Okay, I'm back. The aluminum recycling riches
are gone, down the gullet. Sometimes I don't know whether it's
a curse or a blessing to find a neighbor's old shower frame
out by the curb. They are scrap aluminum, which draws a lower
price than cans, but still enough for an 18-pack of Keystone.
I apologize for foisting Jimmy on you last week. He was available,
though, and also told me, "No, it's okay, Uncle Filth, I'm cool
now. Popular too." That was a barrel of shit sent over Niagara.
With me in it.
I rarely go to movies in the afternoon because
I am either sleeping or hiding from someone. Or watching reality
TV. This week, though, I ventured out to see The Last House
on the Left in broad daylight in a theater half-full with
retired people. The movie is a remake of Wes Craven's 37-year-old
original, which is often mistaken for a classic because it's
old. I doubt anyone who has bothered to watch it recently would
actually call is a classic. Then again, just sticking around
is the Wes Craven stock in trade. Hang on long enough, making
90% lousy movies, and people mistake your longevity for quality.
That guy has produced more smelly turds than Jimmy Dean Sausage.
For fuck's sake, he's responsible for A Vampire in Brooklyn.
In the new Last House on the Left, Craven is just an
executive producer, taking a fat paycheck to let a hack (Dennis
Iliadis) rebarf his "classic" story.
A very sweaty Tony Goldwyn and a sleepy-looking
Monica Potter are two-overworked yuppies who take a week off
from their jobs in New York City to go to their massive lake
house in Upstate New York. Well, the house isn't really massive.
It's just fucking enormous, with an equally big-ass guest house.
Their daughter, Sara Paxton, is along for the ride. Early on
we learn that Paxton is obsessed with competitive swimming,
and the family lost a son a year earlier. They really don't
seem to be grieving a hell of a lot, but you know, dead children
are a lazy writer's way to make you think the characters have
an interesting backstory. Even when it ends up having nothing
to do with the story at hand.
The lake house is reportedly six miles from
the nearest other house. Which is a bit odd since some guy waterskis
right past the front door, and there appears to be a huge, operating
quarry within walking distance. Never mind the inconsistencies,
though. Iliadis certainly didn't let them slow him down.
As teen girls in bad horror movies are wont
to do, Paxton takes off alone in the family car to visit a friend
with remarkably bad judgment. Within minutes, the two are high
as a zappelin, playing with a boy's hair in a dingy motel, and
held at knifepoint by fugitives. In a torture sequence as grueling
and long as the wait for a stall in the men's room at Sweet
Tomatoes, an SUV is demolished, the bad guy's moll (Riki Lindhome)
is burned with a cigarette lighter, Paxton's friend is gutted
and Paxton is raped. For a really long fucking time. Long enough
to give you the sense Iliadis is really enjoying filming it.
Like the rest of the movie's big scenes, this shit is not scary,
just explicit. And not explicit in the fun way, like a video
of a goat having a baby.
After being raped, Paxton escapes the thugs,
dives into the lake and tries to swim home. She is shot by the
leader of the pack (vroom vroom) Garret Dillahunt, and left
for dead. Oh, you stupid villains, don't you know you can never
leave the girl who doesn't take her top off for dead? Because
of the accident, Dillahunt, Lindhome, et al are stranded with
no vehicle and a big-ass, mood-setting thunderstorm rolling
in. They walk to the home of Paxton's parents, who for whatever
reason, like to let really creepy, dirty, bloody people spend
the night in their guest house. Oh my fucking God! The irony.
Here they are being taken in by the very people whose daughter
they just murdered. If only that irony played out in some interesting
way. It doesn't.
Besides, Paxton's not dead. In a twist approximately
as surprising as discovering that the Olive Garden's spaghetti
sucks, Paxton is alive. She struggles her way back to the lake
house and makes it to the front steps, where her parents find
her and nurse her back to health while the baddies rest up in
the guest house.
What ensues is fetishized violence that clarifies
why Iliadis never bothered to make us care much for Potter or
Goldwyn. They are fucking assholes, no better than the fugitives.
They're set up to be caring parents, Potter with a strong maternal
instinct, and you may think what will follow will be the story
of cold-blooded killers confronted by a physician who cares
about life, and a sympathetic mother.
Instead, someone gets a claw hammer through
the skull, but only after getting his hand shoved down a running
disposal. Lindhome, who is the movie's designated topless girl,
gets shot in the eye and maybe stabbed, too. I can't remember
all the ways in which Iliadis wants to show us blood. Dillahunt
and Goldwyn go mano y mano for a long fucking time and stab
and jab at each other. A kid gets stabbed and killed with a
fire poker. It comes hard and heavy, with no time for any irony
or commentary to get in the way of the bloodshed. Potter and
Goldwyn don't stop to reflect on their primal reaction to their
daughter being attacked. They just get their weapons of choice
and hack away.
It almost ends up with the "good" guys escaping
in a boat so they can get Paxton to a hospital. I say almost
because after escaping, Goldwyn's character comes back to the
house just so he can paralyze Dillahunt and then shove his head
into a microwave to bake until it explodes, Scanners
style. That last bit of gore is so fucking over the top and
excessive, it tips the damn scale of the entire movie. What
little sympathy may be left for the family is shot to hell.
Iliadis makes clear that his main intention is to put as much
gross shit on screen as he can, and that's all.
I'm not a fucking pussy about blood. I've seen
plenty of it and it doesn't make me squeamish. I grew up with
three older sisters and out of curiosity once opened one of
the big balls of toilet paper in the bathroom trashcan. I survived
that, I can survive The Last House on the Left. What
I hated about the movie's guts and gore was how indiscriminately
it was used. All the lovingly shot scenes of stabbings and rape
don't add to the story, highlight the irony, or make a comment
about society. It's just a shitload of blood.
Cracking someone's skull open on a bathroom
sink can be visceral and useful in making a point or shocking
an audience. For it to have an impact, though, there needs to
be a story that we're wrapped up in and that the violence disrupts
or puts the exclamation point on. In The Last House on the
Left, the beatings and killings are strung together with
a weak-ass story, a hackneyed cabin and thunderstorm setting,
and a bunch of characters that Iliadis undermines our relationship
with just to throw more blood up there.
Within its first five minutes, I knew who would
live and die, as well as the basic plot. When the characters
start looking for boat keys, I knew how they would escape, and
I knew it would be at dawn, as the storm broke and sky lightened.
When Paxton is shot and left for dead in the lake, I knew she
wasn't really dead. It's all painfully obvious and Iliadis does
nothing to tweak it. There is no increasing tension, or building
sense of foreboding. It is never shocking, just increasingly
gross and gruesome in a way detached from the characters. The
violence is the focus.
If I just want to be grossed out, I'll go rent
Pink Flamingoes, because no matter how hard Iliadis tries
to be sick, Divine eating real, fresh dogshit is worse. The
Last House on the Left is pointless violence. It doesn't
have anything to say, it doesn't have anyone for us to care
about. It just has more blood than that trashcan from my youth.
I still remember the trashcan. In thirty years, I won't remember
this. Two Fingers.