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The Last House on the Left (1972)

Horror movie directed by Wes Craven

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Wes is definitely "craven" goodness with this flick.

  • Jan 28, 2011
*** out of ****

It's never really clarified what time period "The Last House on the Left" takes place in, although I have somewhat of an idea. I of course say what I'm about to say in a joking matter, but please bear with me. I believe that "The Last House on the Left" was made when writer and director Wes Craven was still ripe and coincidentally, still talented. The original "Last House on the Left" was Craven's first feature, and I've got to admit that it's a damn good breakthrough for the guy. I would not regularly recommend a film as "sick", "twisted", and "sadistic" as this one here, yet as you can see, I am indeed urging my readers to see it. Yes, it's hardcore horror. This is a brutal, graphic, disturbing, and sadistic horror film about a family of depraved serial murderer-rapists who happen upon two soon-to-be-adult women. It's as sickening and cringe-worthy as you'd expect it to be, but unlike most films of its type, it has a reason to be as violent as it is. I think that the film is meant to show the horrid qualities of violence rather than merely exploiting the use of it. The film does something that very few horror films do, and there's actually some good writing and character-development to be found here. I am one of the many people who found the film to be fairly disturbing, but it's not unwatchable (as some have said). It's definitely a tough film to swallow, but it's a definite must-see for horror fans (assuming that all horror fans can stomach a film like this). I just don't know if it would be right to call the film scary. It's more of a gross-out horror film than it is one that actually tries to scare you. But then again, it's not made for shock factor. It's a film made with exceptional craft, and there's a purpose for all the violence and explicit content. It's no Video Nasty, but I advise you to proceed with caution. Now, I liked this film quite a bit. But it's not perfect. Sometimes, I felt that the sadism was carried out a bit longer than it needed to be, and there were indeed some fairly boring moments. Nevertheless, the good does indeed overshadow the bad. This is a well-made horror/thriller, and strangely enough I find myself recommending it. It's not a film for the faint of heart, but then again I doubt anyone else will truly be pursuing it. You may or may not like it; but approach it the right way and you might find that it's a fairly entertaining albeit disturbing flick. Take it as you will.

The protagonist of the story, Mari, has a birthday on the night of when the film begins. She chooses to celebrate it by going to a concert with a friend. While she and her friend are roaming the streets looking for some "weed", they come across a man who seduces the girls into his home, where his entire family resides. As it turns out, the man and his family are a rough lot. In fact, they're a family of sadists. After some unsuccessful tries at escaping, the two girls are held captive, beaten, and raped for the next few days. The police aren't exactly hot on the girls' trail, and Mari's parents are worried sick. After successfully killing both girls, the family soon sets off to find a resting spot. They come across Mari's home by coincidence, and they decide to stay the night. But the parents soon find out who these people are, and they decide to get revenge on the lot. It's your typical story of vengeance, for the last part of the third act at least. Most of the film is about the rape and torture, although I advise you to look at the acts in more ways than one. You can choose to look at "The Last House on the Left" and call it the sickest, most depraved film ever made. I disagree with such a statement for I think all the violence has a purpose. It's not just "there" to be there; it's meant to show how this kind of thing can happen if you're not careful. Rape happens every day; and only a complete idiot would criticize this here film for trying to make such a bold but realistic point. "The Last House on the Left" is not easy ride, but if you can stomach whatever it has in store than you're in for a genuinely well-made thriller. There's actually some good writing involved here. There's also some good character development. Both of these things are the kinds of attributes I'd like to see apply to just about every horror film, but in its own way, this film is quite special. One could even call it entertaining. Remember: it's a brutal but also intelligent. Its chock full of grit, and I tend to like that. This is one of Wes Craven's better films, and that's but one of the things that I like so much about it.

This film actually features some damn good performances. For the time, I assume just about anyone is gutsy to want to star in such a "horrid" depiction of rape and violence, but here we have talented actors going for what some would consider "the impossible". Sandra Cassell is in the leading role, and her performance is surprisingly good. She's not the most innocent horror protagonist, and she doesn't even SURVIVE the whole ordeal (please forgive the spoiler). Her friend is played by Lucy Grantham, while her parents are played by Gaylord St. James and Cynthia Carr respectively. The sadists are played by David A. Hess, Jeramie Rain, Fred Lincoln, and Marc Sheffler. I'd have to say that the film in a whole is well-acted. The serial killers in particular were well-portrayed and the best of them all (in my opinion) was Marc Sheffler as Junior; who had a sort of charm that I just couldn't resist.

As you probably know, such a film as "The Last House on the Left" caused a controversy. This is a film about the rape of two women by the hands of a family of sadists, and I assume it was attacked by many "groups". People have called the film unwatchable and "pure exploitation". All I can think after watching it is: what the hell were they thinking? How dare they insult a movie so well-made; so well-directed. This is a solid horror film, and it is indeed supplied with more than enough craft from Craven. Yeah, it's disturbing. Yeah, it's gory. Yeah, it's got a couple rape scenes. But you know what: they are there for a reason. This is a graphic but meaningful depiction of what goes on behind ours backs in the world. Why must people attack a film that's merely trying to show us that rape freaking HAPPENS? I don't get that. Anyways, I'm on Wes Craven's side. This is his most disturbing film; but it might be his most riveting as well. It's going to divide audiences, but I conclude that I sort of enjoyed watching it. There's nothing particularly crafty about the visuals or the music involved; this is an average film when it comes to style. But when it comes to substance, it's a daring, gusty ol' film; the kind that I genuinely like, or at least hope to like. What really stands out is Wes Craven's taut direction. I don't think that the film is art, nor does it want to be, but it's beyond entertainment. It's the kind of film that no sane human being gets pleasure in watching, yet Craven's direction keeps you with it throughout the whole desperate, violent struggle. I admire the film for its guts as well as its brains. It's a smart horror/thriller that manages to be more daring, controversial, but ultimately crafty than the average violent horror film. Here is a film with violence, but also with a meaning carefully in-tact. I can't say I love it; but there's most certainly something interesting about it. I did not take pleasure in watching this film, and I dismiss the fact that it could be torture porn. This is not pornography in any way. It's meant to test what you can watch, and while there are even more graphic films about rape now than there were then, "The Last House on the Left" is still one of the good ones. Horror fans should not miss it.

"The Last House on the Left" is much, much better than I expected it to be. I expected it to feel dated; I expected it to be a tad boring. Sure, some moments were less absorbing than others, but this is some damn good filmmaking. Wes Craven is a horror master; and here he has made a respectable film that is entertaining yet disturbing at the same time. It's not enough to upset my stomach, but it's enough to make me cringe. And I like that feeling, so I think Craven has reached me and my greatest fears. Sexual horror is some of the greatest horror I know, and Craven's films is supposed to strike fear in those like me. I can't say it's a scary film, nor does it want to be, but it's very hard to sit through if you're like me. But I've come to realize that anything capable of making me squirm in my seat is also worth respecting. "The Last House on the Left" is more than exploitation; in fact, it's not even exploitation. It's a well-made film, and for that I find myself recommending it. It's not a film that I loved; nor do I think it glorifies violence. But I will tell you this; it's a good movie. It's a good watch. And that's precisely what I liked about it. As long as you have the will to watch it, then please do so. You'll think about it; you'll talk about it. And soon enough, you may even appreciate it. Approach it like I did; that's the best way to experience it. I leave you with that.

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February 23, 2011
One of my favorites. I rate it 4 1/2 out of 5 and hold this film in very high regard. Mari and Physliss are likeable and have this naive innoence and its heart-breaking what happens to them. The villians are ruthless like they should be and David Hess gives one of the great performances in the horror genre as Krug. After the rape of Mari I just love the look between Krug, Sadie & Weasel, its like for a brief moment they realize at what a terrible act they did and how they went too far and for that very brief moment even had regret. And after the murder of Mari they run into the water and wash away the blood, which is an attempt to wash away their sins. Pure brilliance.
January 30, 2011
This was a movie that was indeed a product of its generation. It is a true cult classic and while I liked the remake, this was just a different flavor that was bold and definitely will be remembered by future movie fans....thanks!!
February 01, 2011
More The Last House on the Left (19... reviews
review by . April 30, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
    It is a loose remake of Ingmar Bergman's THE VIRGIN SPRING (1960), but few people would watch Wes Craven's THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) expecting profound philosophical contemplation or evocative symbolism. The movie is about bloody revenge being taken after horrible violence and so its appeal is in its lurid subject matter and the chills and catharsis it promises.     And yet, one does not remake a Bergman film without signalling that one intends …
review by . October 28, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
I've heard a lot about this movie through my friendly pack and have the Nightmare on Elm Street collection on DVD which Wes talks about this movie, how it was one of his first and a great learning experience. After I watched this film I`ve notice not only is this film categorize in the wrong genre but the disc jacket doesn't even fit the films profile. So tell me where in the world was that house in the story and why did they have to place a ghost on the corner of the picture.     I …
review by . April 04, 2005
posted in Cult Cinema
I think this film has at its essence the true spirit of the horror film. To me this film is not entertaining, and it is one of only a handful of films that truly disturbed me, one that follows through on it's intent to horrify. Most modern horror films tend to glamorize violence and gore, and tend to herald killers as anti-heroes to a point where the audience is no longer horrified or scared. What I found interesting is where this film sits on the timeline of horror, right after Night of the Living …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #2
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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FutureNightmarecreator andScreamweaver Wes Craven's film debut is a primitive little production that rises above its cut-rate production values and hazy, grainy patina via its grimly affecting portrait of human evil infiltrating a middle-class household. The story is adapted from Ingmar Bergman'sThe Virgin Spring, but the film has more in common with Sam Peckinpah'sStraw Dogsas it charts the descent of a harmless married couple into methodical killers. A quartet of criminals--a distorted version of the nuclear family--kidnaps a pair of teenage girls and proceeds to ravage, rape, torture, and finally brutally murder them in the woods, unwittingly within walking distance of their rural home. The killers take refuge in the girls' own home, but when the parents discover just who they are and what they've done, they plot violent retribution.

Along with George Romero's Night of the Living Dead and Tobe Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Craven helped redefine American horror with this debut--all three movies portray modern society crumbling into madness and horror. But, unlike his fellow directors, Craven gives his film an uncomfortable verisimilitude, setting it squarely in the heartland of modern America. While at times it's awkward and inconsistent, with distracting comic interludes, his handling of the brutal horror scenes is unsettling, and the death of the daughter is an unexpectedly quiet and lyrical moment. --Sean Axmaker

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Director: Wes Craven
Screen Writer: Wes Craven, Ulla Isaksson
DVD Release Date: August 27, 2002
Runtime: 84 minutes
Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
First to Review

"Exploitation Horror"
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