Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Last House on the Left (2009)

Unlike a lot of the horror remakes that flooded the theaters throughout the 2000's, this one, from everything I'd heard when it came out, seemed to not be a complete waste of time. While I personally have always liked the remakes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead, and Friday the 13th, I can't deny that a lot of these movies are completely pointless and have no reason to exist other than to make a quick buck. And yeah, you could also say that about the movies I just listed but for me, they have some genuine quality and entertainment value, which is more than I can say for stuff like Rob Zombie's Halloween, the abysmal Nightmare on Elm Street remake, and Evil Dead. In any case, the general buzz on The Last House on the Left, as I said, was pretty good, even from the most cynical horror fans, chief among them the guys behind a podcast whose website I was really into at that time. That certainly wasn't the case back when it was announced in 2006, as I can remember reading on the message board for the original film that people were fully expecting the remake to suck, to have none of the gritty brutality of the movie Wes Craven had made back in the early 70's, and to just be another over-produced, glossy, empty Hollywood studio copycat. But once it came out, people were saying that, while it wasn't the ultra-realistic, hardcore, pseudo-documentary that the original was, it nevertheless pulled no punches, was very well-made and acted, and had a disturbing power all its own. I hadn't seen the original yet, so I didn't have any perspective to put these claims into, and, also because of that, I wasn't motivated to see it in theaters. In fact, I didn't see either movie until that November when, as I said in my review of the original, I picked up both DVDs at a Wal-Mart up in Pigeon Forge when I was there for my first horror convention during the next-to-last weekend that October. If my memory's correct, I think I watched the original early one day and checked out the remake that night, so I had the best opportunity imaginable to compare and contrast both upon my first viewings, and when I saw the remake, I felt I had to agree with the reviewers; this was a really good movie, especially in that it does what any good remake should: it tells basically the same story as its source material but does enough things differently to where, in the end, it comes out having its own distinct flavor and feel. It is its own movie, and not just a pointless copycat, but is also not something so completely different that just steals the name for its dollar value.

As for which film I think is better, that's something I've often debated on. Most of the time, I've felt that this was the superior movie because of the flaws the original has, which this one wisely avoids, and is undeniably much more well-made and acted. At the same time, though, I have, over the years, gained a newfound respect for the original's grimy, sleazy look and feel and its unflinching depiction of the violence, in spite of those problems. This film, despite being pretty grisly in its own ways and having really good technical aspects and production values, is still a glossy, big-budget studio movie that could never have the same potential "snuff film" vibe or go as far as the original did. So, as to which is the better movie, I'm not entirely sure, but I still feel that this is very well-done and is definitely one of the best horror films of that year, having much more going for it in many ways than the Friday the 13th or My Blood Valentine remakes that were released months before. Besides the kudos I've already given, I feel that it also is very well-paced, considering it's a half-hour longer than the original, has moments of suspense and tension that would've made Alfred Hitchcock proud, nice, memorable shots and images, and, while maybe not as viscerally disturbing, is very hard-hitting emotionally at points, even more so than the original to me.

Krug, a violent and dangerous criminal, is being driven to prison in a squad car, when the vehicle is hit hard and disabled by a truck driven by his brother, Francis, and his lover, Sadie, who help him to escape. The next day, Mari Collingwood, a 17-year old who's an accomplished swimmer, and her two parents, Emma and John, the latter of whom is a doctor, head up into the country to spend some time at their summer home. After they settle in, Mari asks if she can borrow the car to head into town and visit her friend, Paige, whom she hasn't seen in a while. Despite Emma's reservations, John gives his daughter the keys to the car and some money, and she drives into town and hangs out with Paige while she's working at a gas station there. One of the customers is a very withdrawn teenager named Justin who, in exchange for letting him get away with buying some cigarettes in spite of his age, promises Paige some very good weed that he's keeping at the motel he's staying at, as he overheard the two girls talking about it. Paige agrees and Mari drives them to the motel, where all three of them toke it up and, when Emma calls Mari on her cellphone, warning her that a bad storm is heading towards their area, she tells her mother that she's going to spend the night with Paige. The three of them spend a long time in the motel, smoking weed and talking, when Krug, who's Justin's father, Sadie, and Francis arrive. Krug is enraged at his son for bringing them to the motel, something he was warned not to do, and, to complicate matters further, his and Sadie's images all over the local newspaper, as a result of a camera in the cop car. Unable to take the risk of letting the girls go, the gang brings them along when they use Mari's car to drive out of town. During the drive, Mari makes a bold attempt to escape that ends up causing Krug to crash the car into the woods. Both girls then try to escape but Mari is caught by Krug, while Paige almost makes it to a construction site on the edge of the woods but is ultimately caught and brought back to the crash site by Francis and Sadie. Krug, trying to teach Justin to "be a man," forces him to grope Mari, stabs Paige to death along with Sadie, and brutally rapes Mari when she refuses to do what he wants. Once Krug is done, Mari, despite her pain and degradation, manages to escape and tries to swim across the lake to the house, only to be shot in the back by Krug. The predicted storm arrives and the gang leaves her there to die, taking shelter at the house, blissfully unaware of whose house it is. With no way to give them a lift to town and the likelihood of getting a tow-truck or taxi to come for them in the storm being slim, he and Emma allow them to stay in the guesthouse for the night. However, Mari, seriously wounded but still alive, makes it to the boathouse and crawls to the front porch, where her parents find her. As John uses his medical skills to heal her wounds, they realize that their "guests" are the ones who attacked her, and while their main concern is getting Mari to a hospital, circumstances and their growing thirst for revenge lead to a vicious, bloody battle between the two families.

According to some sources, the heads at Rogue Pictures considered around a hundred different directors for the movie before settling on Dennis Iliadis, a Greek-born director who'd done a couple of short films in the 90's and had directed his first feature, Hardcore, in 2004. I've never seen Hardcore but I've heard that, even though it's not a horror film, the way Iliadis handled it and its hard-hitting story, which centers on the idea of teenage prostitution, impressed Wes Craven and the other producers enough to where they decided to hire him, feeling that it proved he could show horrific situations without resorting to sheer exploitation. Since Iliadis was a fan of Craven and his work, it didn't take much to convince him to accept the job, and I think he showed a lot of talent with it and was able to make the story his own. Unfortunately, even though The Last House on the Left did pretty well, making $45 million off of a $15 million budget, Iliadis hasn't really gone on to bigger and better things. He didn't direct another movie until 2013, when he did +1, an odd-sounding film about a meteorite crashing near where a house-party is taking place and causing strange phenomena, including duplicates of the party guests, and he followed that up with two films in 2017: Delirium, starring Topher Grace, about a man recently released from a mental institute who inherits a mansion he comes to believe is haunted, and He's Out There, about a mother and her two daughters who become trapped at their remote lake house by a madman. None of these movies have made much of an impact or feel like they're going to (at the time I'm writing this, those latter two haven't been released yet) but, hopefully, Iliadis will get the break into major films that he does deserve.

While still a lovely innocent who learns the hard way that the world is a very rough, violent place, Mari Collingwood (Sara Paxton) is quite a bit different from the free-spirited, rebellious, naïve flower-child that she was in the original. Here, she's a fairly reserved, quiet, all-American teenager, whose biggest concern is how fast she's able to swim after so much practice and who is pretty close to her parents, looking forward to spending some time with them and her friend, Paige, during their stay up at their vacation home in the country. She also some emotional baggage, as she had a brother, Ben, who died the previous year, something that both she and her parents haven't quite come to terms with, and she often wears a necklace that he gave to her. And while not exactly rebellious, Mari does have something of an independent streak, as she asks to stay in the guesthouse, which is several yards away from the main house, and asks her parents if she can take the car into town so she can visit Paige, rather than staying for a nice, family dinner. Despite this, her forgetting to call her mother when she got into town, and not telling her the truth of what's going on when she's at the motel with Paige and Justin, using the breakup of the cellphone signal as an opportunity to tell her that she's spending the night with Paige, Mari is still a good girl overall, telling Paige that she doesn't smoke weed the way she used to and wanting to leave the motel as soon as possible when she drives there. Yeah, she gives in to peer pressure in the motel room and starts toking it up with Paige and Justin, but it's just naivety on her part and she does initially refuse before deciding that one joint won't hurt. Unfortunately, they stay there too long for their own good, and when Krug, Sadie, and Francis return, she and Paige become the gang's hostages, as they can't risk letting them go. But, showing a toughness and a will to survive that her 70's counterpart didn't, Mari, as they're being driven out of town, gives Krug directions to the road near her house, telling him it leads to the highway they're looking for, and uses the car's cigarette lighter to burn Sadie, causing a fight in the back, and she tries to jump out but is stopped by Sadie. This escape attempt causes the car to crash and, afterward, while Mari herself is caught by Krug before she can go far, she encourages Paige to run for it and get help, although that fails too.

This is when Mari's real nightmare begins, as Krug forces Justin to grope her, tries to get her to lie to the mortally wounded Paige and say that everything's going to be alright, and, most horrifically of all, rapes her brutally and slowly, ripping off her necklace as he does so. Once it's over and she's been thoroughly degraded, Mari musters the strength to make one last escape attempt, running to the lake and using her swim skills to try to make it to her house. But, before she can, Krug shoots her in the back and she's left there to die in the lake. As in the original, Mari isn't as dead as she seems after this, able to make it to shore, but, unlike the original, she manages to make her way back to the house, is discovered by her parents, and her father uses his medical skills to treat her wounds as best as he can. Realizing that they need to get her to a hospital, intending to use the boat to do so, they make preparations to leave as soon as possible but unforeseen circumstances and her parents' growing rage over what was done to her force her to spend the rest of the movie inactive on the coffee table where she was operated on and waiting in the boat, while they take bloody revenge on Krug and his gang. And that's one of the biggest changes between this film and the original: Mari lives at the end, her parents managing to get her, as well as the seriously wounded Justin, to the hospital via their boat, but that said, it's obvious that, like everyone else, she'll never be the same after this ordeal.

Like Mari, and about everyone else in this movie, in fact, Paige (Martha Macisaac), the Phyllis equivalent here, is a bit different from her counterpart in the original. For one, we don't know as much as about her background as we did Phyllis, except that she and Mari have known each other for a while and that she feels bad for having not gotten in touch with after the death of her brother. She also doesn't come across quite as street-smart as Phyllis but rather as a more outgoing, energetic, spunkier version of Mari, which you see in her interactions with the customers at the store, including Justin, and is a bit more of a "bad girl," one who's still into smoking weed, unlike her friend. What's not changed from the original is that her need and intention to score some good stuff is what gets them into trouble, as she has Mari drive her and Justin to the motel where he's keeping the weed, and instead of coming right out with it like she promised her she would, she stays in and lights up with Justin, forcing Mari to come in as well. During their time there, Paige continues to show her fun-loving, likable side, thinking that Justin could be a good-looking guy if he didn't dress like the Unabomber, and tries to give him something of a makeover, when the thugs show up. Unlike Mari, who stays fairly calm when the adults' threatening, dangerous nature is revealed, Paige panics and runs into the room's bathroom, trying to call for help on her cellphone and desperately screams out the window for someone to hear her, which she gets her knocked out by Francis. When they're in the car and a squad car passes them, Paige again tries to signal for help but is stopped from doing so, and ends up getting injured in the wreck that occurs when Mari attempts to escape. After the crash, Paige is forced to leave Mari behind when she's restrained by Krug and is chased through the woods by Francis and Sadie, injuring her leg at one point and keeping her from running as fast as she could. She almost makes it to a nearby construction site to get help but she's caught, dragged back to the crash site, and when she makes the mistake of calling Krug pathetic when he forces Justin to grope Mari, she's fatally stabbed by both him and Sadie, Mari watching her expire while she's being raped.

The original film mainly focused on the two girls and their suffering at the hands of the criminals, while Mari's parents weren't a large part of the story until the third act when they took their revenge; here, the Collingwoods, John (Tony Goldwyn) and Emma (Monica Potter), get a lot more screentime, even before Mari heads out on her fateful trip to town, and they're developed in a way that feels much more naturalistic. Instead of being near caricatures of upper middle-class parents who wag their fingers at the stuff their daughter is into, they're just your average, everyday family, albeit more well off than most due to John's being a doctor, able to afford a really nice vacation house out in the woods. They come across as very natural, with Emma turning up the car radio to indicate to Mari that their vacation has officially begun and John, after being woken up in the backseat due to his snoring very loudly, going, "Yo, yo, wassup? Wassup?" in an intentionally corny voice, and are very loving towards their daughter. As a result of the death of their son, Ben, which they still haven't quite moved past, Emma is more than a little overprotective of Mari, not being sure about her driving into town by herself and not at all happy about her staying with Paige overnight, whereas John, while being protective in his own way, is willing to let her have her fun, giving her the keys to the car and some money to spend in town. And when Emma is fretting about Mari staying with Paige, especially with a bad storm coming, John simply tells her that there's nothing they can do about it and tries to get her to stop worrying so they can have a nice, romantic evening together. Being really decent folks, they not only allow Krug and the gang shelter when they show up at the front door, claiming to have been in an accident, but John uses his surgical skills to wire up Francis' broken nose and, with no possible way to get them help while the storm's raging, they allow them to stay overnight in the guesthouse. And it's not too long after that when their worst fears are realized, when they find Mari out on the porch, severely injured, and John again has to use his medical knowhow to stop her bullet wound from bleeding (I like that in this film, his being doctor comes into play, instead of just being mentioned as his profession).

Their shock and horror at what's happened to her, with John becoming especially crestfallen to see that she was raped, gradually become sheer rage when they realize that their guests are the ones who did it. While their initial concern is to use the boat to get across the lake and get Mari to a hospital, they soon let their emotions get the best of them and turn the grounds into a warzone as they decide to enact their own personal brand of justice. This turn is just as effective as the one in the original, only in a different way because you've actually gotten to know them more and seen what they're like. It's especially affecting to see John, a guy who's been trained to heal and save people and whose biggest irritation before was the mess Emma's brother left behind for them when he stayed at the house some time before, become so intent on giving them back the pain and suffering they've caused his daughter, and even more so when you see both him and Emma work as team to do it. By the time it's all over, Sadie and Francis have been totally brutalized and, after getting Mari, Emma, and Justin, who they're good enough to help, to safety, John returns to the house and finishes Krug off personally in a very bloody manner. While they're lucky that their daughter has survived the ordeal, like the parents in the original film, it's obvious that they've been forever changed by what's happened and that their family will never be the same.

The parents aren't the only characters who get more development this time around. While David Hess' performance as Krug in the original is, by far, one of that movie's strongest aspects, he still, at the end of the day, was playing nothing more than a mean-spirited, sadistic brute who says people, including those around him, as just objects to be used and used up; Garret Dillahunt's performance, while still being that of a very violent, cruel, and dangerous man, has more to it than that. Here, Krug isn't nearly as cruel or dismissive towards those in his gang, never acting that mean towards Francis or being a misogynistic dog towards Sadie, and is actually pretty shocked when the Collingwoods turn on them and he finds Francis' brutalized corpse in the kitchen. And while, as in the original, his son is the member of the gang who really bares the brunt of his wrath, he does seem to actually love him in his own way, unlike the first film where he thought of his son as nothing more than someone who needed to be controlled and kept in line through a drug addiction he inflicted upon him. One of the first things Krug asks Sadie and Francis when they help him escape the squad car he's transported in is, "Where's my kid?", and when they come back and find that Justin brought the girls there, Krug actually makes a good point when, upon hearing him tell Mari that they weren't supposed to be back so soon, "What? That's your excuse?... Justin, you gotta start putting other people's needs ahead of your own. You knew not to bring anybody back here, but you did it anyway, didn't you?... It can't be undone. Now you got to take responsibility for that action. It's as simple as that." He's right in that instance. It is Justin's fault, and because of that, two innocent girls, who haven't done anything wrong, end up paying for it, and while Sadie and Francis are a little too eager to take them along, Krug does seem to really wish that wasn't the case when he tells them, "I'm sorry ladies. We just can't risk it." At the end of the scene, when Francis is forced to knock Paige out when she panics and screams for help, Krug violently forces Justin to see that their predicament is his fault. However, that's the last time Krug does and says anything that's right, as his ways of trying to teach his son to be a man, by trying to force him to pick one of the girls to rape, making him grope Mari when he refuses, and angrily admonishing him when he recoils away from him, are truly cruel and hideous, and when they shack up at the Collingwoods' house, he tells Justin not to say a word, warning him, "Don't you fuck up again." When he figures out why the Collingwoods are now trying to kill him later on, he believes that Justin did rat them out (which he did, in a way), and when his son turns his gun on him, Krug feels genuinely betrayed and means it when he yells, "I loved you. I took care of you!" He then stabs him in the gut with a fire poker, telling him, "You don't get to talk now!" but is stopped by John before he can finish him off.

Krug is also a major hypocrite, as he does not practice what he preaches about taking responsibility for your actions. He tends to turn it around on others and lash out at them, continuing to blame Justin for what's going on after the crash and fatally stabbing Paige when she calls him out on his treatment of him, becoming enraged with Mari when she refuses to lie to the dying Paige and tell that everything's okay, to the point where he rapes her for a very long time in retaliation and shoots her when she tries to escape by swimming across the lake, and, during the third act, actually has the gall to put the blame on Mari for the situation, telling John, "What are the odds, man? Of course, your little girl had a lot to do with it. You should be proud." Like I said, despite his new complexity, this version of Krug is still a violent sadist who enjoys torturing people emotionally while he's brutally killing them, like at the beginning when Sadie wonders what the one policeman is seeing as he slowly expires and Krug, grabbing a photograph of the man's two daughters he had on the dashboard and showing it to him, says, "Something he'll never see again," before finishing him off by snapping his neck, and during the fight with John when he says, "Do you want to hear what I did to Mari? I bet you do, pervert. You want to hear how tight your little homecoming queen was?" That's another thing: unlike Hess' Krug, who actually showed some apparent regret for his actions after raping Mari, this guy is never sorry for anything he's done, cruelly ripping Mari's necklace off and tossing it away as he's raping her and, once he's finished, tells Justin, "You missed out." So, all in all, despite his look not being as memorable as Hess' and moments where he goes a little too over-the-top, I feel that Dillahunt did a commendable job as Krug, enough to where, like before, despite my problems with the movie's final scene, you're unlikely to feel any sympathy for him when he finally does get his comeuppance.

Francis (Aaron Paul), Krug's brother and this film's version of Weasel, is one of the more uninteresting characters in the cast. Like Weasel, he's a sex-obsessed creep who's also sadistically violent if someone gets on his bad side, as seen when he brutally incapacitates Paige when she tries to cry for help in the motel and when he takes his rage at getting his nose broken in the car crash out on them, and his signature weapon is a small knife that he uses to keep the girls from "misbehaving," but he's the most bland member of the gang. Apart from his being quite happy when he finds Mari and Paige in the motel room, he doesn't have the really sleazy, perverted vibe and unsettling presence that Fred Lincoln brought to Weasel and is little more than just a bruiser who does whatever Krug tells him to and shows no remorse for the horrible things that he does (although, his enjoyment of Krug's raping Mari is sickening and chilling at the same time). Like Weasel, he takes an immediate interest in Emma Collingwood and that leads to his demise, which is the film's longest and grisliest death. Sadie (Riki Lindhome) is also not quite as memorable as her 70's counterpart but, that said, she has more to her than Francis. Like in the original, she's Krug's lover, although here, she's more submissive, always wanting to please him so he'll bang her (the first thing she does when she and Francis smash into the squad car at the beginning is kiss Krug and ask him if she did good); she's very shamelessly sexual, willing to take her top off, no matter who's in the room (you see her boobs a lot and, in fact, she's topless during the climactic fight between them and the Collingwoods); and is also bi-sexual once again, taking a real creepy interest in the girls from the moment she sees them. However, unlike the original, she doesn't get to take those desires of hers very far, aside from a little bit of fondling, and she mainly beats on the girls when inclined (I say that because, in the original, she was the least physically violent towards them, not counting Junior), especially when her face gets scarred in Mari's struggle that causes the car crash, and holds Mari down as Krug rapes her. Despite her beating of Mari for scarring her face and her earlier telling her of her personal low opinion of her "kind," Sadie is one of the gang members who does seem to regret what they've done after Krug has had his way with her and she also sheds a tear when it appears like he fatally shot her while she was trying to make it across the lake. But, as in the original, it doesn't last long, as she makes a subtle putdown of the Collingwoods' wealth when she asks, "How many houses do you have?", and protects herself very viciously during the third act, beating on John and knocking Justin unconscious when he tries aid the former, before she's finally shot in the head by Emma.

And finally, there's the character who I recently learned people have very mixed feelings about: Krug's son, Justin (Spencer Treat Clark), and the reason for that is understandable. As with Junior in the original, Justin is a big reason why the girls end up in the villains' clutches but here, instead of the girls being partly to blame as well by approaching him and asking him if he knows where they can buy some good weed, it's all on him, as he overhears them talking about it at the store and has them come back with him to the motel. He said he did it in order to get rid of the weed quicker but, more than likely, it was really due to loneliness on his part, but whatever the reason, like Krug tells him, it was stupid of him to bring someone back to the motel and the girls suffer for his mistake. So, I can understand where this hatred for Justin comes from but, for me, that doesn't negate the sympathy you can feel for him being trapped in the violent world of this gang and with an ill-tempered, violent, overbearing father like Krug. When he and the girls are smoking weed in the motel and talking, it's painfully clear that Justin very much wants a better life but it must feel like he has nowhere to go t all, since the gang is the only "family" he has. Instead of keeping him in line through a drug addiction, here it's more through pure fear and manipulation, as Krug's treatment of him has left Justin very meek and withdrawn, to the point where, when you first see him, he's slouching and always wears his hood up. He's been so beaten down by his dad that, as much as it disgusts him and as remorseful as he is for what he's gotten them into, he doesn't have the gumption to help the girls when they're being assaulted and is actually forced to watch Mari's rape by Francis. When it's all over and Mari is left for dead in the lake, Justin is so shell-shocked that he has to pretty much be forced to leave by Krug, with his only memento from her being her necklace, which Krug ripped off her neck while he was raping her.

The state of shock he's in turns to flat-out horror when he learns that the house they seek shelter in is Mari's, to the point where he feels sick and runs into the bathroom (he doesn't throw up, though), with Krug warning him not to say anything. He does keep his mouth shut, but he still warns the Collingwoods a warning of what's happened when he leaves the necklace circled around a cup of hot chocolate he left in the kitchen. Later on, when they're in the guesthouse, Justin feigns sleep and sneaks into the bedroom and takes Krug's gun, seemingly ready to kill him and the others, but instead, he wimps out again and, when John and Estelle enter the house, they find him sitting up against the wall in a corner in the room. At first, he appears to point the gun at them, but then offers it to John and, from then on, is firmly on their side in helping them get revenge for what they did to Mari as payback for the horrible life he's had because of them. It culminates when he finally turns the gun on Krug when he's beating the crap out of John, threatening to shoot him and actually does pull the trigger, only for it to click empty. Enraged at this, Krug decides to kill him as well, stabbing him with a fire poker, but he's stopped before he can finish him off and the Collingwoods take Justin with them they use the boat to make it to the other end of the lake, showing that there is hope for him. In the end, while I can understand people's dislike of Justin since everything that happens is his fault and also feel that the relationship between him and Mari wasn't as genuine as the one between Mari and Junior, I can still feel sympathy for him and like that he gets to live.

The original Last House on the Left was a really sleazy, gritty, hardcore exploitation movie and the way it looked and was shot was a big reason for that feel; when Dennis Iliadis got the job to direct the remake, however, he decided to take a different approach and film it as a pretty rough, hard-hitting but still, in the end, glossy, healthy-budgeted, studio thriller and it worked out well, helping to give the remake its own identity as well as helping it to be technically-impressive, which is something that can't be said of the original. The film is very well-shot, with good cinematography that makes the locations of the forests, the highways snaking through the wilderness, and the titular house (all of which were in South Africa, believe it or not) look really good, which is to say nothing of its actual look. For once, with one of these remakes, they got an actual filmmaker to do it, rather than just handing it to a music video director as their first feature, as always happened with the Platinum Dunes movies, and thus, the movie, while still looking very stylish and slick, doesn't look feel like a feature-length music video. Instead, it looks like an actual film, with a very nice use of color palette, such as warm colors and lighting for the exterior scenes in the bright sunlight and inside the house and guesthouse when they first arrive, cool, light-blue colors for the scenes where the villains are driving Mari's car and in the woods after the wreck, and a memorable, lime-green/yellow look, reminding me of the one David Fincher always goes for, inside the dark house during the third act. And during the really dark scenes, Iliadis is able to balance it to where it does feel realistic but also keeps it from being so pitch black that you can't see anything. Iliadis also creates some memorable shots and sequences in the movie, some of which are reminiscent of stuff you see in those arthouse, European movies that Wes Craven loved when he was in college and probably would've put into the original had the time and capabilities. For instance, the movie begins with a dream-like, almost Tim Burton-esque pan through a dark forest at night, with everything pitch black except for the trees and the ground, the light shifting and changing as the camera travels through the trees, and when you're introduced to Mari, you see her diving into swimming pool and watch as she slowly floats to the bottom. You also have a slow, audio-less montage of her and Paige spending time with Justin, the mechanics of which emulate the pot-smoking their doing, a memorable image of a sign on a tree that says, "Lake Ends In The Road," and, my favorite, a high-up shot of Mari floating in the lake after Krug has shot her, with the blood leaking out of her back clearly visible. Really good stuff, all-around. Finally, knowing how much people hate those intrusive comedic cops in the original, Iliadis dispenses with them completely, helping give the movie a more consistent tone and keeps the power of the more intense scenes from becoming diluted.

While it may not have the same cultural relevance as the original, the remake does manage to retain some of the same themes, particularly of the danger of naivety and the shattering of innocence. Mari, despite having smoked pot in the past, as we learn, is portrayed as a very nice, charming girl who's very close to her parents and whose loveliness is shown in a montage of her taking a shower and putting her clothes on after a short dip in the lake. Rather than coming across as exploitive, as it did during the original's opening (the big difference here is we don't see Mari's breasts), it's done in a very delicate and innocent fashion, with a close-up of her head, her pulling underwear and panties up, and putting her blouse on, letting us see what a beautiful young woman she is, which makes what happens to her all the more tragic and horrific. Once she finishes putting her clothes on, she decides to innocently drive into town to hang out with Paige, and even though she no longer smokes pot and isn't so sure about the motel Justin leads them to, she eventually goes inside the room and joins them, figuring that doing it once for old time's sake couldn't hurt. And when her mother calls her on her cellphone to warn her of an approaching storm and tells her that she doesn't think it's a good idea for her to spend the night with Paige, Mari brushes off her worries and uses the phone's lousy signal as an excuse to tell her that she's doing it and that's that. She soon comes to regret that decision, as it leads to her getting her kidnapped, beaten up, sexually assaulted, hideously raped and defiled (that scene... we'll get to that later), and shot and left for dead. Even though she survives the ordeal and makes it to safety at the end of the movie, it's clear that the world she knew has been destroyed and she, as well as her family, will never be the same.

The movie's very tagline, "If someone hurt someone you love, how far would you go to get revenge?", sums up the other main theme from the original that's carried over. As with that movie, we have a situation where we meet these very likable, all-American, loving parents who are rather protective of and concerned for their daughter, especially in the case of Emma, who's reluctant to let her drive into town by herself, but ultimately decide to let her have some fun and independence. In this version, their concerns are reinforced even more, as they've already lost one child (exactly how Ben died is never explained), and during the third act, they go through every parent's worst nightmare all over again when they find Mari barely alive on their porch. As horrified as they are when they see she's been shot, realizing that she was raped is what really sends them over the edge, as they have to feel that they've utterly failed in protecting her, and their grief quickly turns to anger and hatred when they learn that their unexpected houseguests are the ones who did it. Their first concern initially is to get Mari to a hospital using the boat, while simply preparing to do whatever they must to protect themselves and her, but when he's looking for the keys to the boat, John becomes preoccupied with the tools in the boathouse that he could use to bludgeon them, while Emma begins to contemplate using one of the kitchen knives against them, and when Francis shows up and discovers Mari in the living room, the war is on when John and Emma kill him. For the most of the third act, getting Mari to help takes a backseat to their getting revenge on the others, and while that is very misguided and more than a little self-serving, given Mari's condition, it's easy to understand why they get caught up in that mindset and I have to admit that I find myself really rooting for them when they gain the upper-hand. Still, as in the original, seeing these people do a complete 180 and absolutely brutalize Krug and the gang is pretty shocking. They may not set a bunch of traps in the house or do anything as grisly bite one's penis off or take a chainsaw to one but the private justice they enact on them, especially on Francis (good God!), is still very vicious, to say the least, and the way they actually act as a team to do it, rather than the wife acting as a distraction while the husband does most of the dirty work like before, and the enraged, hate-filled faces they make while committing these acts are troubling.

As much as I can appreciate this look into the notion of how anybody can become a savage if they're pushed far enough, the one scene that I'm not so sure about is the ending, where John finishes off Krug. Besides my not liking the way Krug is killed, as it's so over-the-top that it feels like it belongs in a different movie, the idea that John got everyone to safety, then came back to the house to do something like this is really disturbing. Again, while Krug deserves this comeuppance for what he and the others did to Mari and Paige, John's using his medical knowledge to cut Krug all over in order to paralyze him from the neck down, stick his head in the house's broken microwave, and turn it on, causing his head to eventually explode, is just... you would've never expected that from the guy we met at the beginning of the movie. Even Krug, during the build-up to it, is constantly going, "What are you doing?!" I understand that this is to further show what revenge can drive you to but this makes John looks a little too sadistic and evil, about as much as Krug. He may not have shown any mercy in the agonizing death he and Emma gave Francis but, at least in that moment, it felt like they did what they had to do; this is something you'd expect freaking Jigsaw to do! Granted, it was shocking to see John take a chainsaw to Krug in the original, but I think the reason this particularly gets to me is because, like I said before, we really got to know the parents in this film. Yeah, I don't quite know how to feel about this.

Being a big-budget, glossy studio movie made in this day and age, there was no way that this movie could be as depraved and sick as the original in terms of its violence and the degradation of the girls. You're not going to get an offscreen gang-rape, one of the girls being forced to urinate on herself, both of them being forced to strip naked and make out with each other, one of them being completely disemboweled and having their arm cut off, or Krug cutting his name into Mari's chest before he rapes her. But that doesn't mean that the film soft-peddles everything, because it's still pretty rough: Paige's head is bashed against a sink in the motel room's bathroom, both she and Mari are beaten on after the car crash, parts of their clothes are ripped off, Krug forces Justin to grope Mari, and his raping of her is absolutely horrifying, even more disturbing for me personally than the one in the original, as sick as that was. Getting to the really blood violence, it doesn't have the same visceral realism as the original did, as you can tell that it's makeup effects created by some high-dollar effects artists (KNB, to be exact), but they still make you wince, like the bloody injuries the two cops at the beginning suffer, Francis' nose getting broken up against the window during the car crash, Paige being stabbed repeatedly in the torso and slowly bleeding to death, Sadie getting shot right through the eye, and Justin getting stabbed in the torso with a fire poker. The stuff with Francis in the house is the worst, as you get a nice, lovely close-up of John wiring up his broken nose when they first arrive there, and later on, when he gets attacked, he gets a bottle smashed over his head, stabbed in the chest with a butcher knife, bashed repeatedly with a hammer, John breaking his nose all over again with his fingers (which hurts just to look at it), his head getting shoved into a sink filled with water and his hand getting ground up in the garbage disposal, and being finished off with the hammer-claw to the head. (Dennis Iliadis said that one of his goals with the movie was not to make it a "torture porn" but that scene was borderline.) And finally, in the ending with Krug, you have a close-up of John cutting into his skin and his head exploding in the microwave, which is a good-looking effect (save for some bad digital enhancements added to it), but, as I said, feels like it belongs in a completely different movie. It makes me think of one of Tom Savini's proposed deaths for Jason at the end of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.

Following the dream-like opening in the forest, the film begins proper with Krug being transported to prison in a squad car, with two detectives in the front seat, one of whom is telling the other a raunchy joke. Turning down Krug's plea to stop so he can relieve himself, with the one guy telling him, "Fuck you," they then stop at a railroad crossing, waiting for the train to pass. The one detective notices that Krug looks as if he's praying and the criminal jokingly asks the lord for an empty mayonnaise jar to piss in. The detective informs him that, given the nature of the prison he's being taken to, he should be praying for something a lot more, when suddenly, a yellow truck comes at them on the driver's side and violently crashes into the car, spinning it off onto the side of the road. Two darkly-dressed people, a woman wearing a black, veil-like facemask and the other a man with a black one with a skull painted on it, step out and observe the damage they caused. They walk towards the car, with the woman walking over to the driver's side and seeing that the driver, while severely injured, with the left side of his face smashed up, is still alive... which she corrects by shooting him in the head, splattering blood on the windshield. The man takes the keys from the still-living detective in the passenger seat and, after throwing them to the woman, takes off his mask, revealing his face. The woman, who, of course, is Sadie, opens the back door and kisses Krug before getting him out. Krug walks around the front of the car and, after admonishing Francis for hitting them so hard, asks where his kid is; Francis simply says that he's fine. He then punches the mortally-wounded detective in the head and then, wraps the seatbelt around his neck and pulls him forward, causing him to hang out of the door, the belt slowly strangling him to death. As he gurgles and coughs, Krug yells, "What?! I can't understand you!", and Francis says, "I think he's saying, 'Take my money,'" as he takes his wallet, with the man's blood dripping on the money when he opens it up. Sadie then wonders what he's seeing as he's dying and Krug, just add to the cruelty, grabs the picture of the detective's daughters off the dashboard and shows it to him, answering Sadie, "Something he'll never see again." Blood then drips all over the pictures and Krug finishes the detective off by pushing down on his neck until it breaks.

Things become casual and pleasant for a while, until Mari and Paige go to the motel with Justin and, while they're trying to improve his look, giving Francis' shirt to wear and trying to figure out what to do with his hair, Krug, Sadie, and Francis walk in the door and things quickly become tense. The adults were obviously not expecting to see them there, and while Francis and Sadie are rather intrigued, Krug, who shuts the door behinds him and locks it, is clearly miffed. Justin says he thought they weren't coming back and Sadie, showing how little shame she is by taking her shirt off, revealing her bare breasts in front of him and the girls, tells him their timeline has been sped up. As she puts a bra on, Justin, per Francis' request, introduces the girls, and Krug, commenting on how lovely they are, mentions that it smells like they've been having a party in the room. Justin nervously tries to explain that he was just trying to get rid of the pot but Krug's irritation begins to show, as he cuts Justin off in mid-sentence, asking him if the term he used, "liquidation," is, "My word or yours?" Things become tenser when Krug becomes noticeably agitated upon the girls explaining that they were just giving Justin a bit of a makeover, when Sadie comes up behind Mari and pulls her sweatshirt down, exposing her shoulders, and rubbing her hands up and down her sides. Krug asks if the car he saw parked outside is hers and when she says it is, they say that they could use a vehicle like that, since theirs was totaled in the escape earlier. Krug and Sadie become irritated with each other about whose fault that is, and when Justin tries to quietly ask his father what's going on, he gets punched in the gut, falling onto the bed, and Krug throws a newspaper that was sitting outside the door at him, explaining that they made the front page. When Justin looks at the paper, he sees both a photo of his father and one of Sadie from the squad car's dash cam. Mari and Paige, realizing the danger they're now in, try to talk their way out, with Mari saying that what's going on is none of their business, while Paige promises that they won't say anything. Krug asks Francis if he believes them, and while he says he could, rubbing and pressing on Paige's shoulders, Sadie says that she doesn't. Paige begins to panic, frantically rambling that they won't say anything, when Francis, telling her to calm down, whips out a small but very sharp knife to further make his point. Mari tries to get him to put the knife down, giving Sadie the car keys, and begs them not to hurt Paige, who again asks if they can go. It becomes clear from their actions and the way they're talking that Francis and Sadie have no intention of letting them go, and Krug confirms when he tells them that they can't risk it.

Upon hearing that, Paige panics, breaks out of Francis' arms, and runs into the bathroom behind them, closing and locking the door. As Francis tries to break the door down, Paige scrambles in the room, trying to get a cellphone signal while also trying to open up the window above the toilet, but the locking mechanisms are rusted and stuck. Outside, Sadie warns Mari not to move, as the door begins to give way from Francis' ramming and Paige desperately screams through the window, hoping someone will hear. She sees a police van driving away outside and, smacking on the glass, continues screaming for help, when the door bursts open and Francis comes running in, nearly tumbling into the bathtub and ripping the shower curtain down. He quickly gets up, grabs Paige, throws her to the floor, picks up her cellphone and smashes it against the wall, and knocks her out by grabbing her head from behind and slamming it against the sink. Looking out the window, Krug and Sadie see that nobody heard the commotion, while Francis comes out of the bathroom, saying that Paige is out, and rips Mari's cellphone out of her pocket, throws it on the floor, and stomps it with his foot. Krug tells them to start loading up, and when Justin apologizes to Mari by saying they weren't supposed to be back, he gives Justin his lecture about responsibility and manning up. He tells him that he has to start taking responsibility for what he's just done and tells him to look at Mari. When he's reluctant to do so, Krug gets rough with him, grabbing him by the chin and making him look, eventually pushing forward to force him to, screaming at him to look at her. He finally does and Krug tells him it's a good start, before giving him a quick kiss on the side of his face and pushing him.

With Justin in the passenger seat and everybody else in the back, Krug drives Mari's car out of the motel parking lot and onto the road, telling Justin to put his seatbelt on, while Francis and Sadie continue to menace and sexually touch Mari and Paige, the girls doing everything they can to stay calm. Krug then says, "Ah, hell," as there's a cop car coming towards from the other direction on the country highway. Sadie and Francis quickly subdue the girls before they can do anything to alert the cops and once the car's passed by, they let up a little bit but still continue to caress and grope the girls. Krug then turns the car off the main road, onto a dirt road leading into the woods, and he and Francis try to figure out where to go. Mari then tells them to go left, explaining that she's been coming there for a long time and tells them of the highway through the mountains that they're looking for. Krug does what she says, turning to the left when they reach the fork in the road, and he thanks her for making things clear. Sadie does the same, not noticing that Mari uses her foot to push in the car's cigarette lighter, and tells her, "I always took your kind to be whining little fucking bitches, born with silver spoons up their asses, but you... I think maybe there's hope for you, Mari." She then tells Krug that she thinks Mari has some "potential" he should consider and he says he thinks she's been a cool customer. But, when Mari sees the lighter pop back out and then sees them drive past the driveway leading to her summer house, she proves that's not quite the case, as she grabs the lighter and burns Sadie on the right side of her forehead with it. Mari then reaches over and tries to open the door, while Francis has to hold down Paige, who begins struggling to get free. Krug, while still trying to drive, tries to help Francis but gets kicked in the head, as Mari manages to open the door and almost jumps out, but is grabbed by Sadie before she can. With Francis' help, she pulls Mari back in and closes the door. Krug tries to get everybody to settle down but he loses control of the car and it careens off the road, down a small slope, slides to the right and hits a tree trunk, causing Francis to bash his face against the window, breaking his nose, and it then spins to the left and hits another tree on its other side. It runs down a few more feet before slamming its front right into another tree, putting it out of commission.

After a few seconds of silence and stillness, one of the back doors opens up and Paige slowly crawls out and gets to her feet... only to turn to her right and see Krug standing there, who immediately backhands her on the chin and sends her back to the ground. Francis then stumbles out of the car, walks by Paige, groaning in anger and pain, and looks at his reflection in the car's back window to see how bloodied up his face is. Mari then crawls out of the door to his left and, before she can crawl away, he kicks her in the stomach out of retaliation. Krug then dumps Paige next to her and asks Sadie if she's okay, with her response being, "Do I look o-fucking-kay? Fuck!" Holding the burn mark Mari left on her head, she looks at herself in a makeup mirror and is horrified to see the scar that's been left there. Francis tells her she should let the girls know how she feels about that, as he angrily kicks Paige, holding his bleeding, broken nose and wincing from the pain. Sadie then takes his advice and jumps out of the car and is on top of Mari, yelling at her for burning her face. Paige then takes the opportunity to grab a large branch and jab Sadie in the gut with it, shoving her off of Mari. Both girls try to run but Mari is quickly caught by Krug, telling her friend to run as she struggles in his grip. Krug tells Sadie and Francis to get back and they take off into the woods after her, while he continues restraining Mari. Paige frantically runs through the woods, screaming for help, with Sadie and Francis not too far behind her, yelling at her to come back. Jumping over a small ridge, Paige quickly takes shelter in a small opening in the side of it, trying to be calm and quiet as she can be when her two pursuers jump down and stop just a few feet away, scanning the woods for her. They then run off to the right, and Paige quickly takes off in the opposite direction, running through the trees as fast as she can, at one point falling and twisting her ankle. Ignoring the pain, she hobbles and limps on, making it to the edge of the woods and a construction site there. She screams for help but nobody hears her because of the noise of the machinery and she's forced to limp towards it. She doesn't get very far, though, before Sadie tackles her to the ground from her left and pulls her back into the woods. She manages to break loose but is knocked unconscious by Francis, who spits on her before taking out a gun and cocks it, ready to kill her. Sadie stops him, however, reminding him that Krug wanted them to bring her back, and she rips off Paige's blouse, revealing her bra.

They drag her through the woods, all the way back to the crash site, using her blouse as a way to keep her hands tied behind her back, and they set her down not too far from where Mari and Krug are sitting across from each other. Francis asks him, "Now what?", and Krug gets to his feet, walks over to Justin, who's sitting in front of a nearby tree, and asks him, "You ready to be a man?" Justin, not understanding what his father means, asks, "What?", and Krug, motioning towards the girls, tells him, "Pick one... or both." Not believing what's happening, Justin asks Krug what he's doing and he angrily grabs his son and pulls him over towards Mari, who's held down by Francis and Sadie, and forces his hand up under her blouse and to her bra, ripping it off. Justin struggles with him, and while Krug manages to get him to grope Mari's breasts and her midsection, he manages to break free and sit down away from them. Krug angrily yells at him, as he begins unbuttoning Mari's shorts, when Paige tells him that he's pathetic for doing this to his son. Amazed at that outburst, Krug gets up, asking, "Where did that come from all of a sudden?", walks over to her, and gets her to her feet. She asks him if he's going to hit her and he says he's not. True to his word, he doesn't... he pulls out a knife and stabs her in her lower stomach. Francis then comes up and stabs her in the lower back, and they both hold their knives inside her, with Krug pulling his out, only to stab her again, this time in her right side, and pulls out slightly sideways. With blood streaming out of the wounds, Paige slowly begins to expire, Francis setting her down on the ground, while Mari, who's been helplessly watching the whole thing, scrambles over to her and puts her head in her lap, as she struggles to breathe. Krug, looking at Justin, who's sitting off on the sidelines, doing nothing, screams, "You think I'm pathetic, Paige?! Look at my fuckin' kid here!" Walking over to the girls, Krug squats down and tells Mari to tell Paige that everything's going to be okay, that help's on the way, and that it's not as bad as it looks. As Paige convulses in Mari's lap, Krug orders her to do what he says, saying that Paige needs her. Refusing to play his sick game, Mari tells him she's not going to, and Krug angrily grabs her, picks her up, carries her over to Justin, and sets her down on the ground in front of him.

This leads into the rape scene, which is by far the movie's most disturbing and upsetting moment, even more so than the one in the original. As hideous as that one was, with Krug having carved his name into Mari beforehand and drooled on the side of her face while doing it, this one gets to me even more so and is a perfect example of why I said that this film is more emotionally upsetting than the original, which I find to be viscerally so. Rather than go into the details of the scene itself as I've been doing, which I can't bring myself to do with this, I'll simply talk about why this affects me the way it does, as my face must've turned chalk-white when I first saw it and it's still tough to watch. For one, in the original, despite a little bit of struggling and a look of discomfort on her face near the end of it, Mari had basically given up at that point and didn't protest that much; here, Mari is screaming and crying, as well as begging him not to do it, from when Krug rips her shorts and panties off to when he starts doing the deed (her screams go right through me), and she continues moaning, whining, and crying like a helpless little child throughout the length of it. That's another thing: the length. The original was very short, while this feels like it goes on for an eternity, and after a while, I'm about ready to yell, "Stop! I can't take anymore!" You can also see the emotional trauma and defilement she's going through, as she feels her innocence literally being ripped apart, watches Paige die just a few feet away, and she loses her necklace during the act, which Krug then cruelly tosses away when she tries to pick it up, making her cry even more, and leading to Justin getting it and putting it in his pocket. You also see way more of Krug's reactions to it than you'd want to, with him grunting when he first penetrates her, caressing her shoulders and holding her hand against the ground, a shot of his bare butt (which I definitely didn't need to see), and when he's done, he gets up and tells Justin, who was forced to watch, that he missed out. And finally, when it's over, you can just feel the pain and humiliation she feels as she gets to her feet and gingerly pulls her panties back up. I don't watch a lot of movies with rape in them, personally, but from the ones I've seen, this ranks up there as one of the most disturbing, along with the one in David Fincher's version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (the one in the original version of that movie was pretty bad but that one got me more).

Sitting on her knees, Mari mumbles something, and when Sadie asks her what she said, she says, "I love to swim." They simply blow it off as her mumbling incoherently, but she slowly rises to her feet, holding a large rock in her right hand, saying, "I can do it." When they least expect it, she clocks Krug on the side of the face with the rock and runs past him, into the woods, with Francis taking a shot at her but missing. She runs through the brush, making it to the lake, then wades into the shallows, and swims straight ahead. Krug, now brandishing the gun, makes it to the lake, followed by the others, and upon seeing Mari, takes aim and fires. Mari dives beneath the water, with Krug's bullets whizzing by her, and he continues shooting at her when she surfaces again. He misses her a couple of more times but, just as she rounds the bend of a large outcropping in the lake and is almost out of sight, he fires one last shot and it hits her in the back of her shoulder. Her movements quickly slow down and, as they watch, she turns and floats on her back, her body now limp. Sadie lets out a shocked, "Shit," while Francis joyfully says, "You got her," and as they watch her floating, they see the gathering storm clouds over the nearby mountain, with lightning streaking through them. It immediately begins pouring rain and Krug and Francis head back to the site, while Sadie, looking at Mari's apparently lifeless body, actually sheds a tear before joining them. Walking back to the crash site, Krug has to force Justin to get to his feet and head up the slope with them.

As in the original, things slow down for a bit, as the gang shows up at the Collingwoods' doorstep, telling them that there's been an accident, and in the next cut, John is having to perform some impromptu surgery on Francis' nose. First, he painfully twists it back into place and puts a towel to it to stop the bleeding, telling him to try to breathe normally. With no way to get them to a hospital, and John being an ill-equipped doctor, he uses a piece of wire and needle to begin the stitching on his nose. And, at that exact moment, a lightning bolt hits the power line right outside and the lights go out. Exasperated, John tells Francis not to move and heads out to turn on the generator. While he walks out to the boathouse, Krug asks Emma if they live there permanently and when she says that they actually live in the city, Sadie asks the uncomfortable question, "How many houses do you have?" Things become a little bit tense, as Emma tries to change the subject, asking them what they're doing out in the middle of nowhere. Unbeknownst to her, Francis slowly takes out his knife, feeling she may be getting too suspicious, but Krug comes up with a story about wanting to uphold a tradition his father did with him by doing the same with Justin. This settles things down and Francis folds his knife back up. Right then, at the boathouse, John cranks the generator and the power comes back on in the house. Coming back in, he gets back to finishing wiring up Francis' nose, having Sadie hold the flashlight as he works, and as he does, Francis winces and groans in pain, while Krug tells him to man up. John finishes and cleans up the excess blood, telling Emma to give him some antiseptic cream out of the drawer, and while this is also painful for Francis, it doesn't last long, and Emma finishes it up by applying the antiseptic cream to the cut. Francis appreciates this, showing his first hints of attraction towards Emma. Outside, in the middle of the lake, Mari emerges from the water and grabs onto a buoy.

After it's decided that they need to spend the night and that they can take the guesthouse, Justin is horrified when he sees a picture of Mari on the refrigerator, to the point where he has to run to the bathroom, much to Emma's puzzlement. He doesn't throw up but he's so guilt-riddled that he can barely breath, and when Krug checks on him for Emma, he warns Justin to keep quiet, not knowing what his son's learned. Taking out Mari's necklace, Justin walks out of the bathroom and, seeing that his father and the others are in the living room, he walks into the kitchen and puts the necklace around the cup of hot chocolate he left in there earlier. He turns around to see Krug standing there, and while he's initially frightened that he saw what he was doing, he relaxes when he says they're being shown to their room. While Mari crawls out the lake and into the reeds on the shore, Emma gets her guests settled into the small bungalow, having to light candles for them to see since the generator doesn't connect to it. Once that's done, she heads back to the main house, not seeing Mari crawling along the ground nearby, and heads inside, telling John that she got them squared away, although she comments on how strange they are. John goes to lock the front door, when the two of them hear a knocking sound. When they hear again, and realize that it's coming from the porch, they head out that way to investigate. Walking out onto the porch, they're able to see with a flashlight that the sound is a rocking chair out there smacking against the wall, and when they get closer to it, John's flashlight illuminates Mari lying on the floor beside it. They quickly rush to her, and after John turns her over to see that she's breathing, he turns her back on her stomach to see that she's been shot. Getting her inside and putting her on the coffee table, John has to do CPR and apply chest compressions to get her to start breathing again when she stops, spitting up water when she does. He comforts her, telling her that they're with her, and asks for a knife, as he needs to stop the bleeding. When he brings it to her, he tells her that he needs a lot of towels and any type of alcohol, as he sticks the blade into the fireplace. Emma runs into the kitchen and scrambles to get the necessary stuff, when she sees the necklace around the cup on the counter and realizes what it means.

Once the knife has been heated up enough, John brings it over to Mari and, warning her that this isn't going to feel good but needs to be done, sticks it into the bullet wound, cauterizing it (I love Tony Goldwyn's performance here, as he responds to her moans of pain with, "I know, sweetie," like a real father would). Once that's done, he checks her over for any other injuries and then sees the blood between her thighs, realizing that she's been raped, a realization that horrifies and enrages him. He hears her mumbling something and she says that she can't breathe. Realizing what he needs to do, he turns her back over on her side and tells Emma that he needs a glass of water, grabbing a bottle of spray-cleaner and taking off the handle with the long tube attached to it. When she brings him the glass, he cuts a little bit of the top of her blouse and then makes a small puncture in the back of her shoulder with the knife, letting a little bit of air out. He sticks the tube down into the cut and drains some blood out into the glass in order to equalize the pressure. Once that's done, Mari is able to breathe easily. John asks her if she can tell him who did this to her but Mari's fallen asleep. He becomes preoccupied with getting her to a hospital, when Emma shows him the necklace, which she says Justin left on the kitchen counter, and tells him that she was wearing it when she left. The realization dawns on John and he glances in the direction of the guesthouse, becoming grief-stricken and angry, telling Emma that Mari was raped, causing her to break down. John tells him that they're going to get Mari to a hospital and that they have to be prepared to do anything to defend themselves and her. He also indicates that they're going to get her there by boat.

Over in the guesthouse, there's a moment where Krug, putting his gun on the nightstand by the bed, lays down on it, while Justin is pretending to be asleep on the couch in the adjoining room but actually has his eye on the gun. After a brief bit where John goes out to the boathouse to get the boat ready, only to find that the key isn't there, we cut back to the guesthouse, where Krug gets out of bed to use the bathroom, leaving Sadie in the bedroom by herself. Taking the opportunity, and making sure he doesn't wake up Francis, who's sleeping in the chair across from the couch, Justin cautiously gets up, creeps into the bedroom, and takes the gun. Back at the main house, John and Emma search for the boat keys, with John looking in the garage while Emma looks through the drawers in the kitchen, when they both notice the potential weapons nearby. Emma takes a couple of knives out of their holder, when Francis comes up behind her and startles her. He makes small-talk but when Emma becomes afraid that he'll find Mary in the living room or see her picture on the refrigerator, she starts flirting with him, offering him some wine and telling him that John's dead drunk upstairs. As John scrambles to find the keys in the toolshed, and eyes the various hammers, wrenches, and other blunt objects he could use against Krug and his gang, Emma finds an open bottle of wine in the fridge and pours some for her and Francis. John is then shown grabbing both a wrench and a hammer. Francis inquires about the hot-tub, which he noticed earlier, and Emma feigns agreeing to meet up with him there. He then walks out of the kitchen and towards the living room, where he sees Mari lying on the coffee table. Not surprisingly, he goes, "Son of a bitch," but, just as he's turning around, Emma comes in and cracks the wine bottle over his head. The side of his neck bleeding, he chases her into the kitchen, she grabs a butcher knife and stabs him in the chest with it. Backing up and gasping, he pulls out, as she makes a run for it into the dining room, only for him to chase after her and push her onto the table. Backhanding her, he prepares to use the knife on her, only for her to knee him between the legs and fling him off of her. Emma quickly crawls out of the dining room and towards the backdoor, where she meets John, who's holding a hammer. He helps her up, and when Francis charges in, he knocks the knife out of his hand. Francis grabs the toaster and hits him in the head with it, causing him to drop the hammer, but when he runs into the dining room and to the window, yelling for Krug, John comes up behind him, puts him in a chokehold, and breaks his nose again.

Covering his mouth, John drags him back into the kitchen, struggling with him and getting knocked sideways when he hits the table, with Francis getting smashed through a chair. John tries to grab his legs when he crawls away but he gets kicked in the face and Francis grabs onto the edge of the sink to pull himself to his feet. Emma runs up to him, grabs him, and, after a lot of resistance on his part, shoves his head into water-filled sink. His struggling manages to push her back enough so he can pull his head up but John comes up and grabs him, using his extra strength to shove him back in, as his arms flail around the sink and counter. When he pulls out the stopper, they realize his hand is near the garbage disposal and John hits the nearby switch on the wall, activating it. He then forces his hand towards it and within seconds, the sink fills up with blood. Francis begins screaming in agony, pulling his head up out of the water, and John and Emma back away as he stands there, desperately trying to pull his hand out as he screams and screams and screams. Spying the hammer on the floor, John grabs it and finishes Francis off by putting the claw right into his hand, killing him instantly. His body hangs limply from the sink by its hand and when John turns off the garbage disposal, its shredded remains pull loose and the body drops to the floor. Emma puts her hand over her mouth and gags and coughs at what they've just done, as John tries to comfort her... and the two of them then look in the direction of the guesthouse.

Walking to the guesthouse and heading inside, with John brandishing a fire-poker as a weapon and Emma a butcher knife, they creep up the stairs, around the corner up top, and head towards the bedroom, where they find Krug and Sadie lying in bed together. They also see Justin sitting in a corner to the right of the bed, with the gun he took from the nightstand, and he initially points it at them but then, after some quick contemplation, offers it to John. He nods understandingly and, handing Emma the fire poker, creeps towards Justin as quietly as he can, walking softly on the creaky floorboards so as not to wake Krug and Sadie. Justin hands him the gun but when he cocks it, it makes a very loud sound, rousing Sadie. Seeing this, John quickly takes a shot, hitting Sadie in the left side of her collarbone, and when she falls back and struggles with her wound, John tries to get a shot off at Krug but he rolls off the bed and dodges it. He throws his wadded up shirt at John, knocking him back against a dresser, and when Emma tries to charge into the room, Krug slams the door on her. Sadie jumps on top of John, punching him repeatedly, while Krug turns the bed mattress over and uses it to further block Emma from coming into the room. John slams Sadie up against the wall, knocking her off of him, and Krug shoves the mattress at him, making a run for it into the living room. John takes another shot at him but misses again, as Krug crashes through the window and lands roughly on the ground outside. Missing with another shot, John and Emma then see Sadie, having crawled into the bathroom, slam the door shut. While Krug runs for the main house, John tries to break the bathroom door down, with Sadie ripping out the loose rod holding the shower curtain to use as a weapon. Elsewhere, Krug makes it inside the main house and, ironically, yells, "Who are you crazy fucks?!", when he wanders into the living room and finds the bloody aftermath of John's impromptu operation on Mari, perplexing him even more.

Back at the guesthouse, John breaks into the bathroom and is immediately attacked by Sadie, who whacks him in the head with the metal rod a couple of times. He grabs her by the throat and slams her against the wall but she knees him, making him slump to the floor on his knees, and hits him with the rod. He manages to grab her and shove her into the bathtub, but when he puts his hand on her face, she bites his finger, forcing him to let go. At the main house, Krug finds Francis' brutalized corpse, while at the guesthouse, Sadie shoves John away. Justin then steps in to help, tackling Sadie to the wall, but she shoves him into the tub and knocks him out with the rod. While Krug is struck by just how violently they killed his brother, murmuring, "Fuck me, Francis," Sadie tries to hit John again but he grabs the rod and punches her, sending her flying back against the wall, and before she can attack again, Emma finishes her off with a shot right through the right eye. Knowing that they've only got one left to deal with, John runs back to the main house to finish off Krug, who's waiting for him in there. He heads through the front door and walks cautiously through the house, brandishing the fire poker again and checking the corners, while Emma desperately looks for the boat-keys in the guesthouse. John finds no sign of Krug in the kitchen, and as Emma continues looking for the keys, she runs into Justin. Walking into the living room, John sees his wallet, which he left there, sitting on the table, opened up to a picture of him and Emma with Mari, signifying that Krug now knows who they are, and he then hears some light sounds upstairs. Emma, meanwhile, makes it to the boathouse, where they took Mari, and tells her that they might have to do things differently than they originally planned. John tries to draw Krug out, while he, hiding in the hallway upstairs, talks about the odds of this happening, theorizes that Justin was the one who told them, and compliments him and Emma on how badly they messed up Francis. He then tosses something down the hall to confuse John as to where he is and ducks into another room. As John heads upstairs, Krug tries to find a way to get out through one of the windows, when he sees someone running towards the boathouse and figures out how they're planning to escape, opening the window to get a better look.

Reaching the top of the stairs, John swings with the poker when he rounds the bend, hitting nothing, but when he hears a sound in a room down the hall, he runs through the door. Seeing the window open, he runs to it and looks out, yelling for Emma in a panic. The lightning reveals that Krug was hiding over in the room's dark corner and he charges at John, punching him in the face, and dodges his swings with the poker. John does a score a punch to the face, while Krug misses when he throws a chair at him. He dodges more attempts by John to get him with the poker and then grabs him and punches him in the gut, and after a quick cutaway where Justin arrives at the boathouse and is asked by Emma if he found his father and John, we see Krug fling John out into the hallway, hitting the floor. He then picks John up, knees him in the face, swings him into some nearby shelves, smashing them up, and when John tries to crawl away, Krug, now brandishing the poker, kicks him and sends him through the banister at the top of the stairs and through a small table directly below, with the remains of the banister falling on top of him. Krug walks down the stairs, taunting John, telling him he was expecting more fight out of him as he shoves him down to the floor with his foot. He then mentions that Mari and Paige gave him a lot of fight, prompting John to grab a piece of banister, swing around, and hit him with it, but when John tries to make it to the next room, he gets hit in the back with the poker. He leans over the couch when Krug grabs him by the hair, pulls him back, punches him in the gut, pushes him against the wall with his hand around his throat, and holds him there until he decides to elbow him in the face, sending him tumbling down into another small table and onto the floor. Standing over him, poking him with the poker, Krug asks him he wants to know what he did to Mari, and as he bends down, John notices something lying nearby. He then asks if he wants to know how "tight" Mari was, and John answers, "No. I want to hear you beg for your fuckin' life." He puts his hand up underneath the stand a lamp was sitting on before and slams it up into Krug's face, knocking him away, and John tries to make a run for it, but Krug catches up to him and puts him in a choke-hold using the poker. Saying he doesn't feel like begging, he slams John into a nearby doorframe and chokes him until he falls limp and hits the floor.

He's just about to finish John off, when he hears a gun cock behind his head. Lowering the poker, he turns his head and is surprised to see that it's Justin. He incredulously asks what he's doing, turning around to face him, and Justin answers that he's ending it. Krug, not taking him seriously, says that he's not mad and tells him not to do anything stupid, when Justin pulls the trigger... and the gun clicks empty. Krug then angrily knocks the gun out of his son's hands and grabs him by the back of his neck, shoving him down a small hallway and up against a door, yelling that he loved and took care of him. He grabs Justin by the throat and shoves the poker into the side of his stomach, as Justin asks, "Loved?!" Krug puts his hand over his mouth, telling him, "You don't get to talk now!", but Justin shoves his arm down and yells, "Fuck you!" Krug then shoves the poker deeper into his son's flesh, with Justin gasping and coughing, but before he can finish him off, Emma comes in and whacks him in the side of the head with a fire extinguisher. She blasts him with it, forcing him back, and she and John take turns hitting him from both the back and the front, forcing him down to the floor, with Emma knocking him unconscious with one last whack to the head. Seeing that he's out, they both decide enough's enough and the rampage ends, with John checking to see if Krug is still alive before joining Emma in checking on the seriously injured Justin. After two shots of Francis and Sadie's bodies, we get a silent, slow-motion montage of the survivors using the boat to get to safety, close-ups of the dead expressions on their faces showing that they've been forever changed by what's taken place. However, the shots of the water and the boat start to become cross-edited with close-ups of a blade cutting into flesh, and then, we see peaceful shots of the house in the sunlight of the next day inter-cut with shots that establish the man who was being cut as Krug. He wakes up to find John standing over him and when he says that he can't move, he explains that he cut into him all over his body in order to paralyze him from the neck down, as he didn't have any rope or duct-tape. Krug watches helplessly as John wheels in a microwave that Emma's brother had broken during his recent stay and then pulls his head up and sets it inside, all of this being inter-cut with shots of the house's exterior. John pushes some buttons on the microwave and, telling him he's going to be fine, hits the start button. He walks away, as Krug begins to moan and wince against the burning pain and he screams right as his head explodes as a result of it, ending the movie.

In keeping with Dennis Iliadis' goal to keep the movie at a consistent tone, the music score, composed by John Murphy, and soundtrack have none of the inappropriately silly pieces and songs that the original had and, indeed, mesh well with what you're seeing on the screen. Most of the music is, as you might expect, unsettling and tense, with an electronic sound to them, heightening the fear factor and the nightmarish tone of the scenes they accompany, but you also have softer, warmer music for the more innocent scenes and orchestral pieces for some of the more tragic moments, notably when Mari is apparently shot and killed by Krug while trying to make it across the lake and at the very end of the credits, reinforcing the horrific events that have unfolded. While the score, despite being of quality, is one of those that mainly works in the moment but isn't exactly memorable afterward, there are two bits of music in the movie that are hard to forget. One is a very soft, innocent-sounding piano piece that you hear from time to time and which can seen as Mari's theme, accentuating what her loveliness when you first hear it early in the movie. However, you also hear it after she's been raped, calling back to the innocence and young beauty that has now been horribly defiled, and at the end when the survivors are escaping to safety, again in an ironic way, as they've now been changed forever and will always be affected by what they've been through, all there's still a ray of hope in it all as well. The other is a song called Dirge by the band, Death in Vegas, which plays over the first half of the ending credits. Instead of an actual song, it's really an eerie, dream-like, electronic instrumental, accompanied by a haunting female vocalization that continuously goes, "La, la, la," in different variations and patterns. It is absolutely strange and does lend itself to the unsettling movie it preceded quite well (Iliadis said he chose it because he wanted something that was both "ironic" and "innocent"; I don't know if that's how I would describe, but who am I to question him?). The only thing is that it would've been nice to hear a little bit of The Road Leads To Nowhere, be it the original by David Hess or a cover (like what Eli Roth used over the ending credits for Cabin Fever), somewhere, like maybe on the car radio at one point. They probably wanted to distance themselves and really make it their own movie, which I can respect, but it would've been nice to hear it, if only briefly.

The Last House on the Left '09 may never have the cultural resonance and visceral impact of the original but is still a very well-made movie in its own right, one of the better of the numerous horror remakes made during the 2000's, and, in my opinion, is the best of any of the remakes of Wes Craven's work (I've never been big on either of the Hills Have Eyes remakes and you know how I feel about the 2010 Nightmare on Elm Street). It's one of those movies where there are few things that don't work: the direction by Dennis Iliadis is solid, the acting is great all-around, the movie has a very nice, appealing look to it, it's paced very well, it manages to be very hard-hitting and emotionally impactful in its own ways, its music score is effective enough, and, like all good remakes, it keeps enough of the same material and themes from the original while still being different enough to where it's not a carbon copy and manages to correct some of that film's glaring flaws. But, all that said, the film's unavoidable glossiness and stylized nature does keep it from feeling as uncomfortably realistic as the original, the gore and blood effects, while well-done, are clearly the work of high-paid makeup artists, the music, despite its effectiveness, isn't the most memorable save for a couple of pieces, and the film's ending, in addition to having a death scene that feels like it belongs in a different movie, pushes one of the themes a little too far in terms of one of the lead characters. At the end of the day, though, it is a movie that I definitely recommend, including to diehard fans of the original, who may be surprised at just how good it really is.

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