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Wednesday, March 18, 2009 06:52 pm

Last House rotten to the core; but Miss March is worse

From left, Aaron Paul, Garret Dillahunt, Spencer Treat Clark and Riki Lindhome pay a visit to the parents of a recent victim of theirs in The Last House on the Left.

Wes Craven’s 1972 feature The Last House on the Left has a permanent place in horror film history as one of the genre’s most notorious releases. Pushing the boundaries of gore and violence, this brutal feature served as the filmmaker’s calling card as well as an entry into the industry for his co-producer, Sean Cunningham, who would go on to give birth to the Friday the 13th franchise. With the recent spate of remakes of horror films from the ’70s, it was inevitable that Last House would be redone for the new millennium. With Craven and Cunningham on board as producers, Greek director Dennis Iliadis has given their sordid tale a high-gloss sheen that belies its gruesome content. Yeah, it’s good-looking torture porn, but torture porn nonetheless.

The premise of the film is a textbook example of narrative simplicity, as it lays out every parent’s worst nightmare in a straightforward manner, bolstered by a Technicolor splatter scheme. Two teenage girls, Mari and Paige (Sara Paxton and Martha MacIsaac), run afoul of a dysfunctional family of psychopaths, whose sole purpose seems to be to roam the countryside looking for innocent victims to rape, torture and kill. Krug (Garrett Dillahunt), who’s just been sprung from custody by his brother Frank (Aaron Paul), girlfriend Sadie (Riki Lindhome) and son Justin (Spencer Treat Clark), decides that since the two girls have seen him, they must be dispatched. Taking them out into the woods, they brutally abuse and kill the young women and, because of a car accident, are forced to seek refuge at a nearby home. What they don’t realize is that their hosts, John and Emma Collingwood (Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter), are actually Mari’s parents. And when they discover what their guests have done, all bets are off as they mete out their own brand of vengeance.

The story offers no surprises as it’s obvious that the Collingwoods will have their revenge and that the audience will side with them. In fact, there were members of the audience I saw the film with that cheered, laughed and clapped when one of the gang had his head toasted in a microwave. These killers are painted in such a reprehensible light that their violent death becomes a foregone and justified conclusion. It’s a manipulative piece of work that turns the table on the Collingwoods and the audience, putting us in the killer’s shoes in an effort to show that we are not that far removed from their brand of savagery. It’s a transparent, vile exercise that leaves everyone involved, the makers and the viewers alike, feeling cheapened and debased. That it’s so well made only heightens its allure and increases its deceptive qualities. That it is “only a movie” serves as some solace, though the fact the people will likely flock to it, is far more disturbing than anything that could appear on the screen.

From left, Aaron Paul, Garret Dillahunt, Spencer Treat Clark and Riki Lindhome pay a visit to the parents of a recent victim of theirs in The Last House on the Left.

Is Miss March the worst film ever made? It’s a point to ponder. Sitting through it was surely the longest 90 minutes I’ve spent in a movie theater this year and caused me to wonder, as I suffered through it, just how a piece of garbage such as this could be produced. Who in their right mind could have given the green light to an offensive sex comedy about a virgin who wakes from a four-year coma to find his ex is now a Playboy playmate and sets out to reunite with her? Worse premises have been made into decent films. However there’s a vileness to this project that would befoul even the best idea.

Someday I hope to be able to write a screenplay that contains a phrase as poetic as “sweet turd cutter” to describe a woman’s rear end, is smart enough to include a sex scene gone awry due to an epileptic woman having a seizure at an inopportune time and is classy enough to have repeated scenes of a young man repeatedly soiling himself. Yeah, this is smart stuff that’s not only devoid of talent but offensive towards women, who are portrayed as nothing more than bimbos. One thing’s for sure, Miss March is the frontrunner for worst film of 2009.

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