The Last House On The Left (1972)

Today we have another one of the most brutal horror films ever put to the screen…perhaps even more so than yesterday’s. This is the film that introduced us to one of the biggest names in horror film directing and it is undoubtably his rawest, grittiest and most difficult to watch film. It’s Wes Craven’s 1972 film, The Last House on the Left!!

Firstly, the cast is made up of relative unknowns which could be argued that it distances you from the characters. In truth, it makes them seem more real because you’re not used to seeing them in every other film. Also the fact that it is Craven’s first feature film would suggest that he couldn’t get any known actors but that’s beside the point. The point is…these characters feel incredibly real and that’s the true horror of the film.

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Fred J. Lincoln torturing Sandra Peabody…one of the more tame depictions

This is, what I like to call, one of, if not the first ‘man is evil’ horror. At this time in society, it was becoming more evident that people shouldn’t be scared of nuclear radiation or anything like that and that’s why the tone of horror films changed to the idea that any person could kill you in any number of horrible, brutal ways. In that sense, The Last House on the Left is one of the most important, game-changing horror films in the history of the genre, even if it isn’t one of the best.

The brutality of this film is through the roof…more so than Witchfinder General. It consists of more ‘close to home’ torture, both physical and psychological as well as brutal, sadistic, but not sleazy, rape. Differently to Witchfinder General, it is set in the present day so it feels much more identifiable for us the audience, (and even more so for the audience in 1972 I should imagine). This makes the film very difficult to watch…it isn’t afraid to hold back and puts all the horrific brutality in full view for all to see. In this sense, it can be categorised as a ‘shocksploitation’ film (a film where the shock is attractive to an audience) and this genre can get some hate…such things as ‘The Human Centipede trilogy’ haven’t helped the case for the far greater ‘shock-horror’ films. Thankfully, The Last House on the Left falls into the better set.

I won’t spend much time on the performances as no one really knows these actors…but they are perfect for this film. David Hess especially as Krug Stillo, the leader of the psychotic family is excellent and incredibly terrifying. Another shoutout goes to Fred J. Lincoln as Krug’s cousin, who assists in the torture. Sandra Peabody and Lucy Grantham as Mari and Phyllis, the two girls whom the Stillo’s kidnap are good as useless victims….there’s nothing bad about the cast here.

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David Hess as Krug Stillo shooting in the famous ‘lake’ scene

I also forgot to mention that this film includes the biting off of male genitals…you’re starting to see now why this film is considered among the most brutal, violent and most difficult to watch films in history I gather.

There’s no use describing a plot to you as it’s essentially 80 minutes of kidnap, torture, mutilation, violent death, sadism and gritty realism. If you’re into the more brutal aspect of the horror genre, you can’t go wrong with this one. I’m struggling to think of any other film I have seen that is quite as difficult to watch. But that of course is why I’m a fan.

There is one thing that I really do not like about the film however. For some bizarre reason, Wes Craven decided it would be a good idea to include a pair of police officers who appear to be slapstick comedians. It’s ridiculous and completely takes you away from the film whenever they’re on screen. Why anyone thought that comedic relief would work in this film I’ll never know, but if you can look past it, you’ll realise that it’s still a very good film. It would be better if it was 10 mins shorter and cut out these ridiculous scenes but that’s that. Thank god Craven didn’t include slapstick again.

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Sandra Peabody and Lucy Grantham as the 17 year old victims of the most brutal cinematic torture

The Last House on the Left was successfully remade in 2009…one of the few classic horror film remakes that have actually worked but if you really want the full extent of violence, brutality, realism and grittiness, watch this one.

Not one of my favourites, but incredibly compelling to watch (apart from the police officers) and one of the most brutal things ever put to film…certainly not for everyone, a very mature audience is required but I’d say, it’s well worth the watch.

Next up we have one of the most famous horror films of all time and one that is widely considered the best ever made…I completely disagree with this however, despite still thinking it is a very good film. From the following year, it focusses on religion, one of my most favourite aspects of horror cinema and includes a spinning head…you know what I’m talking about now.

Let me know your thoughts on this film in the comments and contact me at morgan@thepurpledon.com if you have any inquiries or suggestions for improvements to posts!

The Journey Continues

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