Last House On The Left (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Arrow Films
Review written by and copyright: Paul Lewis (22nd October 2023).
The Film

The Last House on the Left (Dennis Iliadis, 2009)

Arrow Video have released on Blu-ray Dennis Iliadis’ 2009 remake of The Last House on the Left. Wes Craven produced this reimagining of his own 1972 debut feature, after pitching the project to indie production company Rogue Pictures in 2006. Alongside Marianne Maddalena, the producer with whom Craven had worked on numerous films throughout the 1990s and early-2000s, Craven formed his own production company, Midnight Entertainment, under which the Dennis Iliadis-directed remake of The Last House on the Left was produced. (For what it’s worth, this writer’s review of Arrow’s Blu-ray release of Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left may be found here.)

The film follows the basic narrative premise of Craven’s original, but with some notable changes. Enthusiastic swimmer Mari Collingwood (Sara Paxton) is holidaying with her parents, Emergency Room Doctor John Collingwood (Tony Goldwyn) and his wife, teacher Emma (Monica Potter), at their isolated second home, situated in the woods and close to a lake.

Mari heads out to meet her friend Paige (Martha MacIsaac), who is from a much less privileged background. They are approached by Justin (Spencer Treat Clark), who offers to help the girls score some marijuana. The trio drive out to a motel, but they are ambushed by a gang headed by Krug (Garret Dillahunt), who has been sprung from police captivity by his crew.

Krug is Justin’s father, and also in the gang are Krug’s brother, Francis (Aaron Paul), and Krug’s lover Sadie (Riki Lindhome). The quartet treat Mari and Paige cruelly, eventually sexually assaulting and murdering the two young women – or so the gang believe. (Mari survives and is discovered by her father later in the film.)

By chance, Krug and his crew stumble across the Collingwood holiday home. Trapped by a torrential rainstorm, they ask the Collingwoods for help. Unaware of Krug’s attempted murder of their daughter, the Collingwoods oblige. However, a series of events leads the Collingwoods to realise that Krug and his associates have something to do with the disappearance of Mari, who has not returned from her trip to town. Eventually, John discovers the badly wounded Mari by the lakeside, and he and Emma plot their revenge.

Iliadis’ Last House establishes the cruelty of Krug and Company in its opening sequence, which depicts the gang breaking Krug out of police custody by ramming the car taking him to prison off the road. Krug’s particular brand of sadism is outlined when he shows one of the badly injured cops a photograph of said police officer’s family before snapping his neck. Meanwhile, Francis and Sadie’s behaviour quickly reveals this pair of characters to be equally menacing.

In particular, it’s difficult not to read Sadie’s bisexuality (“omnisexuality” might be a better word, in truth) – she is in a couple with Krug (or maybe a “throuple” with Krug and Francis; this is never made particularly clear) but displays a sexual interest in the two abducted teenage girls – as an index of her deviance, with a socioeconomic axe to grind. “I always took your kind to be whiny little spoilt bitches with silver spoons up their asses,” Sadie spits at Mari. Though Lindhome puts her heart and soul into her performance as Sadie, the film’s depiction of this character feels very one-dimensional and riddled with stereotypes.

That’s not to say the depictions of Krug or Francis shatter any stereotypes either. Both Dillahunt and Paul are excellent in their roles, but the script for this remake doesn’t give either character the sense of complexity that Craven’s film finds in David Hess and Fred Lincoln’s turns as Krug and “Weasel.” (This is something that is also addressed in David Flint and Adrian Smith’s commentary track on this Blu-ray release.) Shorn of Hess’ sensitivity and the use of his sweet, sweet music as counterpoint to the narrative events, Iliadis’ film feels much more like a film about marauding sadists. (Not that Krug and Company in Craven’s picture weren’t marauding sadists, but the savagery of their violence was undercut by that small but essential moment of guilt that immediately follows the murders of Phyllis and Mari, and their subsequent attempts to role play as respectable middle class types to Mari’s parents.)

Rumours of hasty rewrites to remove a supernatural subplot introduced by the remake’s original scriptwriter, Adam Alleca (who has collaborated with director Iliadis since on 2018’s Delirium), were accompanied in the press by suggestions that Eli Roth would direct the film. (Roth was apparently approached but turned the project down.) The script was reworked by Carl Ellsworth, who had scripted Craven’s 2005 film Red Eye, alongside numerous television credits.

One of the major changes that Ellsworth made was to suggest that Mari and her family are still grieving from the death of her brother Ben the year prior. (In Craven’s film, Mari is an only child.) An item of jewellery given to her by Ben, which falls into the hands of Junior, enables the Collingwoods to recognise Krug’s crew as having something to do with the disappearance of their teenage daughter. Also significant is the fact that Iliadis’ remake allows Mari to survive. (From the final cut of the original film, Craven removed a scene showing John Collingwood discovering the dying Mari; however, in this remake Mari is permitted to survive the attempt on her life, to be discovered by her father, and taken away by her parents at the end of the film, presumably to somewhere where she will receive the medical attention she needs.)

The film also accommodates the prevalence of mobile telephones in the late-00s – an era just prior to the explosion of smartphones. Mari’s mobile telephone is quickly rendered useless as a device to call for help, by the simple fact that the signal is too weak. Meanwhile, Francis engages in a rant about mobiles: “I hate cell phones,” he spits, “Everywhere you turn, nothing but texting and yakking and texting.” (To be fair, it’s hard to disagree with him.)

The script for Iliadis’ Last House on the Left arguably does a significant disservice to the character of Paige, whose equivalent in Craven’s original film (Phyliss, played Lucy Grantham) was a feisty, streetwise young woman: a much more developed character than Paige. In the 2009 Last House, Paige seems to exist purely as a narrative device that pushes Mari into the orbit of Krug and his motley crew of miscreants – rather than as a rounded character in her own right. By diminishing Paige’s agency within the narrative, this has the effect of making the film feel much more like a paranoid middle-class nightmare about “deviant” blue collar folk. (That sense of class warfare was present in the original film, undoubtedly, particularly in the manner in which Krug’s gang unconvincingly masquerade as middle class types in order to inveigle themselves into the Collingwood family home; but the spikiness of Lucy Grantham’s turn as Phyllis mitigated the film’s depiction of Krug’s undeniably proletarian crew.)

Last House was inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, but in truth the film also draws on American Westerns – and particularly, revenge Westerns such as John Ford’s The Searchers, which depict a hostile landscape in which homesteader families experience violence from representatives of the “wilderness” (usually Native Americans) before enacting their own cruel revenge (which is suggested to be a necessary outcome of attempts to “tame” or “civilise” the West).

Barring some night-time scenes shot on what seems to be very fast film stock in low light (resulting in strong grain fields and chiaroscuro-style lighting), Iliadis’s reimagining of The Last House on the Left is much more slick and Hollywood-like than the original. Shot on 16mm with predominantly handheld cameras, Craven’s 1972 film drew much of its power from its raw, documentary-style aesthetic and production quality. This is something that is absent in Iliadis’s picture, which – despite suggestions at the time that the filmmakers wanted to steer away from the “torture” porn aesthetic that had been popularised by the likes of Saw – tries to build an “edge” through some particularly gruesome, protracted violence.

Craven’s The Last House on the Left was also made impactful by the timing of its release and its relationship with some major events in the American cultural landscape. The Motion Picture Production Code had only been abandoned four years prior to the production of Last House, and the film’s frank depiction of violence (and, in particular, sexual violence) was profoundly “new” within American cinema. Additionally, the proximity of the film’s production and release to the conviction of Charles Manson and his followers (in 1971) made Last House seem “on point” in its depiction of the sadistic violence enacted by the cult-like “Krug and Company” (to paraphrase one of the film’s alternate titles).

The raw, verite-style depiction of violence chimed with audiences who had seen graphic news footage of the Vietnam war on television and in print, and the film’s focus on two young women who fall victim to a gang of marauding ne’er-do-wells still feels very much like a commentary on the corruption of the countercultural ideals of the 1960s. Iliadis’ remake feels much less resonant, trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to distance itself from the “torture porn” cycle initiated with Saw several years earlier. However, almost 15 years later, it – like many of its contemporaries – seems very much part of a cultural moment in which filmmakers strove to remind audiences, during the immense “Othering” of the War on Terror and its focus on external threats, of the dangers of overlooking perils closer to home and within the domestic space.


Arrow’s Blu-ray release contains both the theatrical cut (109:44) and, on a separate disc, the unrated cut (113:35). The differences between the two are fairly substantial with regards the pivotal sexual assault, with the theatrical cut featuring some alternate takes and assemblies of scenes. Elsewhere, there are some short additions with a few shots playing out longer in the unrated cut, and the scene of the girls getting high with Justin being extended slightly. (The differences between the two cuts are outlined in detail on

Both cuts of the film are, on their respective discs, presented in 1080p using the AVC codec and in the film’s original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The 35mm colour photography fares excellently in both presentation, a very pleasing level of fine detail being present throughout the film. Contrast levels are strong, with richly defined midtones and a subtle taper into the toe of the exposure. Highlights are balanced and even too. Colours are consistent throughout, bold where they need to be and with natural skintones. (The film doesn’t quite approach the verite-style of the original picture, but nevertheless features a very naturalistic palette for most of its running time.) Night scenes were clearly shot on fast film stock, which features a very coarse and foregrounded grain structure; this is captured excellently in the encode to disc, which ensures these scenes are featured here in a very filmlike presentation, with organic film grain and no intrusion of dastardly digital debris.

Full-sized screengrabs are included at the bottom of this review. Please click to enlarge them.


There are two audio options: a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and a LPCM 2.0 track. Both are equally pleasing, offering a robust soundscape that demonstrates depth and clarity. Dialogue is sometimes a little more “buried” in the mix of the 5.1 track, but is audible throughout. Neither track is objectively “better” than the other; which track you choose will depend on your sound equipment. The film is accompanied by optional subtitles for the Hard of Hearing. These are easy to read and accurate in transcribing the film’s dialogue.


On DISC ONE, we have:
- The Film (Theatrical Cut) (109:44)

- An audio commentary by David Flint and Adrian Smith. Scribes Flint (editor of The Retrobate) and Smith (editor of Movies and Mania) offer an excellent commentary track, demonstrating good humour throughout. Smith begins by highlighting how often people misrepresent the title of both this remake and the original film (as Last House on the Left rather than “The” Last House on the Left). The pair talk, inevitably, about the differences between Iliadis’ The Last House on the Left and Craven’s original. Smith suggests that Iliadis’ film perhaps doesn’t quite get the character of Krug “right,” despite a strong performance from Garrett Dillahunt in the role. Flint argues that much of the audience for Iliadis’ film may have been unaware of the original film (in comparison with, say, the remakes of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Omen). Flint and Smith also reflect on Craven’s possible motivations for remaking The Last House on the Left. It’s a superb, lively commentary track with much to offer for fans of Craven’s career, in particular.

- A new introduction by Dennis Iliadis (6:02). Iliadis offers a brief introduction to the film. He talks about the positioning of the film within his career as a filmmaker. He discusses how he came to meet Wes Craven and become involved as the director of this remake, and reflects on the production of the film.

- “A River of Blood” (31:27). Actress Sara Paxton talks about her work on The Last House on the Left. She discusses her enjoyment of horror films, and reflects on her beginnings as an actress. Paxton talks about the preparation for her role, and working with some of the other actors – particularly Riki Lindholme, who apparently was unhappy with having to dye her hair for the part of Sadie. Despite the challenging material, Paxton says that the crew and other members of the cast helped to set her at ease. She suggests that the production, for which the cast and crew were transplanted to South Arica (where the film was shot), was “kind of like being in camp together,” and describes her relationship with the other members of the production in almost familial terms.

- “The Notorious Krug” (27:01). Garret Dillahunt discusses his role as Krug. He talks about his background with a journalism degree, and his transition into acting after finding frustration in his attempts to begin a writing career. (Dillahunt is now a hedge fund trader!) He suggests that Last House is more of an action-oriented home invasion thriller than a horror film. He talks about some of the horror films he admires, including Peter Medak’s The Changeling: “Something I can’t physically fight, that’s really scary to me,” he says. Dillahunt discusses the film’s relationship with the original film, and reveals he talked to David Hess not long before Hess’ death; and that Hess was “very open and friendly,” leaving Dillahunt with the sense that he had “passed a test” and received Hess’ “blessing” to play Krug.

- “Suspending Disbelief” (18:26). Writer Carl Ellsworth reflects on his input into the picture. He talks about his background as a writer, and his “dream” to get a “foot in the door with theatrical, wide release movies.” He did this by writing the spec script for what became Wes Craven’s Red Eye. Craven and Maddalena sent Ellsworth the original script for the remake and asked him to become involved in redrafting it. Ellsworth also talks about watching the original Last House for the first time, admitting that he was somewhat confused by it, and finding it “very hardcore and very intense.” “Where’s the hope at the end of it?,” Ellsworth asked Craven and Maddalena after this experienced, before suggesting some of his own ideas. Ellsworth recollects the original script for the remake, and his responses to it – with the suggestion that “somebody has to survive this.” Much of Ellsworth’s work, he argues, was on the second half of the script, “taking it into thriller territory.”

- “Reliving the Legend” (33:06). Wes Craven’s son Jonathan Craven, a producer on the film, talks about his relationship with the original Last House, which was made not long after his parents had separated. Jonathan Craven would “just come and hang out on set” whilst spending “weekends with dad,” and he also spent time in the editing room whilst the picture was being assembled. He finally saw the finished film about 10 years later, on VHS. He also discusses some of the prejudices he witnessed against horror films, which as the son of Wes Craven he saw fit to defend. Jonathan also talks about the journey to making the remake of Last House, and how both versions of the film let the audience “get to know the killers.” Wes Craven was apparently somewhat conflicted about the remake, worrying that it was “going to totally displace the original” in people’s imaginations/memories.

- “Look Inside” (2:41). This is a short promotional featurette from 2009, featuring soundbite clips from Wes Craven, Dennis Iliadis, and others involved in the production.

- Deleted Scenes (8:58). This montage of deleted scenes and outtakes is presented without context. It features more footage of Mari saying goodbye to her parents before leaving for town, Mari and Paige during their meeting with Justin, Emma’s conversation with Krug following the realisation the Krug’s crew is behind Mari’s disappearance, and other small snippets.

- Trailer (2:25)

- Image Gallery (31 images)

On DISC TWO, we have:
- The Film (Unrated Cut) (113:35).


Craven’s The Last House on the Left was a knife twisted in the gut of its audience, daring viewers to enjoy the spectacle of violence – particularly in the sequences depicting the Collingwoods’ revenge – whilst at the same time challenging them for it. This was an era in which Sam Peckinpah, director of the somewhat similar Straw Dogs (1972), reminded audiences that violence is “ugly, brutalising, and bloody fucking awful […] And yet there’s a certain response that you get from it, an excitement because we’re all violent people.” Iliadis’ remake attempts something similar, with moments of violence that are protracted and very, very ugly; but there’s perhaps too much focus on action movie-like physical impact, of bodies thrown Hulk-like into kitchen cabinets and bathroom doors, for this to achieve the kind of impact it seems to desire.

Iliadis’ The Last House on the Left is aided by some strong performances, but undercut by the paper-thin scripting of its antagonists. Perhaps some of this has to do with the hasty rewrites that took place before production. (In fact, Alleca’s introduction of a supernatural subplot in the early versions of the feature script may have been interesting to see, more strongly differentiating this remake from the original.) Nevertheless, Iliadis handles the material confidently, and there is some particularly effective low-light photography in the film.

Arrow’s Blu-ray release contains an excellent, satisfyingly film-like presentation of both the abbreviated theatrical cut and the more explicit “unrated” cut, alongside some superb contextual material.

Please click the screengrabs below to enlarge them.


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