Thursday, March 27, 2008

Last House on the Left vs. Wolf Creek

Roger Ebert loved Last House on the Left enough to give it three and a half stars. That put paid to any notion I had of sensible critiques. All critiques are biased and all critics have pet peeves and prejudices that they cannot lay aside to write review. In fact, perhaps the best critics are the ones who see the movie through their own tinted lenses than pander to popular appeal.

What I cannot for the life of me understand is why Ebert rated this movie so high when he gave the similar Wolf Creek zero stars. Perhaps because pioneer trash is considered classic while modern trash is just trash. Not that the movies in question are trash, but a lot of people do see the horror/slasher genre with lone sociopathic nutcases slaughtering innocents devoid of value. I concur, but have to point out that the genre provides for damn good entertainment. In my guilty pleasure lies its redemption.

Both movies revolve around women who get kidnapped and savagely murdered. Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left benefits from an above average plot with a twist: the killers end up in the house of the woman they murdered and the distraught parents proceed to mete out their vengeance on them. Wolf Creek on the other hand, has no such poetic justice or sweet revenge; it is a bleak visual display of the evil that lies in man’s heart.

Both movies claim to be based on true stories, and I would well take their word for it. In this zany world, folks killing each other with no motivation is hardly cause for surprise. Wes Craven’s film, while hailed as a groundbreaking and pioneering oeuvre, hardly gripped me the way Wolf Creek. Granted, pioneering films are not always known for their cinematic excellence; similar films that follow have better technology at their command and they also learn from the mistakes of the past. So while Night of the Living Dead might have been pioneering, Dawn of the Dead is a much better crafted and more effective movie.

So too with Last House on the Left, it perhaps succeeds as a view into the dark recesses of human evil, but as for realism, suspense and gripping terror, it trails behind Wolf Creek. Both films are deeply unsettling, and Wolf Creek is damn near unwatchable. The villains in Last House might be coldblooded, remorseless killers, but they do not give you the jitters every time they are on screen. The Wolf Creek slaughter machine however, is chillingly efficient at raising your heartbeat and your nape hair.

Wolf Creek had a much tighter script, sparse dialogue and numerous scenes that notched up the nerve-wracking anticipation. Last House has a lethargic quality to it, it’s like watching a snuff film shot in slow motion with two bumbling cops who do a lousy job of providing comic relief. People might argue that Last House is less nihilistic, with redemption coming in the form of revenge. The killers do not go scot free. Be that as it may, Wolf Creek is the better film. I wonder how Craven would shoot Last House if he were to remake it today. For a directorial debut it’s not bad, but he’s definitely honed his craft well over the years.He’d do the concept better justice, I’d assume , long as he does not use the same scriptwriters employed for his last directorial outing, Spiderman 3

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