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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Day 187: The Last House On The Left

The Last House On The Left
If they remake this again, the poster will just show a Tumblr page

When I started this blog, I made it a point to say I wasn't going to watch movies that focused on torture. Of course, some movies I have watched contain a scene or two, but I avoided watching movies where it was the main plot. No Hostel, no The Poughkeepsie Tapes and definitely not Human Centipede (seriously, fuck that movie). I am just not entertained by it. I find it painful and unpleasant to watch. But what if a movie has torture, but is considered a horror classic? It's a classic for a reason, right? Maybe I had these movies all wrong and was just needing to see a good one to change my mind.

The Last House On The Left is a 1972 horror movie written and directed by Wes Craven (The Hills Have Eyes, A Nightmare On Elm Street). Inspired by the Swedish film The Virgin Spring, The Last House On The Left stars Sandra Cassel (Teenage Hitchhikers, Voices Of Desire) as Mari Collingwood and Lucy Grantham as her friend Phyllis Stone. Despite her parent's concern, they go to a concert in the city. Before they leave, they give her a peace symbol necklace as a gift for her birthday. Before the concert, they walk the streets in search of marijuana. They come across a grungy looking guy named Junior who leads them to an apartment where his criminal family, Krug Stillo, Sadie, and Fred “Weasel” Podowski, are hiding out after a recent prison break. Krug is a rapist and serial killer, Sadie is violent and sadistic, Weasel is a child molester, and Junior is hooked on heroin. The group assault the girls and Phyllis is raped. They are thrown into the trunk of the gang's car and the drive out to the country where the gang plans to cross state lines. Mari's parents are preparing for her birthday party, unaware of the danger she is in. The gang's car breaks down right outside Mari's house. They force the girls into the woods where they are humiliated, mutilated and forced to have sex with each other. Phyllis makes a run for it in hopes that Mari goes in the opposite direction. Phyllis is caught, killed, and dismembered. Mari gives Junior her necklace as a symbol to trust her so she can escape, but the gang stops her. She is raped and then shot by Krug. The gang then heads to Mari's house, masquerading as salesmen and stay the night with her parents. Mari's mother sees Junior wearing her necklace and discovers their bloody clothes. How will Mari's parents exact their revenge?

Playing "Let's Go To Gitmo" is the best!

There was a good reason why I didn't want to see torture movies. The Last House On The Left was very tough for me to watch. The movie is vicious in it's violence, degradation, and sexual assault. It is a raw, gritty, and unforgiving exploitation film that still resonates today. Despite the advertising tag line, “To avoid fainting, keep repeating-it's only a movie..." I still felt strongly about what happens. That's a testament to how powerful the movie is. It's also a testament to why I don't like these films. A majority of the movie is the girls' torture with a few sprinkles of inept local police being, well, inept. I guess it was to alleviate the harshness of the movie, but it just wasn't funny and left me feeling frustrated. I'd say maybe that was the point, but the jaunty comedy music makes me think otherwise. The parent's revenge is decent, but I wasn't completely satisfied. For a “violence begets violence” story, I don't think the gang suffered the same amount that they made Mari and Phyllis suffer.

In horror, we have all sorts of creatures, aliens, and demons, but this movie proves that the scariest monsters of all are human beings. All four actors in the gang play their parts very well as they come off as slimy, evil, and remorseless, even when there is a brief glimmer of remorse in the forest scene. Both Sandra Cassel and Lucy Grantham play their parts convincingly well and I commend them for going through with the movie. Wes Craven's direction is a bit spotty with some of the camera angles not working and the music questionable at times. Seeing this 1972 movie in 2012 makes it feel very dated.

 I love what you've done with your rat's nest

The Last House On The Left is shocking, disgusting, and rough to watch, but it is very “real”. It's this realness that makes it so scary and difficult to endure. There were times where I wanted to turn the movie off, but I persevered. I always ask myself “Was I entertained?” The answer, truthfully, is “No.” I found it very hard to sit through and did not enjoy seeing two girls being physically and mentally tortured. That doesn't mean the movie is not a horror cult classic or that the movie isn't important, because it is. The story is very basic and doesn't go beyond torture and revenge. I think more could have been done in ways of character development and Craven's direction is not the best. I think it's time to reinstate my “No torture” policy.



  1. I agree with you. While the movie wasn't the best thing Craven did and it had parts that were brutal and hard to watch. Good review!! This actually got me wanting to watch this now.

    Swing by my page

  2. Thanks! I really don't like seeing scenes of torture and rape, and that's pretty much what the entire movie was, so it was tough to get through. I'll definitely check out your blog. Good luck!