After kidnapping and brutally assaulting two young women, a gang unknowingly finds refuge at a vacation home belonging to the parents of one of the victims: a mother and father who devise an increasingly gruesome series of revenge tactics.
On the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Mari Collingwood tells her parents that she is going to the concert of underground band Bloodlust in New York with her friend Phyllis Stone. She borrows the family's car and heads with her friend to a dangerous neighborhood in the city. Meanwhile, the sadistic and cruel escapees Krug Stillo and Fred 'Weasel' Podowski are hidden in a hideout with their partners Sadie (Jeramie Rain) and Krug's addicted son Junior Stillo (Marc Sheffler) after killing two guards and one shepherd in their runaway. The two girls seek marijuana near the theater and meet Junior that offers some Colombian grass to them. They go to his apartment and are subdued by the criminals that rape Phyllis. On the next morning, they hide the girls in the trunk of their convertible and head to Canada. However, they have a problem with the car's rod and they stop on the road close to Mari's house. When Phyllis tries to escape, the gang stabs her to death and shots Mari after ... Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Director Trademark: [Wes Craven] [Strong female characters]. Mari, Phyllis, Sadie and Mari's mother. See more »
When the killers first pull out Phyllis's severed arm to show Mari, the fingers are moving. See more »
Hello, Cassie! Hiya, girl! Hello, there! Now, let's see.
[looks through mail]
Ah, it looks like Mari's getting cards from half the civilized world. Mari Collingwood. Mari Collingwood. Mari Collingwood. You'd think she's the only kid to reach the age of 17. Of course she is probably the prettiest piece I've ever seen.
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In the 1980s, the American video versions contained additional text after the film had ended, reading: "Coming soon to a theatre near you. From the producers of Last House On The Left, and the director of Friday the 13th Part V, ... The Last House On The Left, Part II. You won't believe your eyes!" (No sequel ever materialized) See more »
How did Wes Craven go from this to the Nightmare on Elm Street comedies??
I watched The Last House on the Left having only recently gone back and watched The Texas Chainsaw Massacre again and learning that I simply don't enjoy abrasive horror films like that. They are extremely well-made and very effective, but they are effective to the point that I don't find them all that fun to watch, the way I enjoy watching even the campiest scary movies. I also realized that there is a much more distinct line between horror movies and scary movies than I had previously realized. Horror movies, like Texas Chainsaw and Last House on the Left, are not scary, they're horrible. Conversely, scary movies hopefully are actually scary (although all too often they're not either), but are rarely horrible, mostly because excesses of gore and whatnot often render them campy, separating them from reality and allowing you to laugh while someone is being brutally killed.
Last House on the Left is a horror movie, not a scary movie. It is not scary for a second, but the fact that it is presented in this almost documentary-like way and involves very realistic characters make it that much more effective. Given that I was so recently sickened once again by Texas Chainsaw, I was expecting something equally abrasive from Last House on the Left, which I decided to see after seeing an excellent documentary about horror film history called The American Nightmare.
The movie was clearly a groundbreaking film at the time of its release, and you can clearly see throughout the film scenes that were influential to popular horror films that have come out over the years. I was reminded of some cheesy backwoods movies that also came out in the 1970s, like 'Gator Bait and the disturbing I Spit on Your Grave, which both have a similar feel to Last House on the Left, but oddly do not have nearly the effect of novice director Wes Craven's early film. I have a feeling that this may be because Craven had significantly less goofy caricatures in his movie than either of the 'Gator Bait films or I Spit on Your Grave, both of which are hugely overshadowed by Last House on the Left, which in turn was eclipsed by the classic Deliverance the same year.
In watching the interviews with Wes Craven and producer Sean Cunningham on the DVD, it is clear that the movie turned out to be a lot more than they had expected it to, mostly because it was so disturbing that there were people who didn't want either of them to ever be allowed to work in film again, and it's not hard to see why they were so upset. More than 30 years later, the film remains effectively disturbing and upsetting, simply because it portrays real people doing horrible things to other real people. There are simple situations in the movie where you may find yourself wide-eyed with shock at something that could easily be created by a few people with a home video camera. The success with which Craven and Cunningham were able to make such an effective film with little to no budget ranks Last House on the Left with other low budget classics like Texas Chainsaw and Night of the Living Dead, although it now retains considerably less notoriety, possibly because of the lack of a whole line of sequels.
I have to say that I really enjoyed the police officers in the movie, a sheriff and his deputy whose jaw-dropping stupidity surpasses even that of all of the law enforcement in First Blood. The campy gestures like the sheriff slapping his forehead and rubbing his chin helplessly at his inability to commandeer a chicken farmer's truck when their own car ran out of gas, gosh darn it. The comic relief is unusually starkly contrast with the rest of the movie, but it's a good thing it's there, otherwise the movie would be even more difficult to watch.
While it's true that it is an uncomfortable experience watching the movie and I've recently decided I don't enjoy things like that, you have to respect the skill with which it was put together. Not just the level of depravity that Craven and Cunningham managed to reach, but the way they were able to come up with ways to put the film together when they had such limited resources. From a technical standpoint, the movie is a huge success because of that. Not quite as much fun as some of his later movies (and not quite as bad as some of his later movies), but Last House on the Left performs some things that remain almost unheard of in the movies, especially horror movies, such as the fact that it contains full frontal nudity and extensive and brutal violence, but glorifies neither. The simple fact that this movie can be as graphic as it is without being exploitative is enough to show that even after three decades there is still something to be learned from it.
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