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Almost everyone who reviews this film talks about how un-even it is. They're right, but I think it is that way intentionally. Basically the story revolves around a bunch of cartoonish escaped convicts who suddenly become viciously cruel and kidnap two girls on their way to a concert. No film had really gone as far in its depiction of violence as this one when it was released, and by the time the credits rolled, I for one had a hard time shaking off the images. More jaded viewers may be disappointed by the lack of gore, or the absence of a masked killer (Last House is frequently compared to Texas Chainsaw...it is nothing like it). A lot of people criticize the music in the film as being out of place. I thought it worked nicely as a counterpoint. I think what Wes Craven was going for in this film was kind of the shocking humor/horror vibe that Tarantino has sort of mastered in later years. It is an experiment that doesn't always work, but the violent scenes are so shocking that the flat humor won't really detract from the effect of the film. I thought Hess's music was great, and really captured the disillusion of the era. I'm also surprised I haven't seen the actress who played Mari Collingwood in any other films, she is really talented. In fact, her performance is what anchors the film in reality.
I cannot believe how BAD this movie is. I'd been led to believe that, like Tobe Hooper's TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, Wes Craven's first feature was supposed to be one of his best. It's not. I do like some of Craven's other films, like THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS and THE HILLS HAVE EYES, but watching this reminded me more of the crap that he typically churns out, like SHOCKER, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (c'mon - Freddy is just Shecky Greene with claws) or any of those direct-to-cable stinkers his name seems to turn up on with a producer credit on a regular basis. The acting is almost totally unconvincing. (At the end, when the sheriff comes in I almost expected the mother to offer him some more birthday cake.) The plot is so indescribably preposterous that words fail me. (Let's just say that the ridiculous coincidences pile up faster than cowpies on a dairy farm.) The music is so at odds with the action (and not in an appropriately ironic way) that it beggars the mind - and that's not to mention the "comic" relief of the inept sheriff and deputy. And worst of all is Craven's utterly amateurish directing and editing. I've seen better films made by 6-year-olds with digital video cameras. (And Craven hasn't really improved that much over the years.) You want to see a movie of this ilk that still packs a punch after the same (approximate) amount of time? Watch I SPIT IN YOUR GRAVE. THAT'S a good exploitation film that transcends the limits of the genre. THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT...utter crap. Wes Craven wishes this was shocking. It's not. It's boring. And to avoid boredom (and believe me, it was SO hard not to press fast-forward through so much of this film), keep repeating to yourself, "Hit the Eject button. Hit the Eject button..."
Last House on the Left (1972) is one of the most dark, twisted and
frightening movies ever made. Shot on 16mm, the movie has the feel of a
snuff film. Wes Craven set the bar high and only a few movies have even
come close to it. Krug has to be the nasty villain to ever appear upon
the silver screen. He drips with scuzz, sleaze and death. A depressing
tale about how sick psychopaths are and how far people will go to get
revenge. Craven and Cunningham revamp an old Swedish folk tale "The
Virgin Spring" and give it an early 70's spin upon it, in the process
they manage to create one of the most disturbing films in the history
of cinema. Sadly, due to years of editing and mistreatment there is no
definite cut of L.H.O.T.L. Many of these scenes were edited either by
the distributors or the film-makers themselves. This picture launched
the careers of Wes Craven and Sean S. Cunningham and created a cult
star out of David A. Hess (he would reprise different variations of his
Krug character in future films).
Highly recommended for horror film fans. This movie falls into the category of what I would call an initiation film for true fans of horror flicks.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Wes Craven has been involved in a variety of horror movies. Along with John
Carpenter and Sean Cunningham (who produced "Last House"), Craven ushered in
the slasher film in the 80s, and horror has never been the same. Before he
started doing slasher movies, however, Craven worked on a number of
different movies, including "Swamp Thing," "The Hills Have Eyes," and "Last
House on the Left."
Best likened to Peckinpah's classic "Straw Dogs," "Last House" is a no-budget movie literally shot in the backyard of Cunningham's house in Connecticut. It's a fairly typical exploitation/revenge movie, except for the performance of one David Hess.
Hess' Krug Stillo is perhaps the most effective portrayal of a slimy, street-smart, patriarchal serial killer and rapist that I have ever seen (okay, so there aren't many characters like that, but who cares?). With wicked smiles and genuinely menacing dialogue, Hess' performance makes Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter look like a pansy. Simply put, you would never want to meet Krug anywhere, let alone a dark alley. This is all the more amazing given that Hess is such an easygoing guy in real life.
Craven's camera work and sense of pace is very strong even this early in the game - the shots are realistic without ever being MTV-like or jarring like other low budget movies (*cough* Blair Witch Project *cough*). The story is all about the generation gap and how people can become killers when they are faced with killers. In "Last House," the WWII generation parents are sweet at the beginning of the movie, but at the end, they've taken on several psychotic killers...and won. "The greatest generation," indeed.
I picked this up with some of my graduation money because it was Wes'
first film. I thought, you know, I could get the family together and we
could all watch a nice little horror film. Damn! I had no idea Wes
Craven was ever involved in some thing like this!
Luckily, because my brother was impaitent at the pace, music, and film quality, we had to stop as soon as they first cut to the gang of murderers...BEFORE THEY KILLED ONE HIPPIE! Anyway when I did get to watch this movie with my mother it shocked her enough to walk out. I kept my eyes one it for the historical interest, but still had a hard time watching it. I watch horror movies all the time, and can usually endure even the most lurid sequences, but this movie still made my stomach cringe.
Maybe its because the villains are shown to be so human, and they are torturing people just as shallow and just as ethical as any girl you'd meet next door, and the torture is so graphic, man's inhumanity to man you know-- makes this so much more terrifying than any of the super-natural horror the filmmakers make later in their careers.
Nevertheless, Craven develops themes that would reappear frequently in his later work: incompetent, almost humorous cops; brave teenage heroine; physcotic killers etc. The structure, if not the content, of the film isn't altogether out side mainstream Judeo-Christian morality-- in fact it is a lesson in paternal ethics that some of todays youth (and their parents) would do well to learn. Bill Bennet would approve.
Footnote: In the direction the killers are going in, the house where the killers meet their fate would be on the right hand side.
Last House on the Left is Wes Craven's directorial debut and hailed as one of the scariest horror films ever made. It's a very disturbing film but not as scary as I expected. The subplot about the cops is really uninteresting and the dialogue is very bad at times. I'm not too sure about the acting of the criminals, they fit the profile but I never feel they're that menacing. I don't even want to comment on the performances of the parents, it's that bad. The best performance (if you want to call it that) of the film is by Sandra Cassel who plays Mari. You can tell she is truly scared out of her mind. As they said in the DVD documentary, "she takes method acting to another level." What I admirer about the movie is that it never pulls back, it takes it story all the way. Some may call it exploitive but the violence is never glamorized. I like the fact that the criminals are portrayed as still having some humanity and that Mari's parents are shown as having an evil side. I hate it when a revenge picture celebrates the victim's vengeance. I think when a human being succumbs to that evil side it should never be treated as a good thing but a sad and unfortunate event. The parent's killing of the murderers is the most frightening moment and most compelling aspect of Last House on the Left.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've damn near given myself a nervous breakdown trying to surmise my
feelings on the tawdry little film, going through draft after draft of
meaningless arguments for and against this so-called controversial
However, regardless of my prolonged manifestation of writer's block I have
finally come to a conclusion, and that is; that The Last House on the Left
is a bad film... pure and simple. Here is a movie that hides its
exploitatation behind a pretence of documentary realism. This makes it
the more detestable. The story, if you can call it that, follows two
teenage girls from the countryside embarking on a trip to the big city to
see a band called, of all things, Blood Lust. Needless to say... they
make the gig.
Instead, having tried to score some grass from an obvious smack-fiend, they are kidnapped, driven into the woods and repeatedly raped, tortured, abused and ridiculed before finally being hacked to pieces or, in the case of the lead girl, forced to wade out into the lake where she is shot in the back of the head. Now, there's a lesson for you kids, if you're gonn'a buy drugs from a sweaty, strung-out hustler then for god's sake don't follow him into his apartment... the fact that the one of the two girls is supposedly familiar with this part of town makes you wonder how she could make such a stupid error of judgement... unless by 'familiar with' they meant in the same way that director Craven is 'familiar' with art of filmmaking.
Scenes of sexual violence and narcissism are composed to a lovely folksy soundtrack by lead scumbag himself David A. Hess (who where you expecting, Bob Dylan?). Now, in all honesty Hess is a pretty talented musician, and in fairness I would seriously think about buying the film's soundtrack album. However, when you couple songs like Wait for the Rain and All Alone with scenes of rape, torture and mutilation the effect it has is so jarring that we are immediately whisked out of the moment. Now Craven has argued that the music was used in this way to give the film a more sinister underlining -- think of how Kubrick used Beethoven in A Clockwork Orange. However, since the crew seem to be shooting for realism surely the more jarring and disturbing thing they could have done would have been to leave the soundtrack empty, forcing the audience to watch and connect with the images undisturbed by what is being put into their ears. Silence is, as someone once said, golden.
Last House on the Left is a film full of irritating elements like this that split my mind in two, leaving me half impressed and half depressed by what Craven is forcing us to sit through. The rape scenes, which fall into the mid-section of the film, have caused me the most bother. Not because they disturbed me in any psychological way -- there was never enough connection established with the characters to warrant tears of sympathy or rage -- but rather, disturbed at how frivolously Craven and the filmmakers were treating the notion of rape. In a more serious film I could have bought into this scenario, but in a work so knowingly exploitative as this it became crude and distasteful. Admittedly, there was more need to actually see the rape than there was in, say for example Peckinpah's Straw Dogs, in which the rape of Susan George was, to me, one of the most pointlessly misogynistic scenes ever committed to film. I had similar feelings about the latter scene involving oral-castration, something which should have left me reeling on the floor in agony just from the thought of it... left me completely cold. This is perhaps because much like the rest of the film it happens too fast to linger and is done so heavy-handedly that we half-expected it anyway. It seems that subtlety is another word Mr Craven is unfamiliar with.
The climax of the film looks like a dry run for A Nightmare on Elm Street, with booby-trapped houses, chainsaws and knife attacks. All wrapped up with a jolly credit sequence which wouldn't have looked out of place on 60's British sitcom. This is juvenile, puerile and completely irresponsible filmmaking, which is now talked about alongside A Short film about Killing, as if The Last House on the Left is some kind of serious indictment against sexual violence. Well... it isn't. Any film that begins with a teenage girl soaping up her breasts in the shower holds a somewhat dubious notion of what constitutes as female empowerment. The only saving grace of this film is Fred. Lincoln, once actor, now porn-director, and the only member of the cast to write this film off as the turkey it most certainly is. Lincoln gives an amazingly mannered performance as Weasel, the older member of the group, and watching this I couldn't help but wonder why his career never took off. He has the charisma and screen presence to carry a film, but instead he's wasted in stuff like this. Last House on the Left is not a classic, its not essential viewing, it isn't scary and it's definitely not disturbing. Here is a cheap exploitation film that fails on all levels. Not even cinema extremist Mark Kermode could confess to liking this embarrassment. ...I haven't even mentioned the two bumbling police officers that pop up throughout the film to supply comic relief, or the fact that this travesty is a re-make of Bergman's classic The Virgin Spring. Common knowledge will attest that this film spent 30 years hidden away in the vault's of the BBFC. All I can say is... they should have left it there. 1/5
Granted this was shot in the 70s (?) and was one of Craven's first films so
it won't be up to par on a number of levels with later films . . . why is
this a classic? This is TCM all over again (or TCM is a repeat of this--I
don't care enough to look up who came first). This is one of the few films
where I stopped it midway and said, `No power on earth can make me watch the
rest of this.'
Wow, and I thought Friday the 13th had bad execution. The only thing that scares me about this film is people quote it as being an exceptional film. Are we, as a society, too locked into the notion that whatever came in yesteryear is superior to what is being made today? That sequels can't live up to originals and that talent dies with age instead of getting better?
First, foremost, and most offensively - the characters are retarded. I don't care how graphic a death anyone has, not one character is really worth caring about. Law enforcement who are supposed to provide comic relief - Police Squad from the Naked Gun films had more going for them than these guys, most notably Naked Guns police force was funny . . . probably because that was comedy. This is HORROR.
At this point in his career, Craven demonstrated no ability to incorporate humor and horror together. The jumps between the two were so clunky and forced, it made me sick. Showed little promise with action scenes, and the only spark of hope came with the heroine's demise. Craven managed to give the scene some sense of sorrow and make me have a few remote second thoughts about that character's worth. Even that, scene though, was pretty mediocre, and even if it was spectacular one 45 second event cannot save an entire film.
I really don't feel I'm being unfair by commenting without seeing the last chapter of Last House on the Left. I didn't buy the build up, I won't buy the finale, and therefore won't miss anything. Nothing that resembled the greatness of the first Nightmare on Elm Street can be seen in this film, and had I not known already I would never be able to tell the same man directed both movies.
I'm still baffled as to how such undeserving films become cult classics.
I realize that this movie was made in the 70's, but WHAT are you people talking about? This movie was horrible. I've seen disney movies that freaked me out more than "Last House on the Left". They should rename this "Last Movie You Should Recommend To Someone Else to Watch." It was painful to watch, the music was comical... I had to keep telling everyone that was watching it with me to "Wait a few minutes more, it has GOT to get better/interesting." We made it through the first antagonizing hour, and finally decided we could better spend our time popping each other's zits. fini
I can remember renting this film years ago (1998) with Nightmare/Elm ST. 3. The movie, back then, was really just to waste the weekend for me. I never really got into it. Then I bought a used rental copy 2 years later, and after viewing it told myself that I would NEVER watch this movie again. I lied to myself. Buying the uncut (More 'bout this later) movie just days ago, I felt like most others do after watching it...sick. This movie is not pleasent. The two girls that played the parts were amazing with what they had to do. Last House is a lot to stomach, and both Wes and Sean do great with building sympathy for the girls. No film has ever been done like this up to that point. The Exorcist and Texas Chainsaw Massacre still had 2 years before they were viewed. Now, to call this film uncut is just not true.the original film ran 91 minutes, and the latest edition runs at 84. The other 7 minutes were sliced by the projectionists at the drive-thrus. Although these 7 minutes are gone, and for people who would like to see the truly complete film, are out of luck. Part of me is curious about what lied in those 7 minutes. The other part is glad they were cut. 84 minutes is enough to get the point out there. Anyways, this film is truly disturbing and should only be viewed by mature adults. Basically Last House is too real for me, and it makes me aware of the problems that we are facing with nowadays, and to think it's gotten worse in 30 years really gets me concerned with where society is heading. For being an eye-opener for that generation, and truly powerful, it's gets a 10. For being watchable, 2. Remember, however many times you watch this film, the first 45 minutes will forever make you sick.
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