Director: Wes Craven
Starring: Sandra Peabody, Lucy Grantham, David Hess, Fred J. Lincoln, Jeramie Rain
To avoid fainting, keep repeating “It’s only a movie, only a movie, only a movie…”
Mari Collingswood is celebrating her seventeenth birthday and is going to see a rock band called Bloodlust live in concert with her friend Phyllis. On their way to the concert, they try to score some marijuana and meet a local thug named Junior.
Junior says he has the best weed in the world and takes the two naive girls with him to an apartment where they are kept hostage by the rest of the gang that Junior is a part of. They keep them hostage and torture them for over a day before they take them with them out in the woods for some more humiliation but after the gang has had their fun, things start to turn on them.
The Last House on the Left is an infamous video nasty that also happens to be the directorial debut of the legendary horror filmmaker Wes Craven. The film was shot very cheaply with a small crew and the story, which was also written by Craven, was loosely based on the Ingmar Bergman film The Virgin Spring.
This film is also probably one of the most famous ones when it comes to the rape/revenge subgenre and the dirty and violent films of the 70’s. Just why it got all of this praise and hype is beyond me, I couldn’t understand it when I first saw it 15 years ago and I still can’t see it today. For me, this film has some nasty stuff in it, but ruins everything with not letting the viewer feel and keep the tension running throughout the film.
Whenever something gruesome has happened, they quickly cut over to something totally out of place, like the idiotic comedy relief cops or some scene with laughable music. I understand that as a filmmaker you don’t want the audience to hold on to the dreadful feeling all the time, but when you are making a shocker like this is supposed to be then you should just go with it one hundred percent.
Another thing that ruins it for me is that it feels like the story ended when they were done with the atrocities in the woods, and the last part of it was just not interesting enough for me to keep staying focused on the film. Everything about the production also reeks of amateurism, and that works both against and for the movie. On one hand it makes the torture scenes seem more realistic and nasty, but the poor dialogue, writing, music, direction and acting makes you wonder how this ended up being anything more than a forgotten 70’s exploitation film in the first place.
For some reason people seem to talk more about this than another film that Wes Craven did in the 70’s, and that I personally find to be a lot more brutal and good, The Hills Have Eyes. That one feels more like a movie than The Last House on the Left and while the grim brutality of it does work in some of the scenes, as a whole it just feels like a below average 70’s exploitation flick. There’s just so many other out there that did this much better, a film that actually was suited for the remake that it got in 2009. Watch it for the notoriety of it, but don’t expect it to be great.