Last House on the Left (1972) – Reviewed

"...just keep repeating: it's only a's only a movie..."

"...just keep repeating: it's only a movie...only a movie..."

Wes Craven’s notorious sleazoid classic isn’t as disturbing as you may expect, especially if you came of age in the horror era of Eli (Hostel) Roth and Rob (Devil’s Rejects) Zombie. Movies from the early 70s with low budgets, bad fashion and bad performances automatically have a whif of cheese about them — whether that’s fair or not. In the case of Last House you may find yourself thankful for the intermitant, distractingly out-of-place ragtime piano music and the over-the-top performances by actors trained in porn to keep you from thinking too hard about what’s really going on here. Of course, the bargain-basement production value  also contributes to the same “snuff film” vibe you’d recognize in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Mr. and Mrs. Collingwood are a little aprehensive about letting their daughter leave the safety of their middle-class suburban neighborhood to go catch a rock concert in the city, but they do and they’ll live to regret it. When pretty Mari and her girlfriend try to score a dime bag before the show, they get an assist from the teen son of a recently-escaped con. When he takes them back to the hide-out the two innocents are confronted by Krug (the Dad), Weasel, and Krug’s trashy girlfriend, who have no intention of letting them go now that they’ve seen their faces. What follows is some pretty disturbingly brutal shit. The girls are humiliated, raped, and murdered but not before some respectable attempts at fighting back. Unbeknownst to our fucked-up foursome, they’ve managed to find their way to Mari’s family’s neighborhood, and before you know it they’re knocking on the Collingwood’s door to seek refuge in their home. Big mistake. It’s here that LHotL reveals its real intention — it’s a satisfying revenge story pitting the dregs of society against the post-nuclear family (a theme Craven would revisit again in The Hills Have Eyes). If there’s an intended social commentary here (and Craven insists there is) its buried by shocking cruelty and gore but that’s fine as far as I’m concerned. Before it’s all over we witness, beatings, stabbings, rape, forced urination, oral castration (!), electrocution, coerced suicide and a chainsaw attack (natch!). LHotL may not be very pretty but it pushes buttons in a way that’s rare for this grade of 42nd Street psycho-sexual sleaze and its a strong candidate for the high ranks of home invasion horror. And in the annals of cinematic brutality, there’s no denying it’s a trailblazer. It’s ad tagline — “To avoid fainting, keep repeating…it’s only a movie–” was effectively memorable; so much so that it was stolen by countless other horror films in following years.
See the trailer:

~ by Number5ive on March 17, 2009.

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