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The Last House on the Left


The Last House on the Left, 1972
IMDB Details The Last House on the Left

Firstly, I'm ditching the format that I've used in the above two reviews in favor of something less constrictive. Hope no one minds

The Last House on the Left is one of those cult horror icon films that everyone (including Roger Ebert) says is great and is a must-see for horror fans. The film was written and directed by Wes Craven who went on to make The Hills have Eyes, Swamp Thing, The Nightmare on Elm Street series, the Scream series and a few other films that I consider to be semi polished jewels of the horror genre.

My first inclination is to try to pass this film off as the first effort of an up and coming director and is therefore deserving of consideration of that fact. The problem with that is the cult following out there who extoll the greatness of this film. It's not a great film. The Last House on the Left isn't even a very good film and if you'll hang with me I'll tell you why.

One of the first issues I had with the film is the title and the way the film is presented on the whole. I would think that with that cover art, that title, the promise of the tagline "it's only a movie", etc, that it would be reasonable to assume that what you're going to see is some sort of haunted house film or at least a film that has something to do with a house. Not so. There are two houses in the film, neither has to do with the storyline whatsoever other than to serve as backdrop. I was a bit disappointed by this as, hey, I'm a genre fan and I like a haunted/cursed house story as much as the next salivating horror junkie.

That somewhat minor point aside, the film centers around two escaped murderers and their tribe of flunkies who are trying to evade recapture. This 'gang' are as silly and stupid as ever portrayed on screen and their ineptitude in inspiring fear almost makes the whole thing laughable. Couple that with some of the hokey-est banjo/folk music going on in the background and you've got an environment not exactly laced with tension and/or fear.

All of this leads up to two murder scenes and some collateral damage. Those murder scenes, in and of themselves, are quite well done, and frankly, so much so that they are difficult to watch. I can't help but feel that those two scenes were the inspiration for the film and the rest of it was just window dressing. Dirty, tattered, trashy, junkyard ready window dressing, but still window dressing.

There will inevitably be those who say 'for the time, it was a good film'. To them, I would say it's not well planned, schlocky, sloppy trash with a few brief moments of shock. Whenever I see a film like this from the era I can't help but reflect upon The Exorcist and in contrast what a great, time tested film it really is. In fact I can name quite a few good horror films from the late 60's early 70's that are far superior to this one and will do so in upcoming reviews.

Final word,
Yes, I can see how this film served as a vehicle for Wes Craven to cut his teeth upon. It probably was, in terms of content, groundbreaking in it's portrayal of violence. To me, that doesn't excuse the sloppiness of the story, the bad performances by much of the cast and the overall disappointment in the film on the whole. At it's core, it's exploitation and it's not done well enough to matter. At least I can say I've seen it and can be done with it.