Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring had been hailed one of the most controversial foreign films of the 60s. Not surprisingly, the 1972 remake of The Virgin Spring, titled The Last House on the Left and directed by Wes Craven, is considered one of the most controversial horror films of the 70s. If anyone were to have guessed that the film would have been remade and rehashed so much, perhaps one wouldn’t have been so quick to jump on the idea of it being a taboo horror film. In truth, the Wes Craven classic does not hold up so well today in my book. It’s cheap look, it’s inappropriate sense of style of music, and it’s pacing come off more strongly as camp. None the less, the film is undeniably influential. It’s influence can be seen in everything from family films such as Home Alone in which the main characters make a mockery of thugs in a variety of gruesome traps, to Grindhouse style shock films such as I Drink Your Blood and Caged Terror. It has been remade three times; In 2009 it was fully adapted as The Last House on the Left, which garnered mixed critical acclaim. In 2005 it was remade in as a cheap low budget student film by wrestler David DeFalco called Chaos. However, most importantly it was remade by in 1975, only three years after the original, in an Italian version known as Night Train Murders, or, as it was known in the US, The New Last House on the Left.
Night Train Murders follows the same basic set-up as The Last House on the Left. Two girls are kidnapped by thugs, tortured, raped, and then brutally murdered, and then their parents find out and exact bloody revenge. The setting this time is in Italy, and the plot follows two girls on a series of train rides to one of their parents house. The film starts off much like a film about two innocent tourists. The girls get on the train and have a series of little adventures, not entirely innocent, but innocent and without much fear. However, as their train rides continue, things don’t go as planned. Two thugs sneak on board and begin to harass the girls, as well as another female passenger who soon decides to join them on their night of debauchery and mayhem after one of them rapes her.
When the two girls find themselves fearing for their lives and uncomfortable, they take advantage of a somewhat convenient bomb-threat and sneak onboard another train that will get them to their destination about half an hour early. They get on-board only to find that the train is, mostly, deserted and seemingly without lights or electricity. They take a nap in one of the compartments and then wake up later on in the night to have dinner by candlelight. However, during their dinner they soon discover that the thugs, along with their female friend, have sneaked on-board and the two girls find themselves trapped in a horrible nightmare of torture, rape, humiliation, and heartless cruelty.
When the deeds are done the terror still continues. Even after the bodies are violated and disposed of there is still such incredible suspense in it’s unfolding of events. When the parents show up to pick the girls up and find the two thugs and the girl at the train station instead, we can feel the slowly building paranoia as the characters realize who they are each dealing with. As the parents come to find out what happened, we truly can feel their sorrow as they realize that they will never see their daughter alive again. Then the revenge aspect comes into play and it is even more shocking than we anticipated. It is not shocking in a gratuitous gorefest kind of sense, but rather it is shocking in that it is obvious that the father who performs these killings is unprepared and inexperienced in such matters. The terror comes from the fact that he is a normal man who is doing something he has never wanted to do. As a result the film is not only horrifying, but it is also an emotional roller coaster ride.
This is one of the most effective horror films I have ever seen. The realism of the situations presented here comes off so authentic and suspenseful that it’s practically a guarantee that most viewers’ stomachs will be in knots. The film is relentless in it’s horror and the way the victims’ lives are toyed with. The audience is toyed with as well in several moments of what I could pretty much describe as false hope. The film will likely take an emotional tole on viewers who aren’t prepared. This film is far more disturbing than The Last House on the Left due to the unfolding tension. There are no moments of forced dark comedy or cheap style. The film pulls no punches in depicting the last hours of the lives of these two innocent girls. The character of Curly is also far more terrifying than the character of Krug in the original in that he comes across as so simple-minded and yet so screwed up in a realistic way. This is an absolute must-see for all horror fans. This film is a masterpiece, and I’m glad that a modern day version of The Virgin Spring has finally been told in a proper and effective way.