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|Index||58 reviews in total|
You'll read plenty about the background of this movie, how it was
nearly lost, miraculously saved and lovingly restored. You'll read
about the trials and travails of Roger Watkins in the making of this
film (much of it revealed by the excellent deluxe edition DVD release;
nice work, Barrel Films). But what you might not read about is exactly
why this film works as well as it does.
The thing is, it really shouldn't work at all. The viewer should be scoffing and snorting from scene one at the appalling acting, the flimsy plot (especially in the first half of the film, where the plot has to hold us), the muddy sound, poor lighting, and so on. This film should be dismissed out of hand and roundly ignored.
Just try it.
If you allow yourself to be carried off into this film, however, you'll find something so utterly engrossing, so roundly terrifying, that you may very well have to tell yourself, "It's only a movie...it's only a movie." In its weird, hell-bent way, the film's inadequacies trap the viewer in the madness on the screen. Unlike a normal slasher film, the viewer doesn't get a chance to step out of the horror to rate the special effects, or even to laugh at the badness of the thing. This movie grips you by the throat and doesn't let go.
I've read comments about this film saying that the first half of this film is the worst horror film you'll ever see and that the second half is the best horror film you'll ever see. That's a very accurate assessment, and it's this aspect of the film which adds to its impact. By the time the real horror starts, the viewer is unprepared for its intensity.
Watch this film in a dark room, all alone. Let this film pour over you and drown you in its madness, and it'll scare the hell out of you more effectively than anything else you've ever seen. This movie is unique. There's nothing else like it, nor will there ever be.
LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET is literally one of the most infamous horror
movies ever made. Part of this comes from the legend and mystery
surrounding it, and the fact it is so difficult to get hold of. Firstly,
all existing prints are EXTREMELY heavily cut... reports indicate that the
original movie was around three hours long, but even the longest running
version nowadays only clocks in at 77 minutes. This print also has entirely
"fake" credits. One "Victor Janos" is accredited with directing LAST HOUSE
ON DEAD END STREET, but any research as to who this actually is ends at the
credits themselves- as is the case with all the others involved with the
film. Although it is now apparent that the across-the-board use of
pseudonyms was an attempt by a distributor to "steal" the movie, for a long
time it simply was not known who was responsible for this film (in
actuality, a director named Roger Watkins wrote, produced, directed and
starred in this movie). Trying to find a good, under-fifth generation copy
of this movie nowadays is extremely difficult. All of these factors add to
the movie's gritty and disturbing reputation- and that's before you've even
In actuality, it isn't nearly as grueling as many would make out but is still an extremely disturbing experience. It is brash, intelligent and EXTREMELY well made considering budget issues and the experience of the film makers (Watkins went on to work on pornography after this). The scenes of violence are very extreme and graphic, but in my mind these are far less disturbing than other aspects of the film. Although the photography is simplistic in a classically "US low budget underground cinema" way, the atmosphere that the movie creates is quite unique. It manages to conjure up a true feeling of a bad dream. The same feeling has been achieved by directors such as Dario Argento but they tend to use bombardments of imagery and a "surrealist" approach. In this case, everything seems gritty and realistic but at the same time strangely disjointed. This is partly because of the heavy cuts leaving huge and bizarre holes in the narrative; partly because of the strange sound track, lighting and empty sets; partly because of the fact the film was clearly rushed; and partly because of the surreal "story line", if it could be even called that...
This is a genuine cinematic curiosity and I think that any self-respecting horror fan would be missing out by not checking it. It is truly an original, one-off work. Sure, it is ragged around the edges but that is part of what makes it so gritty and atmospheric. The movie has an almost numbing and ethereal quality and really works. Extremely disturbing and definitely recommended.
Snuff films have been and forever will be a very powerful urban legend. The
idea that underground filmmakers kidnap people and graphically murder them
on film, then make profits from selling the tapes through the black market
is an intriguing one and would help explain the rash of unexplained
disappearances every year. But it is also a wholly unbelievable idea. LAST
HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET uses this idea to create its horror, most of which
is genuine, but it's also hard to call entertainment at the same
Terry Hawkins, a drug dealer, is just out of prison. He decides to make a horror film with the help of two sadistic prostitutes, a porno cameraman, and a bestial pervert. His crew kidnap three people and graphically murder them in an abandoned warehouse. That's about it. There's also some S&M, softcore sex, real footage of cows having their throats cut in a slaughterhouse (gross!), and really bad "adults only" footage.
DEAD END STREET was obviously made to cash in on the success of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, which is a much superior film. Yet DEAD END still manages to be as effective as LAST HOUSE in an eerie kind of way. The film itself has a grainy, washed-out look, making it look authentic, has awkward post-dubbing, and a pretty claustrophobic and terrifying set in the old warehouse. Steven Morrison, who plays Terry Hawkins, is also the director under a pseudonym. He does a pretty good job, but nobody else does. The first half of the film is rather dull, but the second half is an endurance test in many ways. There is undying tension in some of the buildup to the gory butchery and the "surgery" scene will no doubt have many viewers turning from the screen in disgust. While the special effects are not top-notch, they are rather believable and the fact that they are overdone on grainy film stock and are badly lit make them all the more effective.
LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET is a film I could never recommend to anyone with a clear conscience. It would be like condemning them to the rack, as this film can be seen as a form of torture. I have no idea why so many people have rated this film a 10 on the IMDB, it's not THAT good, but it something special in the annals of horror. Many people still have not seen it, making it a great triumph for those who managed to survive the viewing. Recommended to those who think they can take it, but believe me, this is really strong, graphic, demented stuff.
When The Last House on Dead End Street was released on DVD it certainly
spelled the end for this film and its legend. Once upon a time Last House
was mentioned off handed, it was a film of urban legend made by an unknown
director with an unknown cast. Of course any amount of research, made even
easier with the rise of the internet, reveals the truth behind this film.
Originally the film seemed even more brutal and bleak for its mysterious
origins if nothing else.
With the release of the DVD all mysteries are solved and the film becomes
grounded as an amateur production with a history of cult status. No longer
is the film relegated to video pirates selling dark, grainy, and mostly
unwatchable copies now it is released in a slick package with all the
answers. With all the reputation dispelled the film can be evaluated on
own merit now for most people.
My eyes are still glossed by the esoteric appearance of this film and as
such I probably give the film more credit than it may warrant. Original in
its time and, as mentioned, dribbling in mystery of production the film
its peaks and valleys. The disturbing scenes I had heard about in this
were actually a little flat. Anyone a little older seeing this film now
probably be too jaded or numb due to overexposure to understand what it
about these scenes that was so awe inspiring or offensive. Some of the
scenes are shot with a slick zest that shows Roger Michael Watkins knew
he was doing.
At points the movie moderately drags as if trying to find its feet and
meanders a bit, but really the plot is straightforward about a man jaded
society directing snuff films and little else. It's really about how much
mileage Watkins gets out of this simple set up. There's no protagonist, no
one in the film to empathize with, no heroes, and no justice given to the
characters unless you count the tacked on titles at the end of the film.
Last House on Dead End Street could be retitled A Week in the Life of a
Despite postproduction dubbing, which you have to ignore because focusing
on it will tend to annoy, the film rises above many modern genre films.
fact that there is not a single likeable character in the film will keep
this movie forever relegated to its cult status. Still indie filmmakers
would be advised to check this film out, as it is a true demonstration of
what sort of excellence can be reached on virtually no budget. On the same
note, any movie claiming a lack of budget as a crutch for a horrible movie
would do well to watch this and realize talent, true talent, can overcome
What the film lacks in sound quality and easily consumable plot it makes
for in impressive visuals. Some scenes are indeed creepy and disturbing
it is the handling of the camera angles and scene set up. Given the
matter of the film, most mainstream cinema viewers will ignore any of the
film's strengths and focus on the film's shortcomings completely ignoring
this as a cinematic representation of what can be done on a zero budget.
Probably the biggest shame is that it appears Roger Michael Watkins became what the character he played despised, a porn director regurgitating the same cinema blandness over and over. I've never seen one of his porn films so they may be different but it's still porn and can't possibly be to groundbreaking seeing how all plot is just to get two or more individuals into compromising positions. It seems dishonor to himself that he went or was forced down this road. Hopefully we'll see a real project from Watkins in the near future. Last House on Dead End Street is an excellent indie project for those with a taste for alternative grue filled cinema. It's at the very least an exercise in guerilla filmmaking that current directors would be advised to see. All the money in the world cannot cover hack work. On the same note, money is only an obstacle to be overcome for a director with talent.
Every fan of horror cinema enjoys searching the back recesses of their local
video store looking for that those obscure little gems that they can call
their own. "Last House on Dead End Street" is one of my favorite flicks, a
movie so obscure, I've only been able to find it at one video store. (And I
bought their copy when they went out of business, so THERE!)
This bargain-basement production has a small-time director of homemade porno films discovering that his distributor no longer wants to buy his movies, claiming that they are boring. Desperate to find something new, he discovers a brutal series of "snuff" films made by an ex-convict and his demented friends. Realizing that actual death on tape could be the next big thing, but unwilling to make a film himself, he steals some the convict's movies and takes the credit for himself. When the true filmmakers discover what happened, they kidnap both the thieving director, the distributor, and their respective wives for an evening of torture and humilation back at their wharehouse hideout, all of it to be captured on tape for another "snuff" film.
Sure this is disgusting with all manner of nasty acts committed by sleazy characters. But what makes this memorable in my book is its suprising sense of humor. This film about snuff directors is actually designed to look like a snuff film itself, with credits that consist entirely of pseudonyms, grainy handheld camera work, and even a movie box that is tailored to look homemade. It's that creepy attitude that, along with the look of the film, is something that just can't be duplicated. Happy hunting!
It is doubtful that any movie could live up to the hype surrounding
this movie, but in spite of the reputation that precedes it, it still
manages to jar the viewer with it's no-holds-barred approach and the
atmosphere of vindictiveness that pervades it.
Director Roger Watkins, a film student at the time, set out to make this movie as "Cuckoo Clocks Of Hell" in 1972, after which the film was all but lost until it was edited and released under it's present title in 1977. Apparently Watkins' original cut of the film was around three hours long, so thank your lucky stars it's this version that is available to viewers today. Even at 77 minutes, it's a little long as the story is undeniably thin and the acting amateurish, although Watkins own portrayal of Terry Hawkins is suitably unhinged.
This film has become legendary due to it's uncertain history and allegations that it was a genuine 'snuff' movie. All of the credits used on this film were pseudonyms; most of the technical duties on this film were handled by Watkins under a variety of different names. It was only in 2001 that Watkins came forward and admitted to making the movie. As for the 'snuff' claims, clearly they were made by people who were unfamiliar with the actual content of the film, as no snuff film in history would come with a background story about a guy getting out of prison, rounding up a cast and crew and finding financial backers to pay for the production of his movie. None of that would be necessary for a snuff film. The conceit of the movie - that the easiest way to make the footage look genuine is to kill people for real - plays like an extremely sick joke.
This has the look of an arty student film, and although the film stock used was fairly poor and some scenes are badly lit, this only enhances the menacing atmosphere of this insidious movie. With a limited budget, Watkins saves the gore for the second half of the film, but when it comes it doesn't disappoint, and a few of these scenes have become legendary. Ultimately though, it's the mean-spirited vibe that stays with you.
So strap yourself in and prepare for one mean mother of a movie that nearly lives up to the hype, and while you're there, try to imagine how someone in his right mind could pad this out to three hours! Any way you look at it, if you are at all interested in gore films, this one is a must-see.
First of all I just wanted to say the chances of you finding this at your
local Blockbuster are slim to none.
Secondly, this is most definetly the most disturbing movie I have ever seen. The plot concerns a totally unlikeable sleazy pimp fresh out of prison that wants to get even with society by making some snuff films.
The footage itself of the snuff films are horrifying. I don't easily get grossed out by a movie, but I had to turn from the screen once during the totally twisted surgery scene.
The film looks like it was way overexposed so don't even try to get a copy that looks perfect, it was simply made that way. This film is hard to recommend, but if you're looking to be totally creeped out, then by all means track this one down.
Also known as The Fun House, this film is often mistaken for being one
of the UK 'Video Nasties', and that's not surprising - as it's rather
nasty. Bizarrely, however, the film wasn't included on the list as in a
cock-up typical of such people that would sift through a back catalogue
of movies, banning everything with a slight hint of blood - they banned
the wrong film! (Tobe Hooper's "The Funhouse"). Ironically, this would
have been one of the more worthy films on the DPP list as the violence
is often relentless and always uncompromising, and the snuff scenes are
far more grisly and graphic than the one seen at the end of the
notorious 'Snuff'. The film is shot on an ultra-thin budget and it
shows, but this time it actually helps the film as it appears much like
the underground snuff movies that it attempts to imitate. The plot is
resoundingly thin and simply follows a deranged young man who gets out
of prison and decides to repay his debt to society with movie-making -
only he's not making feel good movies, as he uses his film stock to
shoot footage of people being brutally murdered!
This film won't appeal to anyone that likes their movies fluffy and nice, but it should do the trick for anyone that enjoys scenes of torture. I can't say that I'm the biggest exploitation fan going, but it's hard to deny that this film successfully achieves what it set out to do. It's fair to say that the death scenes aren't all that realistic, and it's always clear that this is nothing but a movie - but the masses of gore are delightful and it's good that director Roger Michael Watkins wasn't happy to have all of his victims killed in similar ways. We've got a variety of weaponry on display, which ranges from hedge saws to power drills and all of them are put to their unintended uses. At one point in the movie, the would-be director states that a good horror film needs good actors, although this film doesn't have any. The director himself does put in an interesting performance, however, and always convinces as the sick character that he's portraying. There isn't a great deal of humour on display, but the action is always fascinating and this is a good film if you're into this sort of stuff.
No, no, NO, NO!! Listen not to the critics, my brethren: LAST HOUSE ON
DEAD END STREET may be the most important horror film you can seek out
this summer. I will make one and only one apology for the film: It is
either a "love it" or "hate it" affair. There is no middle ground, and
that's a shame -- this is advanced viewing material that will leave
casual watchers in it's dust. You watch it as a ritual, or rite of
passage. The phrase should be:
"You have either seen LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET, or you haven't."
That may sound stupid & pompous, but then again this is one of the most rewardingly stupid & pompous movies ever made. Find me any 24 year old self-proscribed genius artist and likely 99% of what they create will come across as stupid & pompous. That is to be expected, and so you can't hold it against poor Roger Watkins for being true to his nature. For all he knew at Oneonta in 1972 he actually was the next Orson Welles and James Dean wrapped up into one chain smoking, leather jacketed, greasy haired, dope crazed maggot chattering on like a speed-freak chipmunk. That he created one of the most effective, disturbing and legendary horror films in history in such a state is proof that you're not bragging if you can do it, and he did it. Here is his 1%.
People will dislike this film, not because it is "evil" or "reprehensible" or "too real", but because it was filmed for less than $2000 and is self-consciously unpolished. The special effects probably "suck", in common Idiot Speak. The film also has no pretense of an artifice of reality: It is just as scummy, scuzzy, claustrophobic and idiotic as those plaid polyester suits we see characters wearing in the film. Fashions change and our sensibilities about "horror films" have evolved with thirty plus years of Jason Vorhees, Freddy Kreuger, Aliens, Poltergiests, Shinings, and other technically adept & bigger budgeted epics. But I wouldn't trade one frame of LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET's surviving 78 minutes for all of the SAWs, HOSTELs, WOLF CREEKs and other trendy junk horror breakfast cereal movies that owe their very core & fiber to Watkins' film. It got there first, it got there cheaper, it got there more directly and with less fuss, and is the stuff of legends. Those are entertainments for people numbed by five years of the War on Terror who want to *FEEL* something again when watching a movie -- After seeing 3,000+ people die live on TV, it's kind of hard to get worked up over any one person's fate, lest they be sliced in half while still alive to watch it happen to themselves.
Mr. Watkins had the same inklings in 1972 after seven years of carnage on the daily news courtesy of the Vietnam War, and his film is just as painful, wounding, confrontational, raw, unapologetic and disturbingly brilliant as it was then, even if the original 172 minute version called THE CUCKOO CLOCKS OF HELL is lost to all eternity. Together with Charles Manson (what company!) Watkins may have invented the urban legend known as Snuff Films, and at one point I was working on a thesis idea stating that people had seen this film and were so stupid or so overwhelmed by his film that they thought this was the real thing. Snuff is often associated with underground porno, a world in which much of this film is set, and Watkins himself went on to direct a string of under-achieving adult films that served to fulfill his own destiny as prophesized by LAST HOUSE. He knew exactly what he was doing.
It may take more than one screening since the film exists in a truly rotten state, as a series of grainy, under-lit, discolored full frame DVD versions padded out with bonus material and commentary tracks that like it's history will probably prove more interesting to many than the film itself. But for those with a taste for stark, raw, direct, unapologetic ultra-low budget Grang Guginol horror like "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (which came a year after this was made) or the first EVIL DEAD film will be absolutely riveted by the concluding thirty minutes. The film starts slow, slowly builds it's tension by building a world of despair, then bludgeons viewers with a sledgehammer blow of gore, sleaze, trash, and filth that -- YES!! -- is made all the more potent by the ultra-low budget, tattered remaining print elements, and completely nihilistic air. Almost exhilaratingly nihilistic: Nick Cave fans will be in heaven.
So don't listen to the Negative Nellies in Sector Nine. Seek it out, watch it with friends, talk about it, and let it's images stay with you. They will: My favorite was of the cameraman smashing through a wall to film a murder, then laughing hysterically. The only reason I give it an imperfect score of eight is that I don't think Watkins pushed himself enough with his opening forty minute section, and didn't seem to know when to stop. The film ends in a manner that suggests that they simply couldn't afford to shoot any more scenes. Watkins was not responsible for the 78 minute cut, so many of his ideas are missing and might have answered some questions about the film. Yet in a way it's best that they are never answered, and that the film exists as a legend or an enigma that extends beyond the DVD versions currently available. Nothing could ever quite live up to such hype, and yet this does. Or doesn't. It all depends on your point of view, which in itself sort of proves that in the end, this is art. It isn't pretty and not everyone will like it, but sometimes that's the way the cookie crumbles.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First off - I can understand the two differing opinions that I often
read about LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET. One opinion is that it's
trashy and cheap film-making with little redeeming value - the other
side is that it is a "masterpiece" of exploitation cinema. I can't say
that I fall fully into the latter category, but I definitely feel that
DEAD END STREET is a must-see for all TRUE exploitation film fans...
The plot revolves around Terry, a recently released convict, looking to break into the film business by making something a little "different", namely - snuff films. Terry gets together with a cameraman that he used to shoot porn loops with, and another guy and two girls - and the gang embarks on their directorial debut. The first film they make is of them strangling a guy. Terry lays the film on a sleazy and washed-up porn producer who's looking for something new - and Terry's film is just that. The producer slaps his own name on it and makes a few bucks hocking Terry's reel - but Terry doesn't take to kindly to being cut out of the loop. As revenge, the gang decides to make the producer, his wife, and their associates the "stars" of their next film...
First the down-sides of DEAD END STREET: The first half of the movie is relatively dull so it takes awhile for the film to really get into gear. The dubbing is some of, if not THE most inept that I've ever been exposed to and can be quite annoying. The film was obviously shot on a near-zero budget which will probably bother some that aren't used to micro-budget films.
Now for the good stuff: After the first half, the film takes off and there's not a dull moment. Where some may see the budget as being a problem with this film - I personally believe that DEAD END STREET has the "feel" of the 70's grindhouse and "roughie" porn films of the era, and given the subject-matter, this sort of atmosphere adds significantly to the film. The acting is decent for a production of this scale. Also the gore scenes (though obviously done on the cheap...) are strong and effective.
LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET is a powerful film for what it is. There's nothing "funny" or "campy" about it - it's pretty much an exercise in sadism. The orgyistic and insane nature of the violence in the second half of the film is undeniably strong, if somewhat poorly done. I also feel that DEAD END STREET is important from a historical stand-point, as it is an obvious precursor and and laid the ground-work for such modern pseudo-snuff films as FLOWER OF FLESH AND BLOOD, the AUGUST UNDERGROUND FILMS, and Tamakichi Anaru's PSYCHO: THE SNUFF REELS. DEAD END STREET is by far not going to appeal to everyone - but I consider it a must-see for TRUE exploit fans, at least as a one-time view...8.5/10
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