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Movie Review: Original vs. Remake Comparison: The Last House on the Left (1972 vs. 2009)

November 25, 2010 4 comments

Woman with bloody hand clamped over her mouth.Summary:
1972:
Mary is a sweet-tempered, girl-next-door that every boy in the neighborhood has the hots for, but she has a best friend from the wrong side of the tracks.  They frolic in the woods together and drink alcohol kept cool in the river.  Mary’s parents do not approve.  Mary and her friend go to NYC for a concert, but when her friend tries to score some weed, their night goes horribly awry.  Suddenly they find themselves at the mercy of two escape convicts, a son of one of the convicts who does their beck and call for his heroin hits, and a malicious, nympho woman.

2009:
Mary is vacationing in the lakes with her doctor father and lovely mother.  She goes into town to hang out with her old friend, and the two of them go back to a hotel room to get high with a teenage boy.  But that boy’s father, uncle, and the uncle’s girlfriend come back, and the dad is an escaped con.  He decides he can’t let the girls go and kidnaps them, finishing them off in the woods.  They wind up car-wrecked and must seek help at a nearby cabin that just so happens to be Mary’s parents’.  When they figure out the mystery, all hell breaks loose.

Review:
1972:
This is a classically 70s film featuring everything from feathered hair to 70s music to background music oddly upbeat for the dark tone.  The opening shot is essentially of Mary’s Woman standing in front of a lake.boobs.  This was the era of really stretching the boundaries.  Everything semi-pornographic and disgusting that they could get away with, they did get away with.  There is one, rather controversial, scene in which Mary and her friend are forced to have sex with each other–and need I remind you her friend is female?  There is a lot of rape, a lot of blood, and these killers really do kill just for fun.  Not to make it sound like this is slasher porn, though.  There’s nothing at all remotely sexy about the violence.  It’s meant to be disturbing, and it is.  There’s one scene in particular that will have all male viewers crossing their legs and quivering in their boots.  All that said, this movie definitely reads as campy due to some unfortunate scenes featuring upbeat music and bumbling policemen that feel like they belong more in an episode of Andy Griffith than a horror movie.  I’m really  not sure what Craven was thinking sticking those scenes in there.  There of course also is the enduring problem of the victims being truly, incredibly stupid.  Horror is the most horrifying when it feels as if the victims did everything smart, but still got caught.  The element of unsuspected revenge is what saves the movie, though.

2009:
This movie is quite creative for a modern horror.  It takes a fairly sympathetic main character and has her a make a rather impulsive, but not completely stupid decision.  Mary and her friend take far more agency trying to get away.  They are far more modern female victims.  They fight back physically and not with words and pleading.  The cinematography is dark and intense.  The convict’s son becomes a far more sympathetic character, and Mary’s parents much more believable as a vindictive pair.  The whole plot moves at the perfect pace, and the ending is surprising.

1972 vs. 2009:
I have to say, 2009 wins for horror movie quality.  It is put together more smoothly without the odd side-story of the police with the humorous background music.  The story is more cohesive.  However, surprisingly, 1972 is far more gory and feels more like a slasher.  The violence, both sexual and physical, is surprising, and the villains are far more evil.  If you’re out for the chills of a good horror, movie, go with the 2009 version.  If you’re after sheer blood and violence, go for the 1972 version.

1972: 3.5 out of 5 stars

2009: 4 out of 5 stars

Source: Netflix

1972: Buy It

2009: Buy It

Book Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan (Series, #1)

Girl looking between tree branches.Summary:
Mary’s world is tightly controlled by the Sisters and the Guardians.  The Sisters show the village how to find favor with God via the yearly and daily rituals.  The Guardians check and maintain the fence that keeps the Unconsecrated out.  The Sisters says the Unconsecrated came with the Return as a punishment to the people.  This is why they must maintain God’s favor.  But Mary dreams of the tales of the ocean and tall buildings her mother told her about, and her mother’s mother for generations back.  She will need those dreams when her world is turned upside down with a breach of the fence.  They’ve happened before, but never like this.

Review:
This is an interesting take on the traditional zombie tale.  In lieu of starting with the outbreak or just after the outbreak, Ryan envisions what life would be like for the descendants of the few who’ve managed to survive.  Of course the sheer number of zombies in the world means it’s impossible for the few survivors left to kill them all, so they must live with constant vigilance.  In the case of Mary’s village, they’ve turned to religion to maintain the level of control required to keep them all safe.  This is the strongest portion of the book as it leads to interesting questions.  The threat outside the fence is indeed real.  Mary’s questions are making it difficult for the Sisters to maintain the control needed and prevent panic in the village.  On the other hand, the Sisters aren’t exactly being honest with the population or giving them a happy life.  They’re just giving them a life.

Where the action supposedly picks up with the breach of the fence is where the book sort of left me behind.  The fact of the matter is, I wound up caring more about the village than Mary, and I don’t think I was supposed to.  Where I was supposed to be rooting for Mary, I found myself rooting for the community, the group of survivors.  Mary’s individualism rings as starkly selfish to me in light of the very real threat around them.  This is odd because generally I’m in favor of people being themselves and not necessarily following the group, but that’s different when a crisis is being faced.  I found myself wishing it had read more like Elizabeth Gaskell’s classic Cranford, which is a study of a town and not an individual.

Of course, that’s not the type of book Ryan set out to write.  She set out to write a book about a girl in a future where zombies are a fact of life.  She writes beautifully, with exquisite sentences that read more like an 18th century novel than a 21st century one.  I also am certain that the teenage audience this YA book is aimed at will be rooting for Mary in her quest to find herself and her dreams.

If you are a teen or a teen at heart looking for an adventure tale with a touch of romance, you will enjoy this book.  If traditional zombies are what you are after, however, you should look elsewhere.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap

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Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law dressed in 19th century period costume.Summary:
Detective Sherlock Holmes’ faithful companion, Dr. Watson, is retiring from solving cases to settle down with his soon-to-be fiancee, Mary.  He just needs to finish up one last case.  Lord Blackwell murdered five young women in occult ceremonies.  Watson pronounces him dead at his hanging, but then he seems to come back to life.  Watson and Holmes spring into action to solve the case, but things become more complicated when Holmes’ ex-girlfriend, Irene, shows up.

Review:
I’d be hard-pressed to not enjoy a movie Robert Downey Jr. is in, particularly one in which he does a bunch of fist-fighting.  Toss in Jude Law, and you’d have to do an awful lot wrong for me to not enjoy sitting through the movie.  When the mystery first came up, I found myself rolling my eyes at yet another Illuminati plot point.  However, the resolution of the mystery made the entire story worth-while.  It was actually a surprise and yet all still managed to make sense.

The feel of the movie reminded me a bit of Moulin Rouge, minus the music parts.  So if you enjoy that sort of tongue-in-cheek period piece, you’ll enjoy the feel of this movie.

The only part of the film I really didn’t enjoy was the bit about Irene.  It wasn’t explained well at all.  I couldn’t understand her character’s motivation or really exactly what was going on with her at all.  I like Rachel McAdams, but I felt that her appearance in this story was simply jarring.

That said, Sherlock Holmes is an enjoyable period piece romp with a brain-tingling mystery attached.  If you enjoy mystery or period pieces with wit, you will enjoy this film.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Netflix

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