Directed by Wes Craven [Other horror films: The Hills Have Eyes (1977), Stranger in Our House (1978), Deadly Blessing (1981), Swamp Thing (1982), Invitation to Hell (1984), The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1984), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Chiller (1985), Deadly Friend (1986), The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), Shocker (1989), The People Under the Stairs (1991), New Nightmare (1994), Vampire in Brooklyn (1995), Scream (1996), Scream 2 (1997), Scream 3 (2000), Cursed (2005), My Soul to Take (2010), Scream 4 (2011)]
No doubt a gritty and occasionally disturbing debut from Wes Craven, The Last House on the Left isn’t necessarily an easy movie to like, what with the occasional inappropriate comedic influences throughout, for instance, but I think that I tend to enjoy this more than I used to.
For most of the film, it’s not that violent. Though the rape and murder of the two young women is certainly disturbing, this isn’t I Spit on Your Grave, and while watching the two of them get dehumanized by Krug and his compatriots isn’t a walk in the park, it’s not near as bad as some later movies might be. Toward the end, we do get some increased violence, but it’s generally the type we can root for, which gives it a far more palatable taste.
The music throughout the movie sometimes feels a bit out of place, and part of that is due to the comedic influences with the two police officers trying to get to a soon-to-be crime scene, but most of the music works pretty well. The recurring “The Road Leads to Nowhere” is a perfect song for the movie, and during a death scene, we’re treated with “Now You’re All Alone,” a somewhat haunting melody (especially given the placement). David Hess (Krug) performed the music here, which shows a soft side to a rather brutish individual.
For the story, it’s pretty simple, but I do find it effective (and, on a side-note, a bit more relatable to the modern audience than 1960’s The Virgin Spring), and not only that, but I find it generally more enjoyable than what we might see from either I Spit on Your Grave or The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Sure, watching Sandra Peabody’s and Lucy Grantham’s characters’ grueling torture isn’t fun, but knowing where it leads does take a small amount of the punch out.
Personally, I love the finale. In some ways, the reaction of the parents (Richard Towers and Cynthia Carr) might seem a bit sudden, but I think it makes for a quality final 15 minutes. Really, the two of them didn’t have a whole lot to do before then, so I think going the direction they did makes the film a bit more special.
Of course, I’d be amiss without mentioning what a quality scumbag David Hess plays. He’s popped up in later films, from House on the Edge of the Park to Body Count, but it’s this role that I think really shows his talents. This is the only role I know of Fred J. Lincoln, but I also found him somewhat fascinating. Neither Jeramie Rain (Sadie) nor Marc Sheffler (Junior) amazed me, but I did think Junior’s regret over the incident was close to touching.
The Last House on the Left isn’t what I’d call an amazing film, but I do think it’s a solid slice of exploitation, and I generally find that I enjoy it a smidge more than Texas Chain Saw Massacre (which may place me in the minority, but I’m used to it). It’s rough, it’s gritty, and it’s amateurish in some ways, especially in regards to that misplaced comedy, but it’s still worth seeing if 70’s horror is your thing.