1972 and the prior years were a whirlwind for many alive in America at the time. War plagued the lives of everyone around and they were wondering if whatever they’re hearing from the media and people was true or not. Hippie era was coming to an end and the premonition of free love and hope left a lasting mark on many. Wes Craven created his directorial debut to shake this timeline with The Last House on the Left and steamrolled viewers with something they weren’t prepared for.
The Last House on the Left tells the story of suburban two girls who head into the city for marijuana. Unbeknownst to them, they come across a group of ex-convicts: three men and one woman. The ex-cons bludgeon the women, tie them up, and throw them in a trunk for a little joy ride. Car problems arise, and the group is forced to bring the girls into a secluded wooded area. This is where all hell breaks loose. Torture, rape, and blood splatter litter the woods as the girls fight for the lives only yards from one of their homes.
To say that The Last House on the Left is an easy watch would be a complete lie. There weren’t many directors setting out to film something so dark, but Craven took that plunge. From the beginning, you knew it was going to be poking at the sexual nature of the times and the way of living from how characters were acting and what they were saying. The hippie era was coming to an end and the perception of peace and love was still lingering in the air. However, Craven was set out to taint that image and to show the viewers that these terrible things do happen and he wasn’t about to turn the camera off yet.
If you are faint of heart, this may not be the movie for you. The level of uncomfortable is high. The second act is one of the most difficult things I’ve laid my eye on in a long time. Scenes without music are cringeworthy,, as you watch close to everything going on and are forced to endure the pain and torture that these women go through. You dwell on the fact that these scenarios can truly happen to this day and they still do. Scenes with music move along the story with their lyrics but seem far too upbeat. The upbeat soundtrack may be the worst soundtrack people have ever heard, however; it feels like it was done on purpose as Craven wanted to continue to make the viewers skin crawl to a higher level of uncomfortable. Guess what, he succeeded.
Clearly you will feel pain, anger, and sorrow for the victims. We are left with dread running through our bodies because we are so used to seeing the victims get revenge on screen these days and with Last House, we don’t get that. Craven wanted to make sure we saw the darkness of these incidents. At one point Craven flips the table and makes the viewer feel some sympathy for the convicts. The bad guys end up in one of the victims homes. Her parents welcome them in with open arms but don’t know their dreary past. Once they put two and two together, all their good will and hospitality goes out the door and the revenge is sought.
The Last House on the Left is absolutely not something you just want to toss on the TV while you’re cleaning the house or having friends over. It feels like it is a film for horror genre fans and not just casual horror fans who are looking for a jump scare. For me, I absolutely understand the poignancy of this movie for the horror genre, however; I will not be returning to see it any time soon. My stomach still needs to settle down. The Last House on The Left set a tone for rape revenge movies. It allowed Craven to be as evil as he wanted to part ways from how he was raised. It is bleak, dark, disturbing, pure exploitation and as Craven puts it in the introduction to this disc the viewer should “take some sort of tranquilizer yourself if you are at all stable enough in your psychological makeup.” Duly noted.
This past July, Arrow Films released a special edition 0f The Last House on the Left on Blu-ray. The release is jam packed with special features including interviews, deleted scenes, original trailers, and video essays. It also includes the soundtrack on CD. If you still haven’t seen this one, it’s clearly the best way to check it out… just remember that “it’s only a movie”!