- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 12, 2009

“The Last House on the Left” could be interpreted as the most vile, misogynistic “Just Say No” ad ever.

Then again, you’d have to assume that this remake of the 1972 Wes Craven classic has a point, other than pure shock value.

Craven’s debut was by no means great art (even though it was inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s Oscar-winning “The Virgin Spring”), but at least it had suspense, and in retrospect it’s easy to see how its low-budget brutality influenced decades of horror filmmakers to come.

Director Dennis Iliadis’ version retains the same basic story _ a couple of teenage girls on the hunt for pot get abducted and savagely attacked by psychopaths _ but there’s nothing particularly special about it artistically. It’s slick and quick and loud, filled with the typical amped-up thumps that accompany every body blow.

Working from a script by Adam Alleca and Carl Ellsworth (“Disturbia”), Iliadis puts his vaguely unique spin on the proceedings by prolonging the most grotesque, violent elements and making them more graphic. The result is never scary, but instead feels deplorably gratuitous _ especially a rape scene in the woods, which goes on forever and seems intended for titillation.

Sara Paxton (“Aquamarine”) and Martha MacIssac (“Superbad”) play Mari and Paige, the girls in peril. But long before they meet up with quiet teenager Justin (Spencer Treat Clark) and his promise of primo stuff, Iliadis’ camera has been leering at the leggy Mari.

And so once she ditches her parents (a miscast Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter) to hang out with Paige the party-girl townie, you know she’s in trouble. The two end up going back to Justin’s motel room to get high, only to cross paths with Justin’s escaped-convict dad, Krug (Garret Dillahunt), his uncle Frank (Aaron Paul) and the bisexual Sadie (Riki Lindhome) who sort of belongs to everyone and no one.

Assuming that the girls are a threat to their safety, the crazies drag them into the woods with plans to torture them and leave them for dead. But when a storm comes and they need shelter, they end up knocking on the door of the nearest lake house, which belongs to _ you guessed it _ Mari’s family.

Her otherwise civilized parents do get their bloody revenge on these freaks _ once they realize who they are, that is. It actually takes them way too long to figure out that something is a bit off about them. The physical showdown with the bad guys is wildly destructive, protracted and repetitive; rather than sucking you in, it’ll inspire you to look at your watch, wondering when it’ll end.

You do have to give mom and dad some credit for being clever in their retaliation, though. If nothing else, “Last House” might make you think twice before using the microwave or the garbage disposal.

“The Last House on the Left,” a Rogue Pictures release, is rated R for sadistic brutal violence including a rape and disturbing images, language, nudity and some drug use. Running time: 109 minutes. Zero stars out of four.


Motion Picture Association of America rating definitions:

G _ General audiences. All ages admitted.

PG _ Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

PG-13 _ Special parental guidance strongly suggested for children under 13. Some material may be inappropriate for young children.

R _ Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

NC-17 _ No one under 17 admitted.

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