The late Wes Craven is a director synonymous with the horror genre. 1972’s The Last House on the Left is Craven’s first – and probably most horrific film. It makes for some uncomfortable viewing, but the film is a true horror classic.
What makes Last House so horrific is that unlike say, A Nightmare on Elm Street, the horror portrayed here is very real. There isn’t a bogeyman or a wise cracking janitor to hide from – there is just pure horror in a very real sense. The film follows evil people committing violent and very vile deeds. Banned in the UK due to the nature of its violence, Last House is graphic and disturbing but this is what makes it a great horror movie in the true sense of the word. In a time when Hollywood is producing more and more PG-13 rated horror films House stands out as being very explicit and although the special effects may have dated, the sense of menace has not.
The film follows two teenage girls; Mari and Phyllis (Sandra Cassel and Lucy Grantham) as they try to score some pot for a rock concert. However, they run into Krug (David Hess) and his gang of miscreants and following a brutal assault the gang take refuge in Mari’s parent’s house. To say too much about the plot would ruin much of the film, but the film does offer a selection of surprises that will keep the viewer on the edge of their seat.
The tag line for House was “To avoid fainting, keep repeating “It’s only a movie…It’s only a movie…” and while it may be only a marketing ploy, the film does have a certain rough “snuff movie” quality that makes it all the more disturbing. Rob Zombie “borrowed” from the film quite liberally for The House of 1000 Corpses and Hollywood did the obligatory remake, but it didn’t have the power this film enforces on its audience.
While it is difficult to call The Last House on the Left an enjoyable film, it is easy to say that it is a film that will provoke a reaction from its viewers. It’s not one for the faint hearted, so to avoid fainting, keep repeating “It’s only a movie…It’s only a movie…”