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on 20 April 2017
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on 24 October 2012
The Last House on the Left is a sick, nasty film about evil and revenge which doesn't chicken out, except in some stupid "comic relief" scenes. It's called exploitation, but in my opinion it's less exploitive than its remake, which let its audience off the hook with a happy ending, as if to say: "all that rape and carnage you just saw? Don't worry about that, all the goodies got away! Now go home and sleep easy".
In this modern re-telling of Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring two teenage girls, Mari Collingwood (Sandra Cassel) and Phyllis Stone (Lucy Grantham), try to score some weed and in the film's most difficult scenes are captured, raped and murdered by Krug (David A. Hess), his son Junior (Marc Sheffler), Weasel (Fred Lincoln) and Sadie (Jeramie Rain), a gang of escaped convicts. Junior is the only human member. He's a pathetic wretch who's been mentally cowed since birth and hooked on heroin by his cretinous dad, a man so vile he'd make Freddy Kreuger blush. Their horrible deeds done, the gang unwittingly seek refuge with Mari's parents, John (Gaylord St. James) and Estelle (Cynthia Carr), who discover their crimes and take gruesome vengeance.
What Mari and Phyllis suffer is so heartbreaking that we find ourselves in league with the elder Collingwoods, even if we can't see ourselves doing what they do. They're a nice, middle-class couple who chide their daughter for using words like "tits" and wince at the idea of her seeing Bloodlust, a violent rock band. If you knew them you'd never in a million years imagine them committing brutal slaughter, but they do, because fate and their grief makes them sadists.
The one major problem with this film is tone. There's a sheriff (Marshall Anker) and deputy (Martin Kove) who try reaching John and Estelle while events unfold. Their scenes are full of corny slapstick and belong in a very different story. Imagine The Texas Chainsaw Massacre intercut with Laurel and Hardy clips and you'll get how inappropriate they are. Even some of the killers' early scenes feel comic. They sometimes look and act like John Waters characters; Sadie has a touch of Divine about her. I guess writer/director Wes Craven was going for satire, but satire of what escapes me. He's closer to the mark when he intercuts clips of John and Estelle's domestic bliss with Mari's suffering.
Last House is a nauseating film which left me in need of a drink and a lie down. But for the most part it's also honest and structured like a tragedy. The Jacobeans might have understood this film.
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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.
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on 17 March 2017
Mr. Kermode, compare (objectively) the content of 'Last House', which you have defended in print, with that of 'Captivity' (2007), and judge which is more extreme/'miss-sog/inistic'? You have become a horror-reactionary, now run off and re-watch 'Cronos'.
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on 31 August 2016
It took a while to like this film over time it won me over it's the two girls what they go through still get to me today better than the remake yes it's a old film better than the horror films of today.
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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.
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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.
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on 28 November 2003
THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT is the only movie of its kind - reputed by producer Sean Cunningham and director Wes Craven as something they will never dare branch out to perform again.
And it's clear to see why when you see the movie.
This Anchor Bay collectors set luckily comes with 2 versions of the film - but it is infact the rarer version "Krug & Company" that wins out; with footage unavailable in the newly passed version by the BBFC. It is the alternate version ("Krug & Company") that I advise you watch first, even though there are many blemishes and disruptive sound on the transfer to DVD.
This Anchor Bay edition is superb - even if we in the UK are not legally able to witness the uncut version.
On Disc #1, you have the remastered feature in 5.1 Dolby Surround; as well as two trailers and a 40 minute featurette interviewing Wes Craven, producer Sean Cunningham as well as star David Hess and others. There is also a hidden bonus easter egg to find on this disc - once found you will be able to unlock the footage that was banned from the UK version via the Internet (of which I have now seen and can not for the life of me see why the BBFC took it out). Disc 2 is loaded with extras - listed by Amazon above.
Add to this a great collectors booklet and a smart collectors case and you have one heck of a DVD set.
You know doubt know the story the film deals with, so I won't go through it here , but suffice to say it's extremely disturbing, very horrific and perhaps one of the single most important horror films ever made.
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on 10 October 2016
Everything is bad about this film how anybody can like watching graphic rape scenes is beyond me and the acting is terrible should have been banned for that alone.This and I spit on your grave are the two worst films ever made they are just low budget rubbish films.
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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.
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