I was expecting to dislike this movie when I found out Liv Tyler was in it, owing to her participation in things that are bad thoughout her career: a video for the scooped-out wreckage of her father and his band, the movie Armageddon — well that’s about all, but that’s enough. As it turns out, she plays an annoying and unlikable character, so her presence is not entirely a bad thing.
The premise, and I doubt I need to warn anyone of spoilers because it’s so basic, is that two rich kids go to one of their parents’ vacation home and are psychologically tormented by unknown uh, tormentors. And then it takes a turn for the gory. It’s very much in the spirit of gratuitous drive in movies I learned to love (at a crumbling walk-in theater that is now a chain drug store across the street from two other chain drug stores) in my teenage years, and while I would certainly rent Last House on the Left or I Spit on Your Grave rather than watch it again, as far as something new, it was satisfactory.
Despite the comparisons above, there’s no hanky-panky here, unwilling or otherwise. None of the subtleties of Last House on the Left, either. The camera work is sometimes confused in a way that just seems halfassed — angles and focus change without really emphasizing anything. The musical score is as generic as that of any mediocre slasher flick in the last 30 years, which is surprising, because the other music in the movie is used really well. The records on the record player are one of the best things about this movie, and are part of what’s definitely the best scene (you’ll know it when you see and hear it).
This movie is marred by the same thing that renders lots of half-good works of art and entertainment these days: mannerism. As I mentioned above, there’s a lot of shrieky horror movie music that doesn’t accomplish anything and could have just as well been left out. Same with those camera angles. They’re there because horror movies are supposed to have them, not because they accomplish anything — even a vague feeling of discomfort unrelated to the onscreen doings, unless this is your first horror movie. The record player antics and the fact that nobody makes a good old-fashioned exploitation movie anymore were enough to make it worth my nine big American dollars, and I look forward to any future offerings from writer/director Bryan Bertino. Hopefully he’ll prune away some of the generic clichés.