Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Last House on the Left (1972)

Fear: 2/5
Gore: 2/5
Creepiness: 2/5
Entertainment: 1/5
Nightmare: 0/5

I've been curious about Last House on the Left for a long time since it's Wes Craven's first movie, and I came of age on the Nightmare on Elm Street series. Like The X-Files and BH 90210 (how often does that get name-dropped on a horror blog?), I sat through the whole damn series (even the one with Tom Arnold, and that weird "meta" Elm Street), despite myself. Anyway, I can now finally say I've seen Last House... and that's about all I can say.

The story is about two teenage girls (their innocence evidenced by a "frolicking in the woods" montage), who try to buy some weed on the way to a concert in Boston. The shifty weed dealer traps them in an apartment, where his gang of Murderers and Rapists are co-chillin (one of them's named Weasel, so he's obviously bad). The gang gets to doing what they do best (minus the murdering), and then take the girls for a joyride in the country.

Coincidence of coincidences #1: they stop off in the woods right by the girls' houses. The girls try to get away to unfortunate results, and then the gang decides they're tired and want to sleep off all the murdering and raping. Coincidence of Coincidences #2: the gang seeks refuge at the home of one of the girls. The parents take the gang in for the night, but soon figure out what they've done to their daughter, and enact sweet revenge.

Did I mention that, for comic relief, there are also bumbling cops, an Aunt Jamima type, and a cheery folk soundtrack?

I can see how this would've unnerved people in 1972. To my limited knowledge, there weren't many popular movies that aimed to shock people in such a literal, brutal way (point, Craven). I'm guessing audiences were too thrown by the subject matter to care about the awkward, low budge filmmaking? The general mood is uncomfortable, and there's one pretty sweet scene involving a severed hand. But overall, the writing and directing are really lazy, which would be fine if this was meant to be enjoyably B grade. But everyone seems to be aiming higher. Eh, kind of a mess.
* * * *
Fear: 2/5
Gore: 3/5
Entertainment: 2/5
Creepiness: 2/5
Nightmares: 0/5
I remember seeing this some years ago and thinking it was fucked up because the murder/rape scenes were so long and drawn. And just cold and brutal - similar to I Spit on Your Grave. Plus, the mean hippie types seemed like real (if somewhat exaggerated) degenerates. And, for a film from 1972, it's really gory and violent - chainsaws, severed body parts, intestines being pulled out, penises being bitten off, etc. So in that sense, it works - it is fucked up and it's effective at making one feel icky (because if you don't feel icky watching a naked girl degraded, raped and disemboweled there is something wrong with you). "Good-time film" this is not, and yet...
. . . Soikatron is dead on here: the execution of the film (no pun intended) is bungled. It's not that it's low budget, that's fine and can often work to a horror film's advantage, especially one with subject matter like this. It should work in this case actually. But the hokey touches and random comedy bits that are added in just don't work and are very distracting. This failure consistently keeps you aware that you are watching a bad movie as opposed to being involved in a terrifying experience. Frankly, had I not known that Wes Craven and Sean Cunningham (Friday the 13th) were responsible for this film I'd have taken a guess that John Waters was. And I'd have thought he didn't do a very good job.
And of course it is being remade.
- Complaint Department


Brian said...

oh, jeebus. i also noticed that "Shocker" is being re-made with Craven as director.

Cortez the Killer said...

Shocker?? Are you fucking kidding me? That movie was aweful.Excuse me while I go punch my face repeatedly.