Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Last House On Dead End Street (1977) Film Review
The Last House On Dead End Street
Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown
Released from prison where he was sent for a drugs offence, misfit Terry Hawkins wants revenge. His medium is film.
Gathering a Manson-type family of acolytes - the psychopathic Ken, who spent six months in an asylum after being caught sodomising a calf in a slaughterhouse, the naive, pliable Bill and two avaricious prostitutes - Terry sets to work.
The gang film the murder of a blind man and use this footage to convince a group of pornographers, hungry for something new and different to supply their jaded customers, to back his real project. They are invited to the set, then revealed to be stars-cum-victims of the film-within-the-film. An orgy of violence ensues, complete with branding, amputation without anaesthetic, the gouging of a nipple with pliers, the application of a power drill to an eyeball and - somehow trumping all of these in its sheer sickness - a man being forced to fellate a deer's hoof.
It almost goes without saying, then, that Last House On Dead End Street is a film that is not for all tastes.
For many years it was a "mystery within an enigma" - origins, cast and crew unknown. Banned in the UK as a video nasty and scarcely available in the USA - Psychotronic author Michael Weldon asked his readers if they "[had] every heard anyone even admit that they saw it" - some gullible and hopeful types even believed it to be a bona fide snuff movie.
In 2001 the truth came out, via an Internet message board discussion. The film was the work of one Roger Watkins, who also played the part of Terry. Made on a minuscule budget, with much of the money allegedly being spent on amphetamines for the director, the original cut of the film, going under the name The Cuckoo Clocks Of Hell had been released in 1972 and ran around three hours. It then resurfaced five years later on the drive-in and grindhouse circuit in an unofficial edited form under the new titles The Fun House and Last House On Dead End Street, the latter an obvious attempt to cash in on the fame of Wes Craven and Sean S Cunningham's notorious shocker.
While some of the aura that surrounded the film has dissipated in the light of these revelations, Last House On Dead End Street remains an intense, perverse and profoundly disturbing film, on a par with the likes of Salo and Cannibal Holocaust.
It is quite simply a film that is so out there, it is as if it has come from another planet, one where the Dziga Vertov Group and Manson family decided to collaborate on a film.
Accordingly, everything that would otherwise work against the movie - extremely raw visuals, amateurish performances, stock sound effects and scoring, ad-libbed stream of consciousness dialogue and post-synchronised sound - only adds to the viewer's disorientation and sense that we really are journeying into a psychopathic mind.
Likewise, when Hawkins/Watkins repeatedly screams, "I'm directing this fucking movie!" one cannot readily tell if he is still acting a role, or has crossed the line between real and reel life. There is a sense of danger in the air that anything could happen.Reviewed on: 26 May 2006