The Last House on the Left (1972)

Director Wes Craven’s remake of “The Virgin Spring” often gets a lot of credit, not just for jump starting the grindhouse boom, but for being influential as a veritable violent film. Sadly, “Last House” is another of Wes Craven’s films that gets too much credit. While many will argue that “Last House” has to be considered for its time period, even in context, “Last House” is a piss poor horror film with terrible production qualities.

Generally, I’m very forgiving in that regard when it comes to films from the grindhouse era, but for “Last House” I found it very distracting. The film is credited as one of the most violent films ever made, but once you get past the bad splatter, and abrupt torture and rape scenes, “Last House” ends up a fiasco more than an achievement. Like most of Craven’s films, he has the right idea, and a good plot in store, but it’s lost in a haze of muddled writing, and really bad sub-plots. It’s impossible to really soak in the torment and pain the two college girls Mari and Phyllis are enduring from these psychotic hippies, when we keep cutting to two small town officers trying to make it to the crime scene in time getting in to all kinds of mishaps.

In one scene they hop on the back of a truck and fall off like a couple of bumbling morons. How can anyone root for characters like these? Why are they in this movie? And how can we really concentrate on the horror when we’re watching these Keystone Cop doofuses fumble traveling and eventually preventing the chain of deaths in the finale. Meanwhile Craven basically focuses a great deal on the torture, but only when the filler is mostly through. There’s an immense amount of build-up and exposition, all of which leads in to the infamous torture and rape in the woods. Craven uses his villains as a commentary on post-sixties temperament, positing drug fueled hippies as the monsters of the picture, while the upper class are their prey. Craven dwells on the torture and rape for sixty percent of the film, while the other forty is based on the revenge.

I found myself reveling in the eventual payback from Mari’s parents, and what pain they would instill on the villains, but it’s all mostly an after thought. The finale offers us a poorly staged violent confrontation in the finale, as well as a torture scene that merely ends up being a dramatic fake out. The two moronic cops enter the crime scene only after the fact, and by then we’ve just about given up ever seeing a satisfying resolution to this story. “The Last House” is one of the many Craven titles that worked for its time, but aged very poorly. It’s a premise that is much better realized in the 2009 remake that, while much more steeped in melodrama, centers the story on a parents’ wrath. Something the original should have tackled with much more emphasis and terror.