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May 31, 2010

Random Horror Throwdown - Plan 9 From Outer Space vs. The Last House on the Left (2009)

When I promised "random" in these throwdowns of horror film justice, I meant it. I can't think of a sillier matchup to feature than this one, but the more I looked at the screen I began to wonder if there was something deeper to this odd pairing of films that were released a half century apart. Thus, I put on my thinking britches. It's time to investigate.


The Movies:

Plan 9 From Outer Space
(1959, Dir. by Ed Wood.)
Starring: Bela Lugosi (kinda?), Vampira, Tor Johnson.
IMDB Synopsis: Evil aliens attack Earth and set their terrible "Plan 9" in action. As the aliens resurrect the dead of the Earth to destroy the living, our stupid minds are in danger. (Note from The Mike: This is seriously the best IMDB Synopsis I've ever read. No where else in the world could you write "our stupid minds are in danger" and have it be this bloody brilliant. Well done, IMDB user called "Qrrbirbel"!)

The Last House on the Left (2009, Dir. by Dennis Iliadis.)
Starring: Tony Goldwyn, Monica Potter, Garrett Dillahunt, Sara Paxton.
IMDB Synopsis: After kidnapping and brutally assaulting two young women, a gang led by a prison escapee unknowingly finds refuge at a vacation home belonging the parents of one of the victims -- a mother and father who devise an increasingly gruesome series of revenge tactics. (Note from The Mike: Seriously, try to fit "our stupid minds are in danger" into THAT synopsis. Maybe it could fit after "two young women", but I don't think it works.)

The Plots:
Plan 9, as the fabulous synopsis (I wonder if I can get Qrrbirbel to guest post here?!?!) says has aliens, zombies vampires, and Solaranite bombs. If you can make sense of the plot, you might think it has something to do with humanity and its destructive capabilities, but the movie never really forms a coherent enough statement to say that. The Last House on the Left, as the not-as-great synopsis states, is a rape and revenge flick.

And here's where I start to ponder. On one hand we have a horror based on the spectacular and unknown (and yes, I probably should mention that I'm listing Plan 9 as horror in the loosest possible way) and a horror based on the incredibly real and brutal. Do I want to see more rape movies, or more vampire/alien/zombie movies? I think the answer to that has to be the latter, which means I have to give a point to Plan 9 From Outer Space, right? (1-0, Plan 9 leads.)

The Directors:
If you know anything about Ed Wood as a director, you know the reputation. And if you haven't seen Tim Burton's fantastic biopic of the director, do yourself a favor and FIND IT IMMEDIATELY. Probably one of my 25 favorite films of any genre.

Dennis Iliadis is pretty much the prototype for modern horror flash-in-the-pan directors. He got a relatively big chance to make a horror remake, and now is attached to another one - an update of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. He showed competence in Last House, which is more than can ever be said about Wood, so this point goes to The Last House on the Left by default. (1-1)

The Casts:
OK, I'm not counting Bela. Yes, he appears, but I don't think it's right to count him in this one. And, though I love Vampira and Tor Johnson, they weren't exactly members of the Guild. Last House, like its director, offers a lot of competency in its cast, with career character actors Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter alongside one of my favorite current "That Guy!"s, Garrett Dillahunt. He's cool, so another vote heads to the Left. (2-1, Last House on the Left leads.)

My Experience With The Films:
Like the plot category, this one ruffles my brow. I've only seen The Last House remake once, and it wasn't pleasant. I could see myself revisiting it in the future, but it's hard to come up with a good reason why I'd do that. Flipping the tables, I've had ten good years of "enjoying" Plan 9 From Outer Space - if you can call making fun of the silliness of it all "enjoyment", that is. So, I'm giving it a point. (2-2)

Normally I Throw A Silly Comedy Question Into These Things...But Really, How Do I Pick This One?:
Is it better to be mediocre and vengeful or terrible and silly? If I had to watch one of these movies with a film professor, which would be the choice? How about if I had to watch one with my Masha? Do I shred every bit of credibility I've ever amassed as a horror fan if I pick what is generally considered the worst movie of all-time over a middling modern remake?

I....I just don't know. Is Last House on the Left a better film in structure? Absolutely. Is Plan 9 From Outer Space a movie I've watched several times with people and had fun with? Yep, it is. Should I just take the easy way out and call it a truce? No way.This Choice is Like:
You play video games, right? It used to be that in video games you had a set path where you had to do things one way, or you had to try again. But nowadays, things open up to you as a player. And along the way in these games, you can occasionally choose to do really ridiculous things that don't make any sense with your character's heroic purpose....but sometimes you do it anyway, just because it's fun to run over a digital old lady with a car when there are no repercussions.

So About That Final Point?:
Well, The Last House on the Left remake....I just don't care about you. You don't matter, and in a few years the only time I'll remember you is when I go "Oh hey, remember when they made that Last House on the Left remake?" Plan 9 From Outer're awful, but you're kinda homey. I like having you around once in a while. So, you win my heart (or at least this final point). (3-2, Plan 9 From Outer Space wins!)

(Note from The Mike: This ranking has Plan 9 somewhere above the 50th percentile of my rankings? Maybe my stupid mind is in danger!)


Emily said...

I have the same dilemma a lot of times when choosing one movie over another on flickchart. What it usually comes down to is would I rather watch this one, or that one. So many of my top movies may not technically be the "best" or most competent movies, but I enjoy them enough to watch them over and over. So yes, my number 1 movie right now may be Home Alone, but I'd rather watch that than Schindler's List any day.

Rape/revenge movies are the type of horror film that I have the most trouble watching. They are the kind that effect me most deeply, and so I tend to watch them once, and never feel the need to revisit them. I actually liked the remake of Last House on the Left, but it's one that I'd hesitate before watching again, although I'd rather rewatch the remake than the original (one of those rare exceptions), just because the original was one of the most disturbing movies I've even watched, so disturbing that it left me physically shaking.

I Like Horror Movies said...

Few films will ever reach the same horrible notoriety as PLAN 9, whereas no film will ever be as utterly forgettable as the LAST HOUSE remake. Ed Wood wins hands down in this bout!