In 1972, Wes Craven wrote and directed the controversial movie The Last House on the Left. The film follows Mari on her 17 year old birthday, as she and her friend Phyllis make their way into the big city to see a concert. On their way to the city, a radio announcement broadcasts that a convicted child molester, and a murderer have escaped from prison, assisted by the murder’s son, and a “Wild Woman”, and that everyone should be on the lookout, as these convicts are to be considered dangerous. Once the girls get to the city, they try to score some weed before they go to their concert. There, they run into Junior, who tells them that he has some weed to sell them, but they’ll have to come upstairs for him to get it. At the apartment, Junior, Weasel, Krug and Sadie (who happen to be the 4 mentioned on the radio) lock them in the apartment, and they rape Phyllis. The next morning, the group takes the girls out to the country where the two girls eventually are raped, tortured and brutally murdered.
The film was considered controversial because of the brutal and graphic violence perpetrated by the convict group, and their eventual punishment by Mari’s parents, who happen to live near the site of her rape and murder. The film was banned in the UK in the 80’s and was unavailable in that country until 2002, and remained hard to acquire until it’s eventually DVD release in the UK in May 2003, still with 31 seconds of the film cut.
Sean: I had heard so much about this film, and all the controversy surrounding it, that I was really excited to see this one. While I’m not a huge fan of Wes Craven’s work, I do enjoy most of his films, and I thought seeing his first film would be good insight into his work to come. I wasn’t necessarily disappointed in this movie, but I think I went into it with my expectations being too high.
Monkeyface: I had never heard of this film before, but of course I like most of Wes Craven’s films. When I was 10 I saw Nightmare on Elm Street 2 and it scared the bejesus out of me! I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from a move that is almost 40 years old. The cover of the box and the name of the movie made me expect some ghosts or more of a scary horror movie. This had none of what you thought you were going to see. Under today’s standards it would be more of a thriller with violence/gore thrown in for effect.
Raz: I remember seeing Nightmare on Elm Street when I was younger and I could not make it through the movie with out covering my face with a blanket. Yes, I was a light weight when I was a kid. I couldn’t watch many scary movies without covering my eyes. When I saw that Wes Craven wrote this movie I was really expecting something good.
Sean: It seemed like a lot of the violence was actually shown off camera. The rape scenes weren’t overly graphic, but there were a lot of boob shots throughout the movie. Hell, there’s a boob shot within the first 2 or 3 minutes of the film, which is never a bad thing. I do have to commend Craven for his depiction of the convicts, and primarily Krug, who comes across as a heartless fuck, and I would have enjoyed seeing him killed with the Chainsaw, but again, it was offscreen. And what the fuck is going on with the music? It’s totally upbeat, but contextual to the action on the screen. Even if someone’s being thrown into the trunk of a car, it’s like you’re listening to some music at a kid’s birthday party. It’s pretty whacked.
Monkeyface: Yeah, the early boobs kind of threw me off, but I guess when you make such a controversial movie why not throw in as much nudity early as you can. Really, the first 30 minutes of the movie were slow, but it was really setting up the fact that these girls were from a small town where kidnapping didn’t happen. So why not try to score a “J” from some cross-eyed buffoon on the streets?!? I agree that Krug was a heartless fuck, but Fred “Weasel” Podowski was just plain cold! Krug was very animated and just a plain psycho, but the quiet, expressionless criminals like “Weasel” are usually the most dangerous.
Raz: Needless to say I did not make it through this movie without covering my face with a blanket. Only this time it was because I fell asleep and not due to being horribly terrified. In the beginning I did enjoy the boobs, but this movie dragged on and on. My wife made a good point when we were watching this movie. When you ask for drugs from some goon on the street they will trap you in their apartment and rape you if you’re not careful. As a side note I will have to remember to bore my kid with this movie when he gets older to hopefully sway him from trying to buy grass from random guys. If he actually makes it through the movie he will also note that drugs potentially lead to you shooting yourself in the face.
Sean: Raz, you fall asleep all the fucking time. I’m starting to notice a pattern… I can understand why this film is a classic, as it did open the doors for a lot of modern day horror. It took the controversy of this film and others like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to open the floodgates for more graphic depictions of violence. While you can argue that other movies with similar content came out before this one, The Last house on the Left was more influential than those others. This movie is a classic, but unfortunately, in my opinion, it just doesn’t hold up well to today’s standards. I do believe, however that this is one that any horror fan should see at least once.
Monkeyface: I can’t even imagine what would have been going through my mind if I saw this in the 70s. Movies like this just weren’t the norm back then. Craven took a huge leap with the rape scenes and the bloody violence. Plus he took murder out of the big city and brought it to the house next door. It may be a classic movie in the historical sense of the word, but don’t expect to be scared or freaked out. If you do watch it, do so to pay tribute to the start of a great horror film career and a man who opened doors in the cinema world.
Raz: I liked the beginning for the boobs and the movie really picked up in the end. If I were asked to watch this movie again I would pass, unless I really needed help falling asleep.