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  1. #1
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    Default Blu-Ray Review: THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (Blu-ray; 2008; Universal)



    Studio Name: Universal (Rogue Pictures)
    MPAA Rating: R/Not Rated (Unrated version reviewed)
    Disc/Transfer Information: 1080p High Definition; Widescreen 1.85:1
    Tested Audio Track: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (Tested at core DTS)
    Director: Dennis Iliadis
    Starring Cast: Tony Goldwyn, Monica Potter



    IF SOMEONE HURT SOMEONE YOU LOVE...
    HOW FAR WOULD YOU GO TO GET REVENGE?



    LoMANACO'S PLOT ANALYSIS:

    I have come to accept that we're in the day and age of theatrical remakes -- but this didn't come easy, friends. I revolted against this for the longest time, coming from the film journalism school which taught that you don't mess with an original gem because just so much is simply lost in the re-imagining of the film. We've seen them crash and burn over the years in spades -- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Amityville Horror, House of Wax -- while some others managed to provide mild entertainment (Dawn of the Dead, House on Haunted Hill, Man on Fire, The Haunting). Some simply fall in the middle somewhere; titles that I'm still debating in terms of their homage to the originals like Friday the 13th and Rob Zombie's Halloween. But I should have placed the remake of Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes on the list of "good" remakes in that much like Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead remake, the setpieces, tension and action were simply taken to a new, modern level without really destroying any magic of the original. In taking a chance with another of Craven's classic cult favorites, Last House on the Left, Universal greenlighted a remake of the subtle-but-creepy rape/revenge story that made such hoopla when the original was released.

    But why was the original so attention-sapping? Why was it labeled, in underground film circles, one of the most disturbing and graphic stories ever to be put on celluloid? I went back and rented the original Last House on the Left some months ago to anticipate the theatrical launch of the remake, which I didn't get to see in theaters, and I can recall finishing it with a bit of disappointment. For all its underground cult "warnings" about the violence and savage sex sequences, nothing was really shown that was too graphic at all. The score and horrendous acting in the original didn't help its case, either. Craven's original centers around two very young teens living in the upstate region of New York, one of whose parents live in a cabin all isolated up there. The girls want to go to a rock concert in the city, but before they get to the Big Apple, they are lured into what appears to be a Brooklyn, New York apartment by a creepy kid willing to sell them some dope. Once in there, they are surrounded and kidnapped by some group of freaks made up of two men and a weirdo chick that seems to get off on touching the young girls. From there, the action shifts back to the woods of upstate New York, where the gang drag the girls into the forest and the "Kruge" character brutally rapes one while forcing the two of them to kiss and make love -- but before your hormones go flying out of control, let me say that nothing is really "shown" in these scenes; they're more suggestive than anything. The real kicker of both versions of Last House on the Left is the fact that this gang ends up dragging the girls into the forest that happens to be just outside of where one of the girls' parents live -- and once inside their house and they are aware of what happened to their daughter, a sequence of revenge scenarios play out.

    Enter 2008's The Last House on the Left. The film keeps in the style of Craven's original but makes some nicks and tucks to change the story a bit. Instead of having the group of killers and thieves who are on the run from the law crouching and hiding in some abandoned apartment, this new version opens with some cops taking one of the lunatics in to be arrested. The action has also shifted from New York to Washington in this one; obviously planning an escape heist, a van rams into the police car, killing the cops, but allowing the freak in the back seat to escape with his cohorts. Meanwhile, Tony Goldwyn plays the father of "Mary," who I believe was a character in the original, an 18 year old blonde who is friends with Paige, a brunette around the same age who works in a convenience store in this wooded Northwest town. Paige is the bubblier of the two, dressing provocatively in denim miniskirts and flashing the bigger breasts. Monica Potter (Con Air) turns in a performance as Mary's mother. Goldwyn is a doctor, and the three of them are living in a summer house in the woods. When Mary wants to see her friend Paige at her place of work, she takes her parents' Suburban and the scene is set for a remake of graphic proportions. The story has changed here from the original, in that instead of going to a concert, the girls meet up at Paige's store and then follow some creepy kid who comes in that promises to give them some good weed.

    The two idiotic teens drive the kid to a nearby motel, where the three of them proceed to get high as kites while the two girls flirt with him. At that point, two scummy looking men and a demented chick come into the room, and we're introduced to the villains of the story. The "Kruge" character is reused from the original, as the leader of this sick gang and hunted killer; immediately, the group's intentions are made clear as the men surround the teen girls and feeling them up, while the sick woman that's with them does the same. Pleading that they won't tell anyone about their crime spree and escape to the group proves futile, as the girls are driven away from the motel in Mary's Suburban and towards the woods.

    Paige attempts an escape from the truck by smashing a cigarette lighter in the back of the vehicle into the woman's face that’s busy running her hands all over her body, but even though this causes chaos and makes Kruge crash the truck into a tree, the girls don't yet escape. They are bound and beaten by the trio, and that's when the more graphic part of the film takes place. As I said with the original, not much was shown during these sequences -- and on the Unrated cut of the remake, not much more was shown in 2008. Paige and Mary wriggle around on the ground, screaming, crying and gasping, but the rape sequence between Kruge and Mary is turned up a notch or two -- it is definitely suggested, quite graphically in certain angles, that Kruge anally rapes Mary based on the fact that she is forced down, face front, into the mud where her bra and panties are slunk off, and Kruge is right on top of her, thrusting violently. The sequence is actually very disturbing -- much more so than what was "suggested" in the original -- but it's not so over-the-top that it would make this a genuine "rape/torture/revenge" underground horror gross-out gem.

    LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT REVIEW CONTINUED BELOW...
    Last edited by Mike LoManaco; 08-19-2009 at 03:53 AM.

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    LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT REVIEW CONTINUED...

    I believe what makes both versions of Last House on the Left and what drives the films is not what the original marketing campaigns and propaganda lead people to believe...that it was a graphically shocking sex and violence film -- it's the subsequent "revenge" substory that develops once the parents find out what happened to their daughter. And in the remake, this makes up a good portion of the running time. While silly and campy in the original film, the revenge ending is modernized with more realistic reactions from the actors. Once Kruge and the gang believe they have killed both Paige and Mary, and once Mary's brutal rape experience has left the sick and demented Kruge drained and satisfied, they make their way to a house in the woods to find shelter from the oncoming storm. What they don't know or realize is that it's Mary's parents' house, and they are concerned because they haven't heard from her since she left the day before.

    Goldwyn turns in a subdued, eerily accurate rendition of a father turned into the darkness of madness, as the group, pretending to be stranded vacationers of sorts, sweet talk their way into the home and take advantage of Goldwyn and Potter's hospitality. While definitely creepy and giving them the willies, the couple arrange for the gang to stay in their home for the night just as the power goes out from the storm. It isn't until the young kid who first lured Mary and Paige into the motel room leaves Mary's pendant she had around her neck next to an empty mug of hot chocolate that the couple realize who these people are...and what they did to their daughter. The parallel similarities between the original and remake are here in the end, as well, with the youngest of the gang finally turning on his father, Kruge, and ratting them out to Mary's parents. A final confrontation between Kruge and his son ensue at gunpoint, as in the original, while Potter and Goldwyn go around the house taking out the other gang members one at a time.

    The concluding confrontation between Kruge and Goldwyn plays a bit like the original's, but for all the "revenge" marketing hoopla this remake exhibited, I was disappointed by the very ending -- which I won't give away. And there's a twist involving Mary, too; but this remake, from the initial trailers and teasers, suggested a more pivotal, aggressive approach in terms of the girl's parents taking brutal, graphic revenge on the sickos that raped their daughter...it seemed to be building in that direction, and then I don't know...something happened.

    In the end, Last House on the Left satisfied my curiosity about the remake, but I don't think it was as good as the remake of Craven's other shocker, The Hills Have Eyes. That anal rape sequence is a bit disturbing and just leaves a bad taste in your mouth for the rest of the film; further, you have to wonder what the teen actresses went through during the filming of these scenes. There must have been some psychological barriers there.

    VIDEO QUALITY:

    This I was shocked and disappointed with, being that it was released by Universal, a studio getting praise for their delivery of clean, tight Blu-ray transfers across the board. Most of this 1.85:1 image just didn't look good -- dark sequences were marred with a buzzing, staticky, grainy artifacting that crushed certain scenes into softness. There was a more than moderate layering of film grain on the transfer which didn't help, but in the plus column, outdoor sequences showed detail and depth. There was a flat, pasty characteristic to the female actors' faces in most shots, including when Potter was onscreen, which made certain whites in the background look like the contrast was blown out.

    Still, the biggest issue was this annoying, "buzzing," twitchy noise that littered the transfer mainly in the darker sequences. It made many scenes drop into near-DVD quality softness. Worse, I even detected some strange "pulsating" of the image in sequences towards the end of the film, indicating a pulldown or codec mastering issue. I haven't seen this since the first piss-poor DVD transfer of Commando, which exhibits a pulsating and flashing in the screen. This was very surprising coming from Universal, but it may have been an issue in mastering the disc or some problems inherent in the film stock itself prior to transfer -- the end result was a poor-looking Blu-ray Disc.

    AUDIO QUALITY:

    As usual, I had to run Last House on the Left's Master Audio track at its core DTS mix -- but this proved entertaining enough, with pounding LFE, erratic, aggressive surround usage and a punchy energy to the track. The standout moments in this mix were the rainstorm sequences -- when thunder pounded in the film, my sub responded aggressively with wall-rattling resonance which forced me to lower the master volume for a refreshing change (I usually need to do the opposite to achieve any kind of dynamics). The rainstorm scenes also threw directional cues of the thunder and rain into the appropriate surround channels with startling realism. For the first time in a long time, dialogue wasn't a problem at all on this track, and so I am assuming if you have access to full lossless Master Audio, the experience will be even more jarring.

    At certain times -- such as early in the film when Kruge and his team ram the cop car to help their cohort escape -- the audio seemed to have a slight edge of DRC (Dynamic Range Compression) applied, as if high frequencies were being muffled with a resulting loss of dynamics and impact. Still, the crash and thud of the van into the cop car was jarring enough in the low end.

    LoMANACO'S SUMMARY:

    Well, there you have it, folks -- Wes Craven's original "rape violence shocker" is turned up in intensity for modern audiences via this remake, but it was a bit less satisfying than I was expecting. That aforementioned rape sequence by Kruge on "Mary" is a bit off-putting and the revenge substory that develops at the end could have been handled a bit better. In the end, I feel it is another average attempt at remaking a horror "classic," although I never really considered Craven's original a "classic" in any sense of the word, save for perhaps a classic "cult underground" favorite.

    LoMANACO'S RECOMMENDATIONS:

    The Unrated cut of Last House on the Left is definitely not a family-sharing film -- don't watch this with the kids is my recommendation, and many of your wives may be off-put by the sexual assault and violence that transpires halfway through. As for owning it, I would say give it a rental first; I don't think I'll be buying it. As I said, I enjoyed the remake of Craven's Hills Have Eyes more.

    Thank you, as always, for reading friends, and please fire away with commentary or questions!

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    I just watched this last night... It kept my attention, but besides some of the gorier scenes, it didn't really reach out and grab me. The movie felt like it had way too much build up, then just kindof wrapped it all up in a neat package in the last 20 minutes or so.

    Couldn't tell much from the sound... watched on a Sony "Dream" setup, which usually sounds pretty terrible to me.
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    Ive never really been into horror movies. They seem so ridiculous and never scary. I'll even take a girlie love story over a horror flick :) Nice write up though Mike ya crazy ass!
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    We didn't like it. I mean it was ok we sat through the whole thing. The ending scene WTF was that all about! Come on! Overall It had potential of being a good thriller.
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    Quote Originally Posted by concealer404 View Post
    I just watched this last night... It kept my attention, but besides some of the gorier scenes, it didn't really reach out and grab me. The movie felt like it had way too much build up, then just kindof wrapped it all up in a neat package in the last 20 minutes or so.

    Couldn't tell much from the sound... watched on a Sony "Dream" setup, which usually sounds pretty terrible to me.
    I agree with your first interpretation portion of your response, Concealer, and pretty much keeps in line with what I revealed in the review.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Knucklehead View Post
    Ive never really been into horror movies. They seem so ridiculous and never scary. I'll even take a girlie love story over a horror flick :)
    And you call ME a "crazy ass"???

    Nice write up though Mike
    Thank you...

    But this wasn't necessary...at all:

    ya crazy ass!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Willow View Post
    We didn't like it. I mean it was ok we sat through the whole thing.
    Did you rent it on Blu or DVD?

    The ending scene WTF was that all about! Come on!
    That's why I wasn't giving that one away in the analysis...I mean, a microwave? They couldn't come up with anything better? Goldwyn's character already paralyzed Kruge from the neck down...it could have gotten very interesting from there. The very end was a grave disappointment.

    Overall It had potential of being a good thriller.
    Potential, again, I think is the operative word here...this remake was going for a re-imagining of Wes Craven's original "rape/torture/revenge" fest but even the original failed to satisfy on that measure; here, the anal rape is graphically more than hinted at, but it still didn't entertain on certain playing fields. It was actually meant to be marketed not as a "thriller," but as a graphic horror shocker -- an updated injection of the original 1970s picture. I don't think they succeeded.

    Interestingly enough, Sean Cunningham (creator of the first Friday the 13th and seemingly on board for every horror remake since then) was involved in the production of this remake, but it seems every thing he gets involved in, no matter how "authentic" he tries to make a project, bombs and misses the target -- he was called in to give the New Line Cinema versions of Friday the 13th some authenticity, but it didn't work, and then he was responsible for making sure Freddy vs. Jason had some validity. We all saw how that turned out.

    I am going to try and watch the theatrical cut of the film this evening for comparison and get back to y'all...

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    Quote Originally Posted by concealer404 View Post
    ... watched on a Sony "Dream" setup...
    But...why??

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike LoManaco View Post
    But...why??
    Watched with my roomate on the 72" screen in the living room. ;)

    I don't have an HT setup running right now. That room is too small for my HT setup, it gets completely overwhelmed, both in space and sound.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike LoManaco View Post
    And you call ME a "crazy ass"???



    Thank you...

    But this wasn't necessary...at all:
    It was all in good fun Mike...wasnt trying to offend you....geeez.
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    Looks like its worth renting.
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    Quote Originally Posted by concealer404 View Post
    Watched with my roomate on the 72" screen in the living room. ;)

    I don't have an HT setup running right now. That room is too small for my HT setup, it gets completely overwhelmed, both in space and sound.
    Gotcha.

    But I'm in a small space too; you gotta get that HT up and runnin' -- no matter what the space! :D

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    Quote Originally Posted by danz1906 View Post
    Looks like its worth renting.
    Give it a spin, Danz, and let us know what you thought. ;)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike LoManaco View Post
    Give it a spin, Danz, and let us know what you thought. ;)
    I will try to watch it over the weekend on Blu-Ray:p
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike LoManaco View Post
    Gotcha.

    But I'm in a small space too; you gotta get that HT up and runnin' -- no matter what the space! :D
    Eh... you gotta realize that even my 2-channel setup will overpressurize that room. Now imagine what a set of 11TLs will do to that room with proper amplification.

    Ain't gonna happen. It'll sound worse. My HT setup setup is really bass heavy, it needs room to breathe.
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    Quote Originally Posted by danz1906 View Post
    I will try to watch it over the weekend on Blu-Ray:p
    That's what was reviewed here; please let me know if you experienced the same factors in terms of the audio and visuals. :)

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    My wife and i enjoyed this movie...

    wife said uhhhh microwave wont work with door open. i said he might madei t work somehow ????
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaligulaPolk View Post
    My wife and i enjoyed this movie...

    wife said uhhhh microwave wont work with door open. i said he might madei t work somehow ????
    Hey Calig,

    Yes...that infamous end sequence again...I believe Goldwyn got the unit to work somehow with the door open -- but the notion of an exploding body part due to microwavable "elements" has always seemed corny to me...do you remember a little horror flick called "Ghost in the Machine" when the spirit of the serial killer attacked some guy in his kitchen by making him pop and crackle like microwavable popcorn?

    Anyway, what bothered me most about that closing sequence was that the doc already had this guy paralyzed from the neck down...couldn't he torture him a little better than what he did or come up with something a bit better?

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    We just finished watching this. All I got to say is, "fargin ouch!"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Keiko View Post
    We just finished watching this. All I got to say is, "fargin ouch!"
    Hey, 'Keik!

    Are you referring to the last scene?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike LoManaco View Post
    Hey, 'Keik!

    Are you referring to the last scene?
    Some pretty painful scenes throughout the movie, so not just the exploding head in the microwave in particular. I think I cringed most when they had the dude at the kitchen sink and turned the disposer loose on his hand. That would have to hurt like a mo fo.

    The best exploding head scene IMO to date was in David Cronenberg's Scanners.

    KeRPLeWY! :p

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=govdvxBu97c

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    Quote Originally Posted by Keiko View Post
    Some pretty painful scenes throughout the movie, so not just the exploding head in the microwave in particular. I think I cringed most when they had the dude at the kitchen sink and turned the disposer loose on his hand. That would have to hurt like a mo fo.

    The best exploding head scene IMO to date was in David Cronenberg's Scanners.

    KeRPLeWY! :p

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=govdvxBu97c
    ****, kid...you just gave away two pivotal sequences for anyone who hasn't seen it yet!!

    Cronenberg's Scanners indeed had a great head explosion scene -- but what about in Carpenter's The Thing when the doctor turns into the spider head thing? HOLY ^^^^^!!! One of the greatest moments in horror history...

    But I didn't find that hand-in-the-incenerator scene to be too gross; that had been done lots of times in films. What was even more shocking and gasp-inducing was the end of 30 Days of Night when Billy the deputy gets his arm caught in that "Muffin Monster" machine and he draws back a bleeding, spewing stump of a hand -- and you can see the friggin' bone of the arm and everything! In 1080p on the Blu-ray, it's pretty shocking...

    What about in Cronenberg's first Fly remake when Goldblum vomits the "fly acid" on Matthis' hand and leg? Holy crap...I can't even watch that film because of those sequences...

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    Seth Brundle, stole my girl. Dissolved my hand and foot with fly vomit. He bugged me. :p

    From The Fly II, but I love that line. :D And Daphne Zuniga was a hottie back then.

    As far as the hand in the disposer, it's just a phobia of mine I quess that made it more gut wrenching. We all have our ticks Mike. ;)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Keiko View Post
    Seth Brundle, stole my girl. Dissolved my hand and foot with fly vomit. He bugged me. :p

    From The Fly II, but I love that line. :D And Daphne Zuniga was a hottie back then.
    You know something? I don't even remember those lines from Fly II...did "Matthis" say that? I cannot STAND watching Fly II because of the sequence where Stoltz' dog must be killed because he is that strange "teleported" creature; that scene absolutely breaks my heart...I cannot watch that film because of it.

    As far as the hand in the disposer, it's just a phobia of mine I quess that made it more gut wrenching. We all have our ticks Mike. ;)
    I hear ya; see my comment about the dog in Fly II above...:(

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    Quote Originally Posted by EntewCabmeent View Post
    Ive ordered a Blu-ray player but, naturally, dont have any disks to try on it. A quick trawl around Play, Amazon etc and it seems theres no real bargains to be had there. So ...

    Wheres the place for cheap BDs?
    Amazon, always has cheap BDs. Nice review Mike. A tad bit long but I made it. I'll give this one a rental.
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    Quote Originally Posted by EntewCabmeent View Post
    Ive ordered a Blu-ray player but, naturally, dont have any disks to try on it. A quick trawl around Play, Amazon etc and it seems theres no real bargains to be had there. So ...

    Wheres the place for cheap BDs?
    Why is this in this thread?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sherardp View Post
    Nice review Mike. A tad bit long but I made it. I'll give this one a rental.
    Hey, Shera!

    Thanks a lot, man, for reading and commenting; glad the review could be of service for recommending a rental...and sorry about the length; I appreciate that you got through it, though! :)

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    I watched the Blu-ray last night, the movie was just ok with decent sound and
    picture. Thanks again for another great review-keep em coming:D
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    Quote Originally Posted by danz1906 View Post
    I watched the Blu-ray last night, the movie was just ok with decent sound and
    picture. Thanks again for another great review-keep em coming:D
    Hey, Danz!

    Thanks for commenting, bro, and for reading! I appreciate the positive commentary; I agree with just about everything you report here in terms of the film itself and the audio and picture -- the audio was better than the visual transfer on this disc, though, IMO.

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