The Last House on the Left
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Some vacations are better than others.
Take the Collingwood family's latest foray to their summer spot by the lake. It's an idyllic setting: Their stately home, the guest cottage, the boathouse, all surrounded by towering trees. And, at first, endlessly sunny skies. The family knows the place well. And so they return year after year to the last house on the left to forge familial bonds and make memories.
The afternoon they arrive, Mari (John and Emma's pretty daughter) asks if she can go out with her friend Paige. Emma balks. Mom was hoping they could eat dinner together, talk ... you know, family stuff. But when John says it'll be OK, Emma relents.
"Promise, promise you'll call me," Emma tells her daughter. "That's all I ask."
Mari says she plans to. But things don't go according to plan.
Mari and Paige meet a brooding teen named Justin at the local convenience store. He offers the two girls some high-caliber marijuana in exchange for a pack of cigarettes he's too young to buy. With the deal struck, the girls head to his motel room—which he's sharing with his father, Krug. Don't worry, Justin tells the girls. He won't be back for a while.
Krug returns early.
And somehow Justin failed to mention that his father is a vicious murderer who recently escaped police custody with help from his brother (Francis) and lover (Sadie), both of whom are also in tow.
Mari and Paige are now in the hands of some very, very bad people. Twisted, psychotic people who can't allow them to live.
The girls are unspeakably brutalized. Paige dies. But Mari, despite being beaten, raped, shot and nearly drowned, crawls back to the supposed sanctuary of her family's vacation home ...
... only to find that her tormentors have taken shelter there from a torrential downpour. As John and Emma piece together what's happened to their daughter—and exactly whom they've invited to stay in their home—The Last House on the Left devolves into an ultra-violent family feud.
On one level, this is a story of family love and loyalty that illustrates the lengths a mother and father will go to save and protect their daughter. They tenderly talk to Mari, as if they were chasing away the bogeyman. And they do their best to nurse her even as their own lives are in peril.
The movie opens with Krug in the back of an police cruiser, sarcastically praying that God will give him a mayonnaise jar in which to urinate. One of the officers in front tells him that considering the awful reputation of the jail he's going to, he should pray for something else. Shortly thereafter, the police car gets broadsided by a truck manned by Francis, Sadie and Justin. Sadie wonders what one of the dying lawmen might be seeing as he breathes his last. When Krug and his cronies arrive at the Collingwood home, Emma tells them, "You're all safe here together. And that's what counts." Krug pretends piety: "Amen, Emma. Amen."
Sadie is frequently shown bare breasted. She's sexually interested in both men and women, and so she occasionally plays with Mari's clothes and traces Mari's breasts (outside her shirt) with her fingers. Likewise, Francis strokes Paige's shoulders and presses his face against hers. Emma feigns sexual interest in one of the interlopers in an effort to throw him off guard before attacking him. While attempting to escape, Paige has her top ripped off, exposing her bra.
All this pales in comparison, though, to the film's most horrific scene. After a car crash strands the baddies—who are still holding Mari and Paige—Krug asks son Justin if he's "ready to be a man." "Pick one," he says. "Or both." He forces Justin's hand up Mari's shirt, and Sadie strips off her shorts. Justin is unwilling to go through with it. Krug, however, isn't. ...
A detailed, graphic, brutally rendered rape scene ensues.
Afterwards, we're shown Mari's blood-stained underwear and legs. And Krug later brags about the deed in explicit terms to Mari's father.
The car crash mentioned above is precipitated by Mari shoving a heated cigarette lighter into Sadie's temple. The vehicle careens down a hillside, smashing several trees (these collisions break Francis' nose in a bloody spray) before stopping. The girls try to crawl away, but they're punched and kicked until they're writhing on the ground. When Paige tries to run, Sadie and Francis capture her again. Francis knocks her unconscious, and they bring her back to Krug, who stabs her twice in the stomach. Paige dies slowly, coughing up blood as Krug encourages Mari to tell her friend that "everything's going to be all right."
The violence ramps up even further once Krug's crew shows up at the Collingwood house. Someone is nearly drowned in dishwater and has his hand shoved into a grinding garbage disposal before a pickax gets buried in his head. Another person is shot twice—the second time through the head, sending a spray of blood across a bathroom. A third man's head explodes after it's microwaved in an oven that somehow keeps functioning even when the door is open. A fireplace poker skewers another, and a bloody confrontation involves John and a topless Sadie.
Characters are hit, kicked, thrown through banisters, bashed by bookcases, sprayed with fire extinguishers, knocked unconscious on bathroom sinks and nearly strangled. During Krug's escape from custody, he calmly fires a gun into the head of one officer and breaks the other's neck. Justin tries to kill his father. Krug punches and stabs his son.
Still other wince-inducing scenes involve John trying to mend various characters' wounds. He sets and stitches up Francis' broken nose. He cauterizes his daughter's gunshot wound with a heated steak knife. He also helps Mari try to breathe better by lancing the side of her chest, allowing blood collecting in her ribcage to escape.
While all of this may not be technically as gory as, say, a Saw film, the violence here feels far more realistic, and, arguably, more sadistic.
Crude or Profane Language
About 40 f-words, 10 s-words and one c-word. Both God's and Jesus' names are abused. Three times, God's name is paired with "d--n." Audiences also hear a smattering of other profanities ("h---," "p---," "a--").
Drug and Alcohol Content
Paige and Mari smoke marijuana with Justin. Emma and John share a bottle of wine over dinner, and Emma's brother leaves a bottle of champagne as a thank-you for letting him use the vacation home the previous weekend. When Emma offers Francis a glass of hot chocolate, he asks if she has anything stronger. We also see him holding a glass of hard liquor.
Francis later asks Emma for a beer, and she inquires whether he'd like a more "adult" beverage. He suggests whisky, and Emma counters with wine—right before smashing the bottle over his head.
Other Negative Elements
Krug and his cohorts steal money from a dying police officer.
It could've been worse.
So says Wes Craven, director of the original version of The Last House on the Left (and producer of this remake). Had they redone his 1972 version today, shot for shot, it would have been "triple, quadruple X," he tells aintitcool.com.
Instead, he says, they actually backed off the violence a bit here. One of the girls lives this time around, for instance. And some of the torture scenes aren't quite as humiliating. Gone is a scene in which the kidnapped girls are forced to perform sexual acts on each other and urinate in their clothes. Deleted is a horrific moment involving castration. Nor does this version feature any exposed intestines, as the original did.
Craven says they've dialed down the violence so far, in fact, that "I bet you could put the blood in the film into a teacup."
He's exaggerating, of course. There's plenty of blood in this dark remake. Plenty.
But the truth is, it's not the blood that gets to you: It's the film's sense of reality. The victims here don't just die. They linger, in agony, until they finally gasp their last. And it's that sense of reality—not its graphic gore—that originally ran The Last House on the Left afoul of the Motion Picture Association of America when the film's rating was still pending.
"We had the MPAA tell us ... that the problem with the rape isn't so much that it's rape but that it's so real, which just tells you something," Craven said. "That's one step short of saying it should be entertaining, or it shouldn't upset you. But the whole point of it is that it's deeply, deeply unsettling and upsetting."
So if Craven and director Dennis Iliadis set out to create an unsettling, upsetting film, they've succeeded. This is a bruising, jagged story of rape and retribution. It is very far removed from what most people would tag "entertainment."
But Craven and Iliadis still want you to see it. Trust me: You don't. This is the last house you'd ever want to walk into.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Monica Potter as Emma Collingwood; Tony Goldwyn as John Collingwood; Sara Paxton as Mari Collingwood; Garret Dillahunt as Krug; Spencer Treat Clark as Justin; Aaron Paul as Francis; Riki Lindhome as Sadie; Martha MacIsaac as Paige
Dennis Iliadis ( )