The Last House on the Left (1972)
Directed By: Wes Craven
Produced By: Sean Cunningham
Starring: Sandra Cassel, Lucy Grantham, David Hess, Fred Lincoln
Subgenre: Exploitation, Revenge
You know what shocks me the most after my initial viewing of The Last House on the Left? Wes Craven and Sean Cunningham went on to have successful careers with major studios. This is pretty shocking for the time, hell; it is still pretty graphic for today’s standards. This was pretty much off of most people’s radar until the remake came out a while back.
Mari and Phyllis go to a concert for Mari’s 17th Birthday and look to score some weed afterwards. They look in the wrong spot and wind up in the hands of escaped criminals led by the vicious Krug and Weasel. They are raped, tortured and eventually killed by the group, who end up near Mari’s home and, ironically, end up staying the night with her parents. Mari’s parents find out the truth concerning their daughter and the group and exact a nasty revenge.
Last House on the Left is a nasty film. Much of the realism comes from the almost documentary feel to the filming and editing process. Its explicit violence and sexual assault landed it on the infamous Video Nasty list. David Hess, who plays Krug, plays one of the coldest, most vicious villains I remember in film. Hess didn’t make too many American movies after Last House, but did extensive work in Europe and even starred in Deodato’s The House on the Edge of the Park, pretty much reprising his role as Krug.
In fact, not many of the actors went on to do much of anything in major cinema. Fred Lincoln (Weasel) went on to become a major player in the porn industry as an actor and director. The deputy did go on to play the bad guy in Karate Kid, but that is about it. This could be due to the low budget nature of the film, or the fact that Last House made most of the actors virtually untouchable. Who knows?
One interesting aspect to the movie is the use of music. The music is often in direct contrast to what is happening on screen. Soothing ballads strike up at the end of one of the rapes for instance. The police serve as comedic relief as well, which I believe was intended to give the audience a break in the tension.
Last House isn’t an easy film to watch, but it is a worthwhile entry into the horror genre and without it, we may not have other genre classics such as The Hills Have Eyes and A Nightmare on Elm Street. When you watch it, keep the original marketing in mind. Just keep telling yourself “It’s Only a Movie.”