- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

It’s one of the lower things that a critic can do, to spoil the ending of a movie he doesn’t like in order to dissuade his readers from seeing it. But what happens when the movie spoils itself in the trailer? Is the reviewer off the hook?

That’s the dilemma posed by “The Last House on the Left,” a remake of Wes Craven’s 1972 classic of the same name. The trailer lays out, in intricate detail, not only exactly what happens throughout the body of the movie but also its ending.

In the trailer’s final shot, the leader of a psychopathic group of murderers (Krug, played by Garret Dillahunt) is shown to be paralyzed and placed on a table, his head stuck in a microwave oven, the door of which has been removed. We know that he’s paralyzed because the father of the girl Krug has raped (John, played by Tony Goldwyn) tells us this. Bereft of duct tape or rope, he has used his skills as a surgeon to paralyze the killer/rapist.

All of this leads me to believe that “The Last House on the Left” is intended to appeal to exactly one type of person: someone who wants to see what happens to a human being’s head when it gets baked by a microwave.

Don’t worry: I won’t spoil it for you. You can experience that bit of gruesomeness for yourself.

Leading up to that money shot is a pretty simple story. A pair of girls are kidnapped and tortured by a group of sadistic killers; in a preposterous coincidence, the killers end up spending the night at one of the girls’ summer lake house, where her parents are eagerly awaiting her return. When said girl manages to crawl back to the house and her parents see what the house guests have done to their child, revenge killings ensue.

What’s most disappointing about the 2009 version of this movie is that it strips all the moral ambiguity from the 1972 original of the same name, leaving, instead, a pure revenge-fantasy in which the audience is encouraged to cheer meeting sadism with ever-greater sadism in search of vengeance.

As the original draws to a close, there’s a sense of foreboding centered around the family: A police officer surveys the carnage with a sad, disturbed eye. That character has been stripped from the remake, leaving an ending that may not qualify as triumphant, but certainly eschews any questioning of the morality of the parents’ actions.

Judging from the whoops of joy from the preview screening’s audience every time one of the killers was slaughtered by the good doctor or his wife, that’s just the way the target audience likes it.

TITLE: “The Last House on the Left”

RATING: R (sadistic brutal violence including a rape and disturbing images, language, nudity and some drug use)

CREDITS: Produced by Wes Craven, Sean S. Cunningham and Marianne Maddalena

RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

WEB SITE: www.thelasthouseontheleft.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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