When Wes Craven made The Last House on the Left in 1972, he was a recently retired humanities professor who had barely seen any movies, much less directed one. Though the amateur quality and decadence of The Last House on the Left (renamed after original title Sex Crime of the Century failed to sell tickets) has mainly given it a following among purveyors of low culture, Craven approached it seriously as an inquiry on the nature of evil and interpersonal violence.
With this in mind, the new remake is halfway respectable. The setup differs, but the incident is basically the same. Two teenage girls meet the wrong people. Led by a prison escapee (Garret Dillahunt), they're brought into the woods where they're humiliated, raped and maybe killed. Their abductors then seek shelter and hospitality, not knowing that the house they've arrived at belongs to one of the girl's parents (played by Monica Potter and Tony Goldwyn), who enact revenge.
What's honourable about director Dennis Iliadis' version is that, however pointless its existence, it frequently accepts the moral responsibility of being no fun at all. There's no cheap thrill in the extended rape and mutilation. The Last House on the Left registers the violence with disgust, and the female leads are permitted the dignity to be three-dimensional characters. It's in the revenge aspect where the movie plays safe. Iliadis finally goes for raucous applause in the parents' vengeance---diluting Craven's sober understanding of their descent into barbarism.
The lines between good and evil are too clearly drawn this time, making the film simplistic when it's already proven the courage to be gruelling.