug (Garret Dillahunt) and his merry gang go through a reversal of roles, in a sort of cause and effect manner where each action or inaction, resulted in an equivalent push back from the other side. Iliadis also did well in eliciting a response from the audience. One can hear a pin drop when a heinous crime against women is committed and shown on screen, and an opposite response of cheers ringing out when the perpetrator gets his just desserts when vigilante justice got served.

Amongst the horror-mystery-thriller remakes that are flooding the market these days, The Last House on the Left works because of Iliadis playing this straight and without frills, giving the film and its situation of trauma and desperation very much as close to what you would imagine should you get caught in a similar situation. The cast also helped, where the psychotic flip-flopped in bringing out their play-acting facade against their revolting acts of violence, where the meek really cowering, and the vengeful seething with rage. Perhaps the only wasteful character would be Riki Limehome's Sadie, girlfriend of Krug, who is only too eager to shed her clothes for no reason (except perhaps to flaunt her body for the screen), but of course I'm not complaining.

Sure there are some loopholes and genre conveniences like power outages and the perennial cell phones with no network coverage (I swear this in some 101 handbook somewhere for storywriters and filmmakers), and a final scene which looked more like wanting to end it all with a bang, but overlook those areas, and you may enjoy a thriller where vengeful parents are given the cinematic license to wage war without remorse in the protection of their children.

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