The Last House on the Left (1972)
the last house on the left | wes craven | sandra peabody | lucy grantham | david hess | remake | exploitation | crime | drama | thriller | united states | psychopath | sociopath | murder | death | the virgin spring | revenge
Film: The Last House on the Left
Director: Wes Craven
Writer: Wes Craven
Starring: Sandra Peabody, Lucy Grantham and David Hess
This is quite an interesting film. This would actually be the first exploitation film I remember watching and one of the only films that my father put a restriction on me being able to see growing up. I’ve seen this film a handful of times and I still feel dirty every time I view this one. Before I get into that, the synopsis is two teenage girls head to a rock concert for one’s birthday. While trying to score marijuana in the city, they are kidnapped and brutalized by a gang of psychotic convicts.
As I alluded to above, this film is pretty brutal and makes me feel dirty with what happens to these two girls. We get to see Mari Collingwood (Sandra Peabody) as she is showering and getting ready to go out for her birthday. She is a new-age feminist when this film came out in 1972. She and her dad get into a disagreement about what she is wearing. She also mocks her mother and her beliefs on it. This film at the time was a modern retelling of a Scandinavian folk tale. There was a film version called The Virgin Spring. She is just entering womanhood while still being naïve and innocent. Her friend she is going with is a little rougher, Phyllis Stone (Lucy Grantham).
Going from these, it seems to me that we have Mari who for the first time feels like a woman, but isn’t fully there yet. I heard a podcast talk about this and it really helped me sync up with this film. She is going to check out a band called Bloodlust. She thinks that ‘making it with them’ would be like cotton or clouds. I don’t think she really fully understands the world yet, but being the age that she is, she thinks she does.
The group they encounter is led by Krug Stillo (David Hess). He just escaped from prison along with Fred ‘Weasel’ Podowski (Fred J. Lincoln). They were both in for violent crimes. They were broken out by Sadie (Jeramie Rain) and Krug’s son Junior (Marc Sheffler). The latter is hooked on heroin thanks to Krug as a way to control him. It is interesting here that Sadie being the only woman shows some signs of empowerment that she won’t have sex with any of them until more girls are found. She does try to say some things and it seems she is fairly well read, but she messes up some of the words. This is just fitting for what her level of education would be and even though she is well read, she doesn’t fully grasp what she has read.
Something else that struck me this time is the crime that Krug is serving a life sentence for. It was killing a priest and two nuns, which are religious figures. He is there for killing people that are generally considered to be ‘innocence’, which really makes sense for what they do later in the film.
Junior ends up being approached by Phyllis when she is trying to score marijuana. They are then taken hostage where they are beaten, humiliated and raped. This starts at their place in New York, but then it moves to the woods near where Mari lives. Their car breaks down, stranding them. During all of this, we see that Krug and his group are just out to have fun at the expense of these women. We see they are forced to piss their pants, strip down naked. They also get violent with them. This is highly degrading and embarrassing for them. They then take the ultimate violation of their being by raping Mari. This is literally taking her innocence.
This is showed with the duality of her parents, Dr. John and Estelle (Richard Towers and Cynthia Carr) as they are preparing for a birthday party for her. It is so ideal and normal, while these heinous crimes are happening. Things take a turn when Krug’s group seeks refuge with her family. Her family learns what they did and get their revenge. I think this is edited together very well and the editing for the film is pretty good aside from this as well.
Now I do have issues with this film. The bumbling police are annoying, but I do think that it was done due to the time the film was released. They needed something to take off some of the tension and that was what they decided to do to alleviate how dark this film goes. I don’t think it holds up and actually hurts the film in the grand scheme of things.
The ending of the film is cheesy a little bit. We do get the Wes Craven love of booby traps at home. I do think how Krug is punished though and who witnesses it is something that is quite powerful in my opinion. The whole ending sequence is good if they would have not gone cheesy with the traps. It is still satisfying I would say.
Acting in this film was pretty good despite how amateur it feels. Peabody and Grantham I feel horrible about with the things that they endured. It does come off very realistic so I give them credit. I thought Hess, Lincoln, Rain and Sheffler were also good in their portrayal of the criminals. It really seems like they would go do the things that they did in this film. Towers and Carr don’t come off completely realistic, but I think they were good enough. The cops were not good, but I don’t necessarily blame them. I think it was the direction of what they were asked to do.
The score of the film is hit or miss for me too. The Road to Nowhere song that plays was really good. It was written by Hess for the film and the words actually sync up to what is happening. Some of the others don’t really fit the tone of the film while I think others work really well for it. There are some that are perfect though or give the duality of a scene, which really makes it interesting.
Now with that said, this film isn’t the easiest to watch. The subject matter and what happen is tough to stomach and no matter how many times I view it, it makes me feel dirty. This is a simple tale of two girls in the wrong place at the wrong time and taking their innocence away. You hope the parents get their revenge and it actually has a commentary on the police which is pretty relevant today. I thought the acting for the most part was good. The film was edited well. The soundtrack of the film does have some issues, but does feel very well in others. If you can handle this film, I do recommend giving it a viewing. If you can’t, that’s completely understandable. It is quite powerful in my opinion despite its flaws.
My Rating: 9 out of 10