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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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My mistake: A heartfelt apology to the makers of RapeLay

March 12, 2009 | 12:41 pm

I guess I owe the makers of RapeLay, the vile Japanese rape-simulator video game, an apology, at least for headlining my last post "Sleazier Than Any Hollywood Horror Film?"

If I'd only seen the new remake of "The Last House on the Left," which opens everywhere (courtesy of Rogue Pictures) on Friday, I'd have known that no one can top Hollywood when it comes to sleaziness, especially in this new film, which critics are saying is loaded with graphic violence and a prolonged, truly terrifying rape scene. (My thanks to N.Y. Post critic-blogger Kyle Smith for tipping me off.)

Last_house_on_the_left_movie_post_2As any horror fancier would know, the movie is a remake of the 1972 Wes Craven-directed semi-classic, which featured a repugnant Charles Manson-style gang of thugs who raped and tortured two girls to death, prompting their parents to stalk and kill them in equally violent fashion. I saw the movie in film school (where Craven was celebrated as a low-budget horror auteur) on -- if you can believe it -- a double bill with Ingmar Bergman's "Virgin Spring," which chronicles the same essential folk tale of rape and revenge, though in a far less disgusting fashion. ("Virgin Spring" won an Oscar for best foreign-language film of 1960.)

So now we have, in true creatively bankrupt Hollywood fashion, a remake of a remake, the only difference being that the remake is even more graphic and disturbing than the previous film. The film's rape scene has already aroused widespread critical outrage, even from critics who have offered some begrudging admiration for other segments of the film. In his review, the Orlando Sentinel's Roger Moore calls the film "torture porn at its most torturous," bemoaning the film's "graphic rape scene" and images of "shocking sadism and cruelty."

ReelView's James Berardinelli's review calls the rape "one of the most upsetting rape scenes committed to film," while the Arizona Republic's Bill Goodykoontz's review describes it as "truly disturbing." Roger Ebert, the dean of American critics who was actually around to review the first Craven film 35-plus years ago, bluntly called the new film's rape scene "appalling." Having seen a 2005 horror film, "Chaos," which offered an even more nihilistic and cruel take on similar source material, Ebert lamented: "So now my job as a film critic involves grading rape scenes."

So far, few critics -- Berardinelli being a rare exception -- have raised the most glaring issue of all: How is it possible that the MPAA ratings board could give a film with this much brutal, graphic violence an R rating instead of an NC-17? I mean, what would it take for the clueless MPAA, which is supposed to serve concerned parents, not powerful studios, to ever draw the line and say to a filmmaker: "You've gone too far. We won't allow this much violence to be seen on screen." The ratings board is always hyper-vigilant about frontal nudity and consensual sex, but when it comes to blood-drenched violence and depravity, it has caved in, over and over, allowing filmmakers to get away with murder.

I'd like to hear from readers about where you draw the line when it comes to graphic violence. But I'd also like to see more critics take up the cudgels in this debate. If the MPAA is willing to give an R rating to "The Last House on the Left," which would allow me to take a bunch of kids to see this new film, then why shouldn't Amazon be allowed to sell Japan's RapeLay video game? It sounds to me like the movie and the video game are really playing in the same "How low can you go?" ballpark. There comes a time when you have to ask -- when is enough going to be enough?    

RELATED:

RapeLay: Sleazier Than Any Hollywood Horror Film?

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