'The Last House on the Left'

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It was only a matter of time before they got around to revisiting 1972's "The Last House on the Left," a prime piece of horror-remake real estate that was well ahead of the "Saw" torture-porn curve.

Establishing writer-director Wes Craven as a genre original, the raw revenge-thriller — loosely inspired by Ingmar Bergman's "The Virgin Spring" — stood as a gritty, disturbing departure from standard monster-movie fare.

Armed with a larger budget, the refurbished "House" adheres sufficiently closely to the original template so as not to offend purists and manages to pack an intensely visceral punch of its own, most effectively in the extended setup.

Arriving in a marketplace that hasn't exactly been hurting for horror, Rogue Pictures' Friday the 13th release should open solidly but well short of the mark set by the decidedly campier "Friday the 13th" last month.

Entrusted with the new edition, and with the blessing of producer Craven, is Greek filmmaker Dennis Iliadis, whose hard-hitting 2005 film "Hardcore" dealt with teen prostitution in Athens.

Working from a script by Adam Alleca and Carl Ellsworth that makes just a few key departures from the original, Iliadis maintains a tight rein on the grisly early proceedings, in which two young women (Sara Paxton and Martha MacIsaac) are beaten, raped and left for dead at the hands of a psychotic prison escapee (Garret Dillahunt) and his equally damaged accomplices.

The sickos subsequently take shelter at the lake house belonging to Paxton's parents (Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter), who soon identify them as their daughter's assailants and proceed to exact a fitting vengeance.

The inherent problem in remaking a film like "Last House on the Left" is that it originally was made in a very specific place in time. Craven said he was responding in part to the effect of violence on a society that was being exposed daily to graphically numbing footage coming out of Vietnam.

Stripped of that sociological context, the extreme brutality here can't help but feel more than a little exploitative.

But the performances are uniformly sturdy, and the production values get the job done with a stripped-down emphasis on mood over showy style. (partialdiff)
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