Viewed as a horror film, The Last House on the Left mostly succeeds as a decent piece of entertainment; it?s well-acted, competently made and, ultimately, provides a disquieting, yet satisfying viewing experience. It?s not for the squeamish though, and certainly not for young children?or even older children for that matter.
Tony Goldwynn and Monica Potter star as Dr. John and Emma Collingwood, respectively. Sara Paxton plays the couples? daughter, Mari. The three go on vacation to their lake house and, shortly after arriving, Mari borrows the car to visit Paige (Martha MacIsaac), a local girl with whom she?s friends.
Paige works the counter at a local convenience store and, as she and Mari catch up, a teenager named Justin (Spenser Treat Clark) walks up to check out. When Monica refuses to sell him cigarettes because of age, Justin offers to sell the pair marijuana in exchange for cigarettes. They must come back to his motel room though to make the buy. After a brief contemplation, the girls agree and head out in Mari?s family SUV.
The three end up on Justin?s motel-room bed, smoking weed and hanging out. But then Justin?s ?family??whom Justin has discussed in only vague terms?unexpectedly arrives back to the room and The Last House on the Left kicks into gear. Justin?s family is compromised of a group of three hardened criminals. Krug (Garret Dillahunt), Justin?s father, is a felon who?s recently been broken out of federal custody by his girlfriend, Sadie (Riki Lindhome), and his brother, Francis (Aaron Paul). When Mari and Paige try to leave, Krug, Sadie and Francis refuse, making it clear they view the girls as potential witnesses--witnesses that must be eliminated. The criminals steal Mari?s SUV and what ensues is brutal and, at times, difficult to watch. Mari and Paige fight and unsuccessfully try to escape, but wreak major havoc, evoking a merciless response from Krug, Francis and Sadie.
Paige is murdered out right, Mari beaten and raped by Krug. Afterward, she escapes and jumps into a nearby lake, attempting to swim to safety but Krug, standing on the shoreline, shoots her between the shoulder blades and leaves her for dead. She?s not dead though and will eventually struggle back to her parents? lake house; Krug and his group, on foot after wrecking the SUV, find their way to the lake house first.
John and Emma take them in, unaware of what?s transpired, believing their daughter safe and spending the night with Paige. They sense something strange about Krug and his gang, but because of a bad thunderstorm, let them spend the night in the adjoining guest house. Shortly after, as the storm rages outside, Mari shows up on the lake house porch, battered, broken, naked below the waist and near death. Thanks to Justin, who?s neither like his father or part of the gang, John and Emma finally understand the kind of dangerous monsters staying in their guest house. They immediately realize too, that drastic measures will be required to save both their daughter and themselves and to survive the night.
Though the characters in The Last House on the Left are underdeveloped, the Collingwoods are relatable and average, making them easily identifiable. Conversely, Krug and his gang are evil to the point of caricature, a fact which both enhances and detracts from the film?s overall impact. There?s also an intriguing back story here that?s disappointingly underdeveloped, involving Ben, Mari?s brother, who has died a year before the events of the film. Although this back story isn?t completely ignored and is, in fact, integral to the story, I wanted to know more than was revealed.
The film starts off with Krug?s escape, providing a jolting, gruesome bang that clues the audience about what lies ahead. From that point, director Dennis Iliadis keeps things moving and the film seldom lets up. Ultimately, if you?re looking for decent popcorn entertainment that will keep you engaged, The Last House on the Left might be worth a look. But be warned: this film is violent, sadistic, bloody and disturbing; certainly not for the faint of heart.