A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this gory remake of the 1972 exploitation horror "classic" is absolutely not for kids (or anyone with a weak stomach), whether you watch the unrated version available on DVD or the theatrical version reviewed here. It's a nonstop barrage of bleak, terrifying, realistic, and raw scenes of sexual assault, bloody murder, and sadistic violence. And unlike many other horror films, where a supernatural entity is behind the bloodletting, here it's perfectly average people committing horrible crimes and acts of vengeance. Next to this bloodbath, the swearing, drinking, sex, and drug use may seem less egregious, but they're there all the same.
What's the story?
In THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, Emma (Monica Potter) and John Collingwood (Tony Goldwyn) and their daughter Mari (Sara Paxton) get away to their isolated vacation home. When Mari steps out to see a friend, the two go on an ill-advised pot-buying expedition -- which brings them into the orbit of four drifters led by escaped criminal Krug (Garrett Dillahunt). The girls are assaulted; one is stabbed to death, the other raped and left for dead. The four perpetrators, trapped by a storm, make their way to the nearest home to take shelter ... where Emma and John are glad to help, until they realize what their new guests have done to their daughter.
Is it any good?
Compared to the slick, sick giddy amorality of other horror remakes like Friday the 13th and Prom Night, this update of the 1972 movie by the same name is simultaneously better and worse. It's better in that it's superbly shot and wholly committed to an exploration of the moral and psychic cost of violence, and worse in that it depicts that violence in the most brutal terms imaginable. Director Dennis Iliadis knows exactly what he's doing, and the film has a painful sense of tension in the depiction of its very rough stuff.
When Emma and John decide to embark on their course of revenge, we're completely on board with them -- and completely terrified of what that decision may cost them. There aren't many glib, guilt-free moments of excitement here; every moment of violence is fraught with dread and grim brutality. And yet there's a humanity to The Last House on the Left -- a moral awareness and core -- that many other horror films lack. Like the brilliant Funny Games, The Last House on the Left is nearly impossible to like or enjoy, but it's hard not to admire and appreciate its vision, complexity, and willingness to be what it is.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the impact of seeing so many violent images on the screen. Are movies like this scarier than those that feature supernatural or other over-the-top villains? Why or why not?
What about the fact that the camera doesn't cut away from any of the brutal acts? How does that compare to other horror movies?
Do you have any sympathy for the parents who are seeking to punish the criminals who victimized their daughter, or is their bloodlust as irredeemable as that of the movie's "bad guys"?
- In theaters: March 13, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: August 18, 2009
- Cast: Garret Dillahunt, Monica Potter, Tony Goldwyn
- Director: Dennis Iliadis
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sadistic brutal violence including a rape and disturbing images, language, nudity and some drug use
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.