Born out of the anti-Vietnam protests and inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, Wes Craven’s 1972 horror was an anti-establishment shocker that became infamous for its scenes of rape and violence. Dennis Iliadis’ remake retains its ferocious power and provocative themes, and thanks to a focused script that unfolds in real time, it ratchets up the suspense and sucks us into a remorseless cycle of violence and revenge.
Innocent teenager Mari Collingwood (Sara Paxton) and her wayward friend Paige (Martha MacIsaac) are abducted and brutalised by escaped psychopath Krug (Dillahunt), his aptly named girlfriend Sadie (Lindhome), his brother Francis and his wimpy son Justin. The captured girls are less helpless here, but these stomach-knotting early scenes are made worse by a nagging feeling that if they had only co-operated, or taken their chances, things might not have spiralled out of control. Then, in an irony inherited from Bergman’s film, the killers seek refuge in Mari’s parents’ idyllic lakeside summer home, where John Collingwood (Tony Goldwyn) and his wife Emma (Monica Potter) – alerted by tell-tale clues to their guests’ true identities – use cunning, makeshift weapons and improvised booby traps to exact their cruel revenge.
Craven’s original exploitation movie, made on a sub-$100,000 budget, fused the sleazy intensity of the grindhouse with the piercing intelligence of an art film. Iliadis’ sensibility is more commercial, but he introduces a telling undercurrent of class hatred and never loses sight of how Mari’s parents are ultimately reduced to the same level of primal, animalistic violence as that of psychotic Krug and his cronies.