Last house on the left

There’s dumb. There’s boring. There’s dumb and boring.

At least have the kind manners to choose one. Don’t be like this rancid little piece of inhumanity, Last House on the Left, a film that mistakes inertia for suspense and violence for fear.

There’s really nothing positive to say about this disgusting, heavily mysoginistic exploitation flick. The first words out of my mouth upon leaving the theater were, “I can’t believe you screened this.” The only good thing about the film is that I have the opportunity to warn you about it.

Oh, you poor things. Okay, so the lesson here is if you’re ever on vacation at a remote lakeside hideaway, never, never give your teenage daughter the keys to the car to visit a friend. Because she’ll end up in a cheap hotel getting baked. And getting kidnapped. And getting raped and/or killed in the woods. Shown in a prolonged, disgusting scene.

And then ….. oh, and then …… the little murderous band of redneck hippie psychopaths will end up back at your lake house to treat their wounds and get a good night’s sleep. You can’t blame them; it’s been a long hard day of disturbing filmgoer’s polite sensitivities. And it’ll be just in time for a bad storm. One that leaves the innocent family stranded at the mercy of said little murderous band of redneck hippie psychopaths. There are plenty of knives.

Last House on the Left is a remake of a 1972 Wes Craven film, and it piggybacks on the success of other recent 1970s horror remakes. It comes from that history of horror films in which skuzzy backwoods types without a conscience violently terrorize nice city slickers. I suspect that director Dennis Iliadis or the writers might even tell you that the film bears resemblance to Straw Dogs.

And that shocking modern seen-everything audiences requires going to unthinkable extremes. I suspect the filmmakers might be patting themselves on the back. Congratulations. You win. I lose. Can I go pee now? (By the way, IMDB lists two acting credits for Iliadis, in one of which he plays a character noted only as “Sexist.” Go figure!)

Nor is this particularly worthwhile filmmaking. It has no cinematic language with which to propel the story besides the most boringly brutal violence. Every time it can’t figure out what to do, someone gets kicked in the stomach. And it holds its suspense beats for too long. Too long, like eight minutes.

So I’ve seen a smattering of positive reviews for this film. Some critics are calling it effective at its task (as if its sadism and rampant hatred of women should be treated as content neutral), while others are celebrating it as a grindhouse .ode or containing hidden archetypal conflicts. I could dismiss these arguments intellectually, saying things like, “Just because it pits country folk versus yuppies hardly means anyone should honor it as esoteric social commentary,“ or “When did ‘grindhouse’ become a compliment?”

But I’m just going to do it this way. How many of them would load their 9-year-old daughter into the family Toyota Camry, drive her to her friend Stacy’s house to spend the night, and when Stacy’s parents inevitably ask, “Seen anything good lately?” would say, “You might like Last House on the Left. It has this brutal rape scene involving a teenage girl. It should be very effective at challenging and disgusting your bourgeois sensibilities?” I’m thinking not many.

My point is not that you have to clear your film opinions with your neighbors. My point is that it’s one thing to write something and launch that opinion into the vastness of Cyberspace. It’s another thing to offer that same opinion when it would have real life implications for what people think of you. When you recommend a film, you ought to be able to do it with the same conviction as if you were sitting in a living room looking your neighbor in the eye.

Like any film critic, I dream of switching sides. Running around in my head are scenes from films that will never be made. I have a sense of how precious the opportunity to share your vision must be. Which is why this so bothers me. And I wonder, who walked around with this running in his head, a man being eaten alive by a garbage disposal? For how long? Months? Years? I pity that person.