Director: Dennis Iliadis
Cast: Tony Goldwyn, Monica Potter, Garret Dillahunt, Sara Paxton, Riki Lindhome, Aaron Paul, Spencer Treat Clark, Martha MacIsaac
This film is a remake of another film of the same name by Wes Craven, the horror maestro behind the Scream movies and Red Eye. But this is less on scares and more on violence.
The story: John & Emma Collingwood (Tony Goldwyn & Monica Potter) and their daughter Mari (Sara Paxton) head to their lake house for a vacation. While there, Mari decides to go to town to meet an old friend, Paige (Martha MacIsaac). The two girls meet a young boy, Justin (Spencer Treat Clark), who leads them back to his hotel room so that they can smoke pot. Trouble ensues when Justin's father Krug (Garret Dillahunt) returns to the room and finds them there. Krug happens to be a criminal who just escaped police custody, thanks to his two partners, Francis (Aaron Paul) and Sadie (Riki Lindhome).
Krug, Sadie and Francis take the two girls hostage. Eventually Paige and Mari attempt to escape, but Mari gets shot as she tries to run, and ends up in the lake. When a vicious storm rolls in, Krug and company take refuge with the Collingwoods, not knowing that the couple are Mari's parents. When Mari shows up at their doorstep barely alive, her parents learn about what happened, and plan revenge against their new guests.
This is only Dennis Illiadi's second attempt at directing, and unfortunately he still has a lot to learn. If there's one thing that bugged me about The Last House On The Left, it's how the story kept dragging on and on. It's supposed to be a thriller, but there's almost no suspense felt here. Everyone moves at a slow pace, like they're bored or they just need to drag themselves to make up more screen time for the film. And when they make it look like they're bored, they bore us too, of course.
Acting wise, almost everyone underacts. And it sure is a sad fact. Goldwyn and Potter aren't bad actors, but this film sure justifies the reason they're not A-listers in Hollywood. They look rigid for the most part, at least until the last third of the film, when they have to shift to a higher gear. Dillahunt is sadly not effective here as the villain, even though he was quite impressive on TV series like Deadwood and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. His character is abusive, but not smart or intimidating as he should be. Paul and Lindhome just spend a lot of time cussing, because that's what most villainous lackeys do, right? Yawn. But the worst piece of acting came from Paxton, who as Mari, was sterile for the entire film. She ought to be terrified in the face of danger, in front of her very violent captors, but looks like she'd rather be doing something else. She's cute, but can't act to save her life. Which leaves Clark, who has grown considerably since being in Gladiator. As Justin, Clark demonstrates how he really fears his father, and how he totally resents everything his father does, and what his father forces him to do. And Clark does this by using his eyes. You can see the fear he experiences in them, which speaks louder than anything he says on screen.
All that's left to admire in this film is the violence. You'll see lots of blood, lots of gore and a novel yet dangerous way of using a microwave on your enemy. But even violence needs direction, and with the awful treatment Iliadi has given this film, it just doesn't work. In the end, all that gore feels pointless. I don't even feel the justice that was supposedly served to the bad guys, because there wasn't enough drama to back the film up.
I have heard a lot of negative comments on the Transformers sequel, about how it has many large plotholes and how nonsensical it turned out. Trust me on this, that film was a lot more fun than sitting through The Last House On The Left. You've been warned. (2.5/5)