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?”