Movie Review: Original vs. Remake Comparison: The Last House on the Left (1972 vs. 2009)
Mary is a sweet-tempered, girl-next-door that every boy in the neighborhood has the hots for, but she has a best friend from the wrong side of the tracks. They frolic in the woods together and drink alcohol kept cool in the river. Mary’s parents do not approve. Mary and her friend go to NYC for a concert, but when her friend tries to score some weed, their night goes horribly awry. Suddenly they find themselves at the mercy of two escape convicts, a son of one of the convicts who does their beck and call for his heroin hits, and a malicious, nympho woman.
Mary is vacationing in the lakes with her doctor father and lovely mother. She goes into town to hang out with her old friend, and the two of them go back to a hotel room to get high with a teenage boy. But that boy’s father, uncle, and the uncle’s girlfriend come back, and the dad is an escaped con. He decides he can’t let the girls go and kidnaps them, finishing them off in the woods. They wind up car-wrecked and must seek help at a nearby cabin that just so happens to be Mary’s parents’. When they figure out the mystery, all hell breaks loose.
This is a classically 70s film featuring everything from feathered hair to 70s music to background music oddly upbeat for the dark tone. The opening shot is essentially of Mary’s boobs. This was the era of really stretching the boundaries. Everything semi-pornographic and disgusting that they could get away with, they did get away with. There is one, rather controversial, scene in which Mary and her friend are forced to have sex with each other–and need I remind you her friend is female? There is a lot of rape, a lot of blood, and these killers really do kill just for fun. Not to make it sound like this is slasher porn, though. There’s nothing at all remotely sexy about the violence. It’s meant to be disturbing, and it is. There’s one scene in particular that will have all male viewers crossing their legs and quivering in their boots. All that said, this movie definitely reads as campy due to some unfortunate scenes featuring upbeat music and bumbling policemen that feel like they belong more in an episode of Andy Griffith than a horror movie. I’m really not sure what Craven was thinking sticking those scenes in there. There of course also is the enduring problem of the victims being truly, incredibly stupid. Horror is the most horrifying when it feels as if the victims did everything smart, but still got caught. The element of unsuspected revenge is what saves the movie, though.
This movie is quite creative for a modern horror. It takes a fairly sympathetic main character and has her a make a rather impulsive, but not completely stupid decision. Mary and her friend take far more agency trying to get away. They are far more modern female victims. They fight back physically and not with words and pleading. The cinematography is dark and intense. The convict’s son becomes a far more sympathetic character, and Mary’s parents much more believable as a vindictive pair. The whole plot moves at the perfect pace, and the ending is surprising.
1972 vs. 2009:
I have to say, 2009 wins for horror movie quality. It is put together more smoothly without the odd side-story of the police with the humorous background music. The story is more cohesive. However, surprisingly, 1972 is far more gory and feels more like a slasher. The violence, both sexual and physical, is surprising, and the villains are far more evil. If you’re out for the chills of a good horror, movie, go with the 2009 version. If you’re after sheer blood and violence, go for the 1972 version.
1972: 3.5 out of 5 stars
2009: 4 out of 5 stars
1972: Buy It
2009: Buy It