As far as I'm concerned, this superb two disc DVD release of 'The Last House On The Left' is almost just as good as the film itself, which is a cult classic, and the first movie to be written and directed by Horror God Wes Craven.
It's compulsively watchable, realistic and suspenseful, with real brutal honestly that is sadly often lacking in today's horror films, where the violence can often come over as ridiculous and cartoon like. I disagree with people who say that it remains as shocking as it ever was, it is undeniably nasty, but quite tame I think in comparison to films that have followed. However, at the time of it's release in 1972, I don't doubt that it most certainly would have been seen as very shocking. It was, after all, banned in the UK for 30 years.
The script could sometimes use a little bit of work, but I think that the gritty and realistic performances from the cast make up for that. As the story goes, teenage friends Mari and Phyllis go to the "big city" to see their favourite rock band play. Along the way they meet recently escaped convict Krug, who invites the girls to his digs where he and his gang inside lock them in. The next day, they end up in the forest, but what follows next I won't say.
All too often the word 'classic' is overused, but I do honestly think that 'Last House On The Left' deserves such a title, and there is lots to like about it. As well as a good plot that will keep you watching, there are even a few light hearted moments, particularly from the comical Sheriff character and his deputy. I particularly enjoyed hearing some genuinely good music, including the original song 'The Road Leads To Nowhere' by David Hess, who even stars in the film itself as Krug. As a former media student, I couldn't help but notice the beautiful cinematography as well as the slick editing, which some low budget horrors of today should take more notice of.
Well, that's the film, but I also must also briefly talk about what a brilliant DVD release this is. The extras are fascinating, from an audio commentary from Wes Craven and producer Sean S. Cunningham, and a separate one with it's stars David Hess, Marc Sheffler and Fred Lincoln, to a forty minute featurette with all the aforementioned people, and a documentary which charts the film's theatrical UK tour. But that's not all, there are even some out-takes (something you rarely see for a movie of this age), TV and radio spots, and a rare alternative cut of the film which makes it's debut on DVD here amongst lots of other things. With a comprehensive 24 page booklet, this is a master-class in what a good two disc DVD set should be like.
Over 10 years before Elm Street began, Craven was already creating fear, disgust, invention and controversy, particularly with The Last House on the Left, a notoriously banned film which, like most banned films is graphic more in theme than content. For its time though, it was heavy stuff, rape, murder, mutilation, torture, sadism, revenge, chainsaws...
The film begins calmly enough, with two teenage girls going out together to a rock concert, we watch them getting ready at one of their houses with one set of parents telling them to be careful, have a good time etc. However, after looking for pot before the concert the girls are kidnapped by a group of sadistic escaped criminals including Krug, the leader, and his apparent girlfriend Sadie. The girls are then raped, tortured, and eventually killed in brutal ways. Craven directs these scenes so that they are almost unbearable to watch even though we don't see much, and the performances of the cast are excellent. Even after the deaths the killers seem to realise what they have done and there seems to be some sort of confusion in their eyes, if not remorse. Then in a Bergman-esquire twist, the killers' car breaks down and they look for help at a nearby house which just happens to be the Collingwood home, where the parents of one of their victims live. They have called the police as their daughter has not returned home, and unwittingly invite the maniacs in. Soon though each group recognises the other, and the parents go about their bloody revenge using a variety of dentistry and home improvement tools to full, gripping effect.
Like The Hills have Eyes, it is fascinating to watch how a middle class family with strong values etc can quickly become executers when provoked, to see how any person can become a monster in the 'right' circumstances. There are no happy endings here, no moral justification, just revenge pure and simple. The film is set up in every way to disturb, from the infamous trailer, the Texas Chainsaw style 'based on a true story' effect, and the scenes of torture and murder themselves. Krug and co. and thoroughly evil and take great joy in the pain of others, but they quickly change face when bearing down upon a gun or chainsaw. The film is almost entirely grim and grainy although there are some funny moments involving the cops and a chicken farmer. There is some average acting, and it will be too unbearable for some. This should definitely be seen, but do not be expecting a bright affair, you will be uncomfortable throughout.
This double disc edition has since been improved upon by a 3 disc set, but this edition has plenty of extras including intersting docuementaries featuring Craven and cast and some shorts. For fans of the genre, and for fans of Craven this is an important piece documenting the extreme lengths film-makers were willing to go to provoke a reaction, to stir things up, and to horrify.
on 10 October 2005
The film which brought Wes Craven to the attention of the horror movie world, "Last House on the Left" (originally "Night of Vengeance") is an enigmatically titled reworking of Ingmar Bergman's classic "The Virgin Spring" - for 'reworking' read 'dumbed down'.
In its day (released in 1972, shot earlier), it was seen as a horrific gore fest and was denounced as un-American. As has been frequently pointed out, the visceral images from the film were hardly as disturbing as the daily diet of television news from Vietnam which the American public were then watching. For some reason it was seen as going too far, as being too violent for its time ... and the notoriety meant it sold and sold and earned a cult reputation which can appear a little surprising by contemporary standards.
Originally envisaged as a hard-core porn movie which would push the boundaries, "Last House on the Left" evolved into purist horror during the shooting (or maybe the editing). It presents two young women heading off from rural Connecticut into New York city to watch a band called 'Blood Lust'. It's Mary's 17th birthday, she's lovely and innocent, and this is her first real excursion to the big city. Her friend, and obviously a corrupting influence, leads her astray ... and they find themselves kidnapped by a couple of guys newly escaped from prison ... or rather, by a couple of guys and their two hangers on.
The gang take the girls back to Connecticut, coincidentally parking up outside Mary's home, and take the girls for a walk in the woods. I use 'walk in the woods' euphemistically. Mary's parents will stumble on what has happened and exact their own, gory retribution.
Frankly, it's dreadful. The acting is atrocious - the lassie who played Mary was apparently terrified out of her skull that they really were going to kill her. The actors are completely over the top when they're not actually wooden. They improvise - sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. It looks like all the best bits were just kept in, edited to fit - so you get incongruous moments of light relief which contrast with the narrative needs of the plot. You sense that, at one point, it was going to be a comic horror ... you sense that this is a film which underwent several incarnations before achieving its final form.
Lighting and direction are amateurish - and there are some comments on the DVD extras which present this as exciting and new, and a lot of comments which admit that no one making the film had any previous experience and that they were making it up as they went along. It shows. Picture and sound quality are poor. The editing can be haphazard and a touch self-conscious - perhaps reflecting an absence of script and narrative control.
There is some coy nudity, some gore, but this is a black and white movie. The images are, quite frankly, tame. The violence is amateurish. Overall, it looks very dated. Craven and company couldn't find a market for it until some advertising executive decided to re-title it "Last House on the Left" - for no obvious reason - and market it with the now infamous "it's only a movie" epithet.
It's interesting, it's worth watching as a piece of history and as a landmark in American horror, but it has a cult reputation which far exceeds both its artistic and its horror quality. And I would seriously recommend buying this as part of "The Wes Craven Collection", where it is packaged with three other films and some interesting extras, and you get a real sense of the development of Craven's style and sophistication compared to this first offering.
on 15 April 2003
It's hard to analyse a film like Wes Craven's 1972 horror classic 'Last House on the Left', due to different types of audiences that view movies from the genre. It is very much a 'cult' film in every sense of the word, and anyone other than horror enthusiasts and Craven fans will no doubt find little interest in this intelligent work.
'Last House on the Left' is a genuinely disturbing horror opus, which pulls no punches in it's representation of violence and rape, and the debasing affects of these acts. The violence is shown in a raw and dispassionate style, turning the stomach of the viewer, and is shockingly realistic. Although the violence is very much a key factor in the film, Craven's direction and morbid imagination is unforgettable, and the screenplay offers up some witty dialogue and a lot of shock value.
It's position in the annals of horror history is legendary, though some viewers may be turned off, due to the low-budget and crude nature of the film, and the overall feeling of dread carried throughout. It is a draining and ultimately harrowing exercise, which is distinctively hard to view. This is definitely not a movie for mainstream audiences, and is extremely different to the more popular horror ventures.
The movie also features a towering performance by David Hess, as the truly dispicable Krug. A pitch-perfect (and terrifying) depiction of his character, is the films key highlight. Gore effects are also stomach-churning, and aren't given a stylised edge, therefore upping the scare factor considerably. The grainy, documentary style presentation is also a substantial element in evoking response from the audience. 'The Blair Witch Project' followed in a similar vein, but that didn't pack the visceral punch that this film delivers in spades. While this version is cut, some scenes will still frighten certain viewers.
Do I recommend this film? My answer is complicated. If it sounds like you're kind of flick, you should give it a go. All I ask, is that you go into it with an open mind. While it is far from a masterpiece, the historical siginificance of a film like 'Last House on the Left' remains true. The film is crude and without gloss, but it was also ground-breaking. Ultimately, you'll either love this film, or absoloutely hate it.
on 15 September 2003
This is one of the strangest and most uncomfortable films i have ever seen. Wes Craven makes his directorial debut with this unorthadox, yet powerful horror flick. The story is bleak, the characters poorly casted and the camera work horrific, however the chilling score and picturesque location still manage to grasp your attention until the end credits. In comparison to today's horror movies it looks tired and weak, but is still worth watching to understand how this genre has advanced and to see where Craven's crazy macabre style originates from.
Infamous for having been banned in the UK for many years, Last House on the Left is still a vicious little film. As might be expected, Wes Craven's first film has production values so low they are barely there, but the lack of polish makes this seem a much more grainy and real film - this is a million miles away from the slick horror of A Nightmare on Elm Street, instead seeming more like an early template for the sadistic horror of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The story is presented as a collision between two families - one a normal conservative suburban family, the other a drug-crazed psychotic Charles Manson-type Family. The first half of the film - while crude - shows flashes of genius, and the fate of the two girls the Family come across is both shocking (convention leads us to expect at least one of these girls to survive to become the heroine of the film) and brilliantly acted and filmed (witness the dead-eyed girls post-rape walk into the river). Unfortunately the second half of the film doesn't quite convince - the actors playing one of the girls parents are dire, and if two parents found out their daughters killers were in the house I would expect them to attack them without thinking, not potter around laying traps. The film as a whole deals with an incredibly dark subject matters, but Craven unwisely tries to inject some comedy interludes with a couple of bungling policemen - while not completely without merit these inserts clash horribly with the tone of the rest of the picture. The music score is also utterly bizarre, with someone playing an acoustic guitar and singing along songs about the characters in the film over the action, but somehow this works well in highlighting the mood, and becomes one of this films most distinctive and quirky delights. Last House on the Left is certainly uncomfortable viewing, but for every moment of ineptness there's a moment of brilliance - this is an important film for fans of modern horror, laying the groundwork for the genre pinnacle of Texas Chainsaw, but it's not exactly pleasant viewing.
NB. Unfortunately while no longer banned, the draconian British Board of Film Censors STILL wont let this film be released without cutting it - according to them as a mature adult you are still deemed to be just to idiotic to be able to differentiate between fantasy and reality, and are expected to turn into a psychotic killer rapist after viewing this film (did it happen to any of them I wonder?), so if you want to see the film as intended you'll need to import the uncut American version.
on 7 November 2015
Wes Craven's debut as writer and director is still one of the grittiest, hardest to watch films you will see, over 40 years after its release. This tale of a teenage girl kidnapped, beaten, raped and ultimately killed only for her parents to take brutal revenge threw up all sorts of questions about morals and film censorship and what is and isn't acceptable to show in films at the time. But this was Craven's intention; to push boundaries, purposefully making it a difficult watch with the jarring music and almost documentary style, at times, filming making you feel like you're there watching this poor girl getting tormented by a gang of insane criminals. When you look to films like Cannibal Holocaust and even later, The Blair Witch Project, its fair to say you could trace a line back to Last House on the Left somehow.
With it's infamous tagline of "To avoid fainting keep telling yourself it's only a movie, it's only a movie, it's only a movie..." also proving a big influence on budding film makers as well as tempting horror loving audiences and giving film critics/censors something else to rage about, The Last House on the Left seemed almost built to gain a cult following.
Also notable for being produced by Sean S. Cunningham, who would later go on to direct slasher classic Friday 13th, there are still those that don't get it unfortunately, but The last House on the Left is a great example of what you can do on little to no budget and remains an important part of Wes Craven's legacy.
I haven't got round to watching the second disc of extras but I'm sure it's well worth the low price!
on 23 March 2015
Two teenage girls, Mari & Phyllis, go into town for a night out. Looking for some weed before the concert the girls run into 2 escaped convicts and their 2 accomplices who then kidnap them, take them into the woods then rape & torture them.
Infamous 70's horror movie debut from Wes Craven & Sean S Cunningham, that even by todays standards this still has the power to shock in the brutal depiction of what happens to the girls. Very effective in its scenes of violence, the demise of Phyllis is quite graphic and a little tough to watch but also strangely compelling. The end of Mari is a very poignant scene, what happened to her and knowing what was coming when she goes into the lake you really do feel it. The story is a strong point of the film from its humble start of a night out building up to a violent crescendo. The low budget also helps, the lack of a glossy finish adds to the atmosphere and intense tension throughout the film. There are a couple of negatives though, the frankly ridiculous sheriff and deputy unfunny comedy routine is nothing but a bad distraction to the horrific events taking place, the soundtrack is also a little off putting and doesn't fit in many of the scenes. Acting wise its OK, the girls are good as is David Hess as usual, the parents however do seem a bit weak though.
The film has had a difficult time here in the UK, refused a cinema certificate, banned as a video nasty and banned on DVD/video then cut, now however sense has taken over and is available uncut. A key 70's exploitation horror film, a tough but important watch.
on 9 February 2013
Wes Craven, the man who made all of our nightmares come true, has created a few classic films that have forever changed the shape of horror today. There are three films Wes Craven made that, in my mind, helped revolutionized horror as we know today. They were : "Last House on the Left", "The Hills Have Eyes", and "A Nightmare on Elm Street". I am also a fan of his films "The Serpent and the Rainbow" and "People Under the Stairs". The Last House on the Left is a unique kind of shocking. It simultaneously manages to be endearing and alienating and both enticing and disturbing. The plot itself boils down to a fairly standard tale of rape, murder and revenge. The viewer is introduced to an innocent pair of teenage girls Mari Collingwood (Sandra Cassel) and Phylis Stone (Lucy Grantham), hippy-friendly types, who go to the City for a concert and try to score some grass. One thing they don't find is free love. They get picked up by a crew of homicidal lunatics led by Krug (played brilliantly by David Hess) who proceed to humiliate, rape and murder the young, innocent teens. The concerned parents of Mari soon start worrying about their daughter's whereabouts, but there's a twist that arrives when the convict's car breaks down in an ironic location. The low grade film stock, the amateur actors and the brutal subject matter make sure the viewer is uneasy as can be, knowing full well that the filmmaker behind the scenes is capable of showing anything, even the most ugly truths about violent human nature. Still, the story telling and craftsmanship is successful enough to remind us that we are watching a film, and as the trailer and infamous tagline says To avoid fainting, keep repeating:- It's only a movie, only a movie, only a movie... While it is certainly not Craven's most polished film, I still consider it to be his best, and indeed, Craven has acknowledged many times that he doesn't even want to ATTEMPT to equal it. "Last House" was the first movie that aimed to show an audience what the REAL effects of violence were and the low-budget, documentary-like realism that Craven brought to the proceedings allows it to pack a bigger punch than a thousand professional studio films ever could. Yes, the movie has more than its fair share of flaws, the main issue being the two bumbling idiot cops, but it is a measure of the film's power that one can easily overlook them. The most flawed masterpiece of all time may be a strange way to describe a film, but that would be an accurate way to describe "Last House on the Left". The 2002 MGM DVD release is the "most complete cut ever" according to Craven, and the stabbing and disemboweling scene has been restored. The U.K. has also released a 3 disc special edition a few years ago which was uncut for the first time ever, so it's better if you get that edition since it has more special features and the brilliant horror documentary Going To Pieces.
on 22 December 2011
I recently watched this movie and its remake, I found both really enjoyable to watch though both of them have horrendous rape scenes which are to realistic. I did really enjoy this movie, I thought the acting was great especially the villains who are Krug a murderer who killed a priest and two nuns, Weasal a child molester and Krug's girlfriend Sadie who is described as animalistic. Sadie and Weasal were my favorite characters in the whole movie as they were brilliantly acted and they seemed so realistic, Sadie is a sadistic evil witch and Weasal is a creepy, scary man who enjoys playing with his knife. Mari and her friend Phylis are both brilliant characters and I believe the audience really gets to know them, throughout the movie you are always rooting for there survival. Mari's parents are also well acted.
In my opinion the soundtrack to the movie is great, I really liked how the music contrasted to the scenes which were playing out, such as when there was a dark, eerie scene it had upbeat, loud music playing. This and The People Under The Stairs are my favorite Wes Craven films, I feel as if the characters are really well-acted and believable, you get to know there personality and everything quickly. All around this is a brilliant film which I really enjoyed, some scenes are quite sad but others are quite humorous.
Anyone who is a big fan of horror films and slasher flicks BUY THIS MOVIE IT'S FANTASTIC!!!