42nd Street Cinema

The Last House on the Left (1972)

I'm baaaaaaaaaaaack...just as I promised.
Keeping up with the current splash of remakes, I figured that I would revisit the old genre 'classic' that is Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left. This notorious rape/revenge movie has only just been released fully uncut in the United Kingdom. The version of the film that I am reviewing is the cut version originally released by Anchor Bay (now Starz).
Strangely on the poster (see right) It mentioned 'Mari, seventeen is dying...' however the girl in the image is actually Phyllis.
Much controversy surrounds this particular film, being deemed as one of the original Video Nasties. Being Craven's first film it was an excellent way to break onto the 'horror scene'. Remember kids any publicity is good publicity.

The plot centres on two girls; Mari Collingwood (Sandra Cassel) and Phyllis Stone (Lucy Grantham).
Mari is planning on celebrating her birthday with her friend Phyllis. The film starts of with Mari's parents expressing a distaste for the band she is going to see and her friend Phyllis, as it is suggested to us that she is from a lower social class. A small nod towards social stigmas and conflict between classes.
In the end they allow Mari to go, giving her a present just before she leaves...the peace symbol necklace.
A connotation of this could be that this part of the film is a 'coming of age' piece. With Mari's parents putting trust in their daughter and finally allowing her to mature from girl to woman. A couple of scenes after this Mari and Phyllis are in the woods, discussing the leaves changing colour because of Winter. Mari then notes that she has 'changed' this Winter too and feeling like a woman for the first time.

Mari and Phyllis head into the city for the concert. The idea of two girls heading into a big city can highlight their vulnerability. As they are driving to the city, we hear over the radio in a car of a recent break at a prison. The radio presenter then goes onto name the violent criminals as Krug Stillo (David Hess), his son Junior (Marc Sheffler), Sadie (Jeramie Rain) and Fred "Weasel" Podowski (Fred J. Lincoln).
We're then introduced to our antagonists and informed of their previous convictions.

The girls decide to look around for some Marijuana, making the mistake of asking Junior, who then leads them into the shit hole apartment they are laying low in.
Ironically during early scenes of this film, the parents of Mari are shown as being very loving towards their daughter. They're also shown to be quite peaceful and harmless. However at the end of the film we are shown the brutality a loving family can inflict.

Craven's use of fantastic shots and landscapes give a real sense of calm to the film before the film's turning point sequence.
Hess' portrayal of Krug is spectacular. He more so than the other's really brings life to his character. What the criminals subject to girls to in the woods is nothing more than savage torment and humiliation. As Krug, Weasel and Sadie all get a perverse amusement from watching and inflicting upon the two innocent girls.
As this film has been remade, I would love to see how they handle this scene nowadays. I don't think some how they would be able to match the rawness which makes this film so powerful.

After the first act of torment, Phyllis makes a run for it. A prolonged chase sequence ensues, resulting in Phyllis' untimely demise, where she is repeatedly stabbed by Weasel.
Mari also attempts to escape with the aid of Junior, unfortunately Krug stops them. He then carves his name into Mari's chest before she is raped and eventually shot.
Following this sequence, we are shown the local Police force who appear to be bumbling idiots. The scene some across comical in contrast to the latter. This could be to lighten the mood as the film would be so much more depraved without it.

Krug and his gang seek refuge in the nearest house...it just so happens to be the last one...on the left...As they are welcomed in they discover that it is the home of one of the two girls...Mari.
Mari's mother notices the peace symbol necklace on Junior, which was given to him by Mari. She also discovers their bloodstained clothes and overhears an argument between the group about the two girls. As her and Mari's father run to the lake they discover their daughter...dead.
The Police finally reach the house to find the parent's have slain the gang.
The final sequence is an act of brutal punishment carried out by the parents of the now dead Mari. Justice is served.

Being a solid entry into the genre Craven has delivered an interesting film with sickening performances from his cast, not to forget David Hess' brilliant music which was wrote specifically for the film.
My recommendations for someone to view this film are...if you like Wes Craven films and you've not seen this, check it out. If you like original revenge movies with minimal plot and a great pay-off when the criminals get their comeuppance, check it out.


Jordan in Texas said...

I've always had a respect for Craven/Cunningham for making such a challenging film on their first time out. That said, I'm not the biggest fan of the film itself, there are two scenes that I find exceptional and powerful, but the majority of the film is rather plodding. I probably like Bergman's The Virgin Spring just a little more than this one.

James said...

Hey, thanks for your comment The Warfreak. I've still got to get round to The Virgin Spring. Been on my list for far to long.
This film isn't one of my favourites either and you are right about this being a brave venture for Craven & Cunningham.

Jordan in Texas said...

No problem. I recommend watching The Virgin Spring, but be warned, it too is fairly slowly paced. It's good though (natch).

Rob Talbot said...

Not the greatest film ever, but it does have its place, along with Night of the Living Dead and The Excorcist, as one of the films that changed the genre forever. These movies sounded the death knell for the era of Hammer, AIP and the like. Like NOTLD, Last House allegorises the death of the 60s dream.
And those cops are hilarious. Especially when they get fucking lost.

Rob Talbot said...

Bollocks, I spelt 'Exorcist' wrong.

James said...

Aha! Don't worry about spelling, it's what your saying that counts.
I agree with changing and help shape the genre. I also think that H.G. Lewis' Blood Feast also painted a bloody path for these types of films. Blood Feast is a film I might look at reviewing soon. I've had it on dvd for a while and it might need a revisiting.

Mykal said...

I will never forget (oh, Lord, how I've tried) seeing this film for the first time. A bunch of friends and I snuck into the Algiers Drive In and lay in the weeds near the last row (yep, I'm that old). We listened via a free squawk box where no one was parked. We watched in horror. The thing had the power of a home movie done by sadists that no one was ever supposed to see. It made us wonder if maybe we were somehow watching a kind of snuff film. It is not the kind of film you can ever unwatch. Saw I, II, II etc., has tons more blood aand gore but not one eighth the power. -- Mykal from Radiation Cinema!

John said...

I haven't bothered with the remake, based on what some of my friends have told me about it. Some of these movies being "remade" are pointless to remake. This being one of them. Obviously the only reason they've done it is so they can capitalize on the controversy that surrounds the name of this movie, and the feelings it invokes in people. What will happen undoubtedly is some kid will mention wanting to go see this new horror flick and their parents will tell them of it's notorious nature which will likely pump them up to see it all the more!

James said...

Good point John, I won't be going out of my way to see the remake of this.
When it's put online in DVD rip quality is when I'll check it out.
I've heard they changed the ending in the remake...not sure what is changed though.

Joel Harley said...

The remake is mostly pointless. They kinda left out everything that made the original challenging and hard to watch.

The revenge scenes are pretty decent, but that's probably the only stuff they did right. I'd wait for the DVD - or watch it online, like I did...

Rupert said...

I didn't even realize Wes Craven went back this far! Looks like one to definitely check out. Thanks for the tip.


forestofthedead said...

A really, really well done film that is hard to forget and one of the must disturbing motion picture's I've ever watched.

Great review.

Post a Comment

Leave a comment...