The Last House On The Left

The Last House On The Left


Reviewed by: Daniel Hooper

Seventies exploitation cinema is not generally known for its value as high art but rather for its lousy production values, coupled with excesses of sex and violence, and other elements of a dubious moral nature. Take Wes Craven’s 1972 debut, The Last House On The Left, for example: it opens with its female lead naked in the shower, features graphic scenes of rape, sexual violence and other cruelty, while condoning other barbaric acts as vengeance, and is held together by rough editing, clunky writing, and some bad acting (namely, the bumbling local sheriffs and Mari’s parents).

But to dismiss The Last House On The Left as dated trash would do it a disservice. For one, it is loosely based on an Ingmar Bergman film (The Virgin Spring) – how many exploitation films can boast that? More relevantly, it is a product of a turbulent time in American history and a refection of the violence taking place in Vietnam - as such belongs in a body of cultural work known as "the death of the American Dream", alongside other pieces including Hunter S Thompson’s novel Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas and Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On.

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Like many other horror films, the plot centres on a teenage girl in trouble. Naive country girl Mari (Sandra Cassell) and her friend are in town to see a rock concert and make a detour afterwards to score some pot. Bumping into escaped inmates led by the ruthless Krug (David Hess), the girls are held prisoner and led down to the forest for some acts of malevolent and horrific cruelty. But it isn’t until the torturers accidentally end up at Mari’s family home that the most shocking violence begins.

From the outset it should be noted that this is a film that divides opinion even among horror genre fans and does suffer from odd shifts in tone, lurching from sadistic to slapstick in a single transition. Nevertheless The Last House On The Left features some of cinema's most horrible villains in the form of Krug and his co-conspirators Weasel (adult movie actor Fred Lincoln) and Sadie (Jeramie Rain); they are monsters lacking costumes and whose actions are made all the more powerful by the authentic look of the film.

In an age when the Saw series is big box office it takes a lot to still be infamous, so for The Last House On The Left to be only now getting a fully uncut UK release after years in the courts is no mean feat. For good or bad The Last House On The Left is a pivotal influence on the level of graphic violence permissible in modern horror and, more specifically, the plot devices and sequences featured in the recent torture porn genre. Pre-dating the more widely influential Texas Chainsaw Massacre by two years, The Last House On The Left is a very important horror film and at its most violent (both explicit and implied) it is deeply effective, even if it does provoke some accidental laughs along the way.

Reviewed on: 02 Nov 2008
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The attackers of two teenage girls inadvertently take refuge with their parents and face a terrible revenge.
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Read more The Last House On The Left reviews:

Scott Macdonald ****

Director: Wes Craven

Writer: Wes Craven

Starring: Sandra Cassel, Lucy Grantham, David Hess, Fred J. Lincoln, Jeramie Rain, Marc Sheffler, Gaylord St. James, Cynthia Carr, Ada Washington, Marshall Anker, Martin Kove

Year: 1972

Runtime: 84 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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