I admit that when it comes to horror, I am a glutton for punishment. I'm sure I have seen more bad horror movies in recent years than most people have seen movies, period. But I can't help it -- after becoming almost completely desensitized to blood, gore, etc., at a very early age, I'm now on a lifelong quest to find horror movies that can really get under my skin and affect me in some way. There's a part of me that wants very much to be scared shitless... but that part is disappointed more often than not. These days, horror movies need to go above and beyond the call of duty to elicit a real response from me -- which pretty much means crossing the lines of common decency and eschewing standard scare tactics for sheer, sickening, unbridled brutality. The last time I saw a movie on the big screen that really disturbed me was the 2006 remake of the '70s Wes Craven classic THE HILLS HAVE EYES... that is, until the other day, when I saw ANOTHER remake of a '70s Wes Craven classic, THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT.
The story is simple but rife with madness: A gang of psychotic ne'er-do-wells capture and brutalize two pretty young girls, killing one and raping the other and leaving her for dead. Later, during a rainstorm, the gang finds refuge at a lakeside home belonging to a seemingly-normal married couple... who, of course, are the parents of one of the victims. When their daughter, clinging to life, manages to find her way back to the house and the parents realize the truth about their houseguests, they decide to take matters into their own hands and dish out their own eye-popping brand of justice.
As far as plot and characters and dialogue and such are concerned... well, it's nothing to write home about, though I've certainly seen worse. The movie is noteworthy only for its cringe-inducing violence. The rape scene... jesus... it's bad. I mean, it isn't the WORST of its kind I've ever seen -- that title still belongs to a little French film called IRREVERSIBLE, which makes me shudder just thinking about it -- but it is rough to watch. And then there's the main event: the parents' vengeance against their daughter's assailants, which occurs in systematic, increasingly gruesome ways, with plenty of "holy shit!" moments. I found myself wincing with revulsion and exulting with satisfaction at the same time, which is kind of an odd feeling. Even though it gets a bit over-the-top (especially the final scene, which is a doozy), it's effective because you are rooting for the parents every step of the way. Frankly, I'd like to think that I'd be able to dish out the same level of punishment if someone dared mess with my loved ones!
Another random observation: This marks the second movie I've seen this year in which the protagonist happens to be exactly the right person in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. I feel like it's more common to see "fish out of water" type situations, presumably because it's more entertaining to root for an underdog. But in this movie, the father happens to be a surgeon, so who better to treat his daughter when she is found beaten, bloody and near death? And then, who better to exact surgically-precise vengeance upon the bad guys (see the aforementioned final scene, in particular)? The other movie with this "theme" was TAKEN, starring Liam Neeson as a former CIA agent who embarks on a mission across Europe to find and rescue his kidnapped daughter. Again, who better to do that than a man who has been well-trained and armed with every possible skill needed for such a job? It's an interesting twist, because while it is indeed fun to root for the underdog, it's also pretty cool to root for the person doing exactly what they are meant to be doing!
Coming soon: My long-awaited WATCHMEN observations, and (God-willing) more ALL-TIME TOP 5 LISTS! Speaking of which, if anyone has any suggestions for Top 5 lists they'd like to see, don't hesitate to send'em along! More likely than not, if you suggest something, I will give it a shot.... :)