The Last House on the Left was recently released on DVD here in Australia, and apparently it’s the first time it’s been available in the country since its release way back in 1972. Knowing that a film’s been banned (especially for such a long time) guarantees interest, and I loved Craven’s work with New Nightmare and the Scream saga, so I was quite excited about seeing this, his first ever film.
First of all, The Last House on the Left doesn’t disappoint. It’s brutal and unforgiving, and definitely not for the faint hearted. Whilst not exceptionally gory, it certainly doesn’t hold back, what with all the rape, mutilation and murder going on. It’s the extremes to which people will go that is particularly disturbing. Whilst this is essentially a revenge story (just how far will an ordinary person go?), one particular scene that isn’t violent yet is horribly demeaning is possibly one of the most uncomfortable moments in this film.
To watch the documentary in the DVD extras is even more disturbing. Apparently The Last House on the Left was originally intended as a hardcore porn/violence film, and the glimpses we get of the original script are deeply disturbing. Several of the actors were in fact from ‘adult films’, so their confidence in some of the more demanding moments is understandable, as is my use of the word ‘deeply’ in the previous sentence. The doco also discloses the fact that Craven and the producer had not only never made a film, but hadn’t studied filmmaking or even read a book on the subject. This naïveté works to their advantage as this film has a distinctly unsettling amateurish look about it.
The acting itself is pretty decent, but the script (particularly at the start) is sometimes laughable. The girltalk between the two teens is embarrassing, and the cake making scene is surreal in a Brady Bunch kind of way (maybe this was the intention though). Once things take a turn for the worse, however, this film is in a league all of its own.
Interestingly, The Last House on the Left is actually based on the Ingmar Bergman film Virgin Spring (Jungfrukällan), yet I don’t quite understand how this can be when no reference is made in the credits to it being a remake. Craven has never made anything so disturbing since, and it’s hard to imagine this film being made today (all the ultra-violent horrors seem to come from the late 70s and early 80s, think The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Friday the 13th). This film is a must for any horror film aficionado, as well as any amateurs hoping to make it big from a low budget film.Rating: