Whenever a movie is remade, especially one that is as classic as the 1972 Last House on the Left, a flagship of writer and director Wes Craven, there is a tendency for diehard fans to automatically hate it before the opening scenes have a chance to play. In this case, not liking the remake may be understandable for many fans because if you’re a fan of the original movie and you haven’t seen this film, the first thing you need to understand is that it’s been toned down to a certain degree.
In this reviewer’s eyes that doesn’t take away from the core story which remains essentially untouched. We have a family that is planning to take a vacation and their teenage daughter, along with her friend, decide to go smoke some weed with a guy about their age who happens to be passing through their town. Turns out, this particular guy is related to a loosely-knit gang of criminal psychopaths and the girls are in trouble. Without giving away the rest of the film’s events, you can suffice it to say that this movie is about survival. The survival of a family, in fact.
For the most part, this film sticks to the original, in all except minor ways. The characters are more or less the same, particularly the family fighting for their survival, but the villains are a less haywire than in the first version of the film. The brutality has definitely been taken down a notch, but that makes the climactic scenes of violence inflicted by the psychos that much more impactful. Would it be better the way the original did it? That’s a question of tastes, really. If you prefer a more gruesome movie with lots of screaming and blows delivered (in more than one way), then you will probably want to stick with Craven’s original masterpiece. If you can have the story without all of the more taboo elements and feel just fine, then this remake is definitely more to your liking.
While not a complex story, the tale told in either of the Last House on the Left still stands out as a truly frightening tale that’s realistic enough to be scary to the audience. This version changes the tone slightly, but the tale of roaming criminal savages holds up in today’s world just as well as, if not better than, it did back in the era of disco and blow. You can feel the tension in the story escalate and you really do feel sorry for the characters who’ve gotten caught up in such a nonsensical rampage of pointless pain and suffering. It’s as valid of a terrifying scenario now as it was then so we lose little of the film’s fear factor in this translation. That’s rare in today’s rapidly evolving world.
You don’t even need to tap nostalgia to enjoy this film. That alone makes the Last House on the Left one of the few films still standing, both as an original and a remake, in the neighborhood of cult horror legends.