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Kyle Smith (Twitter: @rkylesmith) is critic-at-large for National Review, theater critic for The New Criterion and the author of the novels Love Monkey and A Christmas Caroline. Type a title in the box above to locate a review.

Buy Love Monkey for $4! "Hilarious"--Maslin, NY Times. "Exceedingly readable and wickedly funny romantic comedy"--S.F. Chronicle. "Loud and brash, a helluva lot of fun"--Entertainment Weekly. "Engaging romp, laugh-out-loud funny"-CNN. "Shrewd, self-deprecating, oh-so-witty. Smith's ruthless humor knows no bounds"--NPR

Buy A Christmas Caroline for $10! "for those who prefer their sentimentality seasoned with a dash of cynical wit. A quick, enjoyable read...straight out of Devil Wears Prada"--The Wall Street Journal

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    Prepare for Outrage: “Last House on the Left”

    By Kyle | March 12, 2009

    The remake of “The Last House on the Left” opening tomorrow is, unlike the recent remakes of “Friday the 13th” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” very much in the spirit of the minimalist original, albeit with some arty touches. It’s scary, and deliberately repellent. (Mild spoiler ahead.)

    One scene in particular, in the middle, is excruciating to watch and is sure to offend. (The gray-haired couple in front of me walked out. I couldn’t figure out what they were doing there in the first place.) Those who see the world through a feminist eye will be especially outraged because it involves a visceral, genuinely terrifying rape. We’re used to seeing murders on screen, though, great splattery awful ones. Yet murders don’t bother us that much anymore. Rape is still relatively rare on screen. There are probably 100 graphic murders for every graphic rape in movies. It’s an unspoken taboo. Taboos have power, and shattering them is what horror is all about. Though you could certainly make an argument that we go to horror movies not to be genuinely scared — “United 93” is the scariest movie of the decade– but to be fake-scared, in a make-believe way, as if you’re dreaming and being aware that you’re dreaming at the same time. For my money, the remake of “Last House on the Left” is highly effective at hurling you out of your comfort zone.

    Wes Craven, in an interesting A/V Club interview by Scott Tobias on the original “Last House on the Left”:

    Last House offended a lot of people. The results in the theaters, even in Boston, reminded me a bit of things from when I was studying theater of the absurd, and the rise and the appearance of Ionesco plays, and things like that. Thinking, “My God, people actually are getting into fistfights. People are having heart attacks. People are actually trying to get into the projection booth to destroy the print.” You know, we set up a separate editing room just to repair prints that had been slashed and diced by people trying to get offensive moments out of them. So there was a very real sense of “Oh my God, what have I done?”

    Topics: Movies | 7 Comments »

    7 Responses to “Prepare for Outrage: “Last House on the Left””

    1. Brandon Says:
      March 12th, 2009 at 2:40 pm

      Hey Kyle, I was hoping you’d review this. My girlfriend will grudgingly go to horror movies with me and would probably would go see this too but with that said she really struggles with scenes of rape. So with that said how graphic is this scene? Are we talking about “Irreversible” or “I Spit On Your Grave” graphic and seemingly never ending, or is it more the obligatory tear open the shirt and then cut away and the whole thing is over in under 1 minute?

    2. kyle Says:
      March 12th, 2009 at 3:53 pm

      Don’t take your girlfriend. It’s a lot more graphic than the usual fleeting rape scene. It isn’t as bad as “Irreversible,” though.

    3. Christian Toto Says:
      March 12th, 2009 at 7:22 pm

      I don’t think the outrage will stop there. I suspect it will draw some “Taken” style smackdowns from critics. What, these parents have no moral compunction about what they’re up to? For shame…

      And Irreversible … still the one movie I simply can’t get out of my head. Not sure that’s a good thing given the awful subject matter.

    4. Meredith Says:
      March 13th, 2009 at 1:36 pm

      How can I protest this movie only getting an R rating? I went to MPAA’s site and found nothing. I am sick of violence like this getting an R instead of an NC-17.

    5. katherine Says:
      March 13th, 2009 at 6:59 pm

      Is this rape much worse than any explicit sexual scenes on the remakes of “The Hills have Eyes” 1 & 2??

    6. Jason Says:
      March 13th, 2009 at 9:03 pm

      The ads alone made it look like the filmakers were revelling in depicting rape. I felt squeamish watching those, and I actually have a copy of “I Spit on Your Grave.”

      This feels a *lot* different from the rape scene in, say, “Salvador” when Oliver Stone said he wanted to show just how horrible it is.

    7. Sophi Says:
      March 23rd, 2009 at 1:32 pm

      In the beginning I was a bit disturbed by the close nature of the shots of Mary and the rape scene but as the movie went on it was made apparent that they were shot that way in order to create the hatred needed to watch the predators die the way they did. The effect would have been different if the movie was shot in any less of a fashion. Two thumbs up Mr. Craven for having the guts to do it.