The Last House On The Left review by The Grim Ringler

The Last House On The Left

It really isn’t hard to make a shocking movie. Lets face it. In fact, it’s gotten so easy to make shocking movies, that people like the Ferrelly brothers have their careers based on them, and get good talent to be in these films. I don’t know if we are de-sensitized to the profane and vulgar now, or we have gained an appreciation for it, or what. But shocking movies are a dime a dozen. The thing is, most of these movies are based on false shocks. These movies are the equivalent of the cat jumping out at someone in a scary movie – they’re easy. It’s easy to gross someone out. It’s easy to make them disgusted. Hell, I don’t even consider most of the foreign films that try to out-sick their audiences to be that shocking. I mean, are they nasty? Of course, but that doesn’t make them terribly shocking. It’s kinda like, great, violence against women and kids and animals, swell, we got that, what was your point? Truly shocking movies are very hard to find, not that any of us really want to find them, because who the hell wants to? They do exist though. And Last House is perhaps the grandfather of them all. This is truly a movie you won’t forget easily, and will not, frankly, care to see, if at all, for a very long time. And the Wes Craven, the film’s director, couldn’t be happier about that. Even heknows how dark the movie is and how unpleasant, sounding in the commentary to be slightly shocked at some of the stuff in it. And ya can’t blame him.

Last House On the Left was made in 1972 by a very young and very green director by the name of Wes Craven, a man who would go on to re-shape the horror industry several times in his career with movies like A Nightmare on Elm Streetand the Screamtrilogy (and yes, I know, a lot of you True Believers hate Scream but suck it up, it changed horror, deal with it), but he never changed it perhaps more than he did with this, his first film. Few, and I really mean few, films are made with such abandon and ‘truth’. And few show us the face of true evil and make us look long and hard at it as this film does. It’s a movie of uncompromising art, and for what it is, it is genius.

Last House on the Left is about a girl named Mari. It’s her seventeenth birthday and she and her friend Phyllis, a girl her parents don’t approve of, are off to the city for a concert, again, of a band her parents don’t approve. Mari is a nice, sweet girl, but she is also on the verge of womanhood, even going so far at one point to tell Phyllis how her breasts have finally blossomed after so long, and her parents fear these changes in their little girl. It’s the end of the sixties (the early seventies to be precise, but this was definitely the very last, dying days of that much-missed era) and the generation gap has never been wider, and Mari’s parents, trust and love their daughter as they do, they don’t trust her generation. So off Mari and Phyllis go to their concert, getting a bit drunk beforehand and discussing boys and boobs and making love with the band they are going to see. All seems right with the world. It isn’t. While in the city the girls try to score some pot from a guy their age standing outside of a tenement, what they don’t know is he is one of four people on the run from the law after two of their number escaped from prison. But when he says he has some pot he can sell them, the four outlaws trap the girls and within moments they realize this is no game. Before they can even scream, the four, lead by the animalistic Krug, have them surrounded and trapped, and their joking turns quickly to horror as Phyllis is immediately raped and there is nothing Mari can do to help her. And here the film turns, from a whimsical, and in great part comic, film about two hippie girls and how wonderful life is at seventeen, to a dark freefall into hell as the girls are taken by the four people, three men and a woman, to the woods, where they plan on disposing of the girls. The girls are tortured, emotionally and physically, and all hope is lost as all of this happens just a few hundred feel from the driveway of Mari. Both girls do everything they can to survive, from reasoning with them to attempting an escape, but it’s fruitless and we are left to watch them both die miserably. The film turns again though as the killers, their car broken, cross the street and seek lodging at the home there, what they don’t know though is that this is Mari’s house, and while her parents let these strangers stay, they do it only out of a dated sense of duty Christian duty. Soon enough though the parents realize who these people are and what they have done, and the tables are finally turned and the mother and father trap these killers and enact their own vengeance, despite losing a little of their own humanity as they do.

This isn’t a really good review. And I will admit that. I have a hard time with some movies because I don’t want to give anything away. I mean, why the hell read a review of something if it gives it all away? If it does that then its an analysis of the movie. People never get the difference, which, well, I guess is why they need more schooling. HAHA. So this review, and all that I do, are a bit, well, vague. For a reason. Why the hell do you want to see a movie when you know everything about it? Now, if you want to read about the DVD features, that’s one thing, and I will get to that, but I wanted to address the movie first. I have hated this movie for a long time. Hated it because I thought it took the horror and plight of these women too jokingly. Call me mad but I don’t take rape and brutality as comic. So I came into this movie with a lot of baggage. Consider the baggage gone. I finally see the movie as it is, not as I saw it. It is a very dark, very nasty, look at monsters. At real, living, breathing, pathetic monsters. These are not mindless stalkers and thoughtless brutes – these are tortured, damned souls that no no other way. They willingly, and gleefully torture and brutalize the women, and the woman among them takes particular delight in disemboweling Phyllis, but afterwards they are like zombies, are mute and act as if in dreams. They see what they have done, and feel their doom. Feel their sickness in them. That’s the screw of the movie, that the killers are not automatons but are just damned, by their pasts, themselves, and each other. Damned to finish this brutal play they have staged. And the music for the film, all of it done by David Hess, who plays Krug, is done with irony. It’s done to make you cringe at the love songs played during the brutality, to cringe at the whimsy of the killers’ theme song. Everything in the movie is done to manipulate you and to make you feel ill at ease. And the women are far from portrayed as victims. Phyllis is calm through it all, trying even to keep Mari calm as they are told to have sex with one another. She is always thinking of how they can get through it. And she fights to her last, refusing to beg them and let them get satisfaction. And Mari does all she can to reason with Junior, the son of Krug and least implicated of all of them, to run away with her, never giving up the slim hope of escape. These women are doomed but never give up and never beg for their lives.

As a DVD, and a very cheap one at that, it’s a must buy. The film looks as good as can be hoped for in a film this old, and the presentation of it is superb. And with the help of a documentary and some great commentary, you can put the film in the proper prospective and see that the people behind the film didn’t even know if by making it they were doing the right thing. But they see the importance of what it the movie did – and that is it made movies honest. Real. You cannot make a movie like this and gloss it over, you can’t, and sometimes Art takes you to some dark places, like it or not. Along with the commentary, and intro, and a good documentary, there are some outtakes and some ‘forbidden’ footage that basically is more of the disemboweling, which is hard to watch. The commentary is wonderful though, if a bit sparse at times.

This is a brutal movie, and not one you can take easily. In fact, it’s hard to even recommend it. But I do recommend it, at least for rental. Because not many true movies are made anymore, movies that show horror and brutality for what it is, as ugly as it is. We need to face this stuff, even if we don’t want to. And I have to say, it’s interesting to see the beginnings of such a great, influential director. This is not a trip you can take lightly, to go to this Last House on the Left, and it is not a trip you will forget having taken it, but it is a trip that sometimes we need to take. …cr…

9 out of 10 Jackasses

blog comments powered by Disqus