“The Last House on the Left”
A Sleeper From 1972
“The Last House on the Left” is an influential film in the 1970s horror canon. It is still genuinely shocking and has merit both as a reaction to the Vietnam war and a commentary on the way violence was and is typically portrayed on film (as too sanitary and without consequences). It’s certainly a film that should be seen by all horror fans at least once. It is a tough, bitter little sleeper of a movie that’s about four times as good as you’d expect. There is a moment of unforgettable sheer and unexpected terror. The film is horrifying but in ways that have nothing to do with the supernatural. It’s the story of two suburban girls who go into the city for a rock concert, are kidnapped by a gang of sadistic escaped convicts and their girlfriend, and are raped and murdered. Then, in a coincidence even the killers find extreme, the gang ends up spending the night at the home of one of the girls’ parents.
The parents accidentally find out the identities of the killers, because of a stolen locket and some bloodstained clothing in their baggage. The father is so enraged that he takes on the gang single-handedly and murders them. If this sounds familiar, this is roughly the plot of Ingmar Bergman’s “The Virgin Spring.” The story is also based on a true incident as we are told at the beginning of the movie. “Last House on the Left” is a powerful narrative, told so directly and strongly that the audience is shocked.
Wes Craven’s direction never lets us out from under almost unbearable dramatic tension. The acting is unmannered and natural with a good ear for dialogue and nuance. And, of course, there is evil in this movie and by that I do not mean bloody escapism, but a fully developed sense of the vicious natures of the killers. There is no glory in this violence. And Craven has written in a young member of the gang (again borrowed on Bergman’s story) who sees the horror as fully as the victims do. It is important that as you watch it you remind yourself that “it’s only a movie. It’s only a movie. It’s only a movie.”
Craven initially intended “Last House” to be a “hardcore” movie, but the actors convinced him that the story could stand on its own. The film makes quite an impact but only if you’re in the right mood to experience it. It stands out from other exploitation fare of its day precisely because it has a backbone that, if not entirely philosophical, at least seems more laden with meaning. Craven wanted to shock, but he also wanted to a make a point. He was rebelling against his strict fundamentalist background and inspired by gory real-life newsreels from the Vietnam war and sought to portray violence as it is—messy, sudden, repulsive, and always with consequences. The story is simple— on her 17th birthday, Mari Collingwood (Sandra Cassell) goes into the city with her best friend, Phyllis (Lucy Grantham), to see a band called “Bloodlust.” In an attempt to score some weed before the show, the two friends are kidnapped by a loose family of lunatic prison escapees. The leader, Krug (David A. Hess), is a kind of a professional rapist/serial killer, and his son, Junior (Marc Sheffler), serves as his slave. Rounding out the cadre are knife-toting child molester Weasel (porn director Fred Lincoln), and Sadie (Jeramie Rain), an “animal-like” bisexual psychopath. Aside from Junior, they are all remorseless repeat offenders. Junior’s conscience seems to exist somewhere beneath a heroin-induced haze and his own reality.
Mari and Phyllis are not long for this world. They’re both tortured, raped and murdered in the woods not far from Mari’s house, where her square, mild-mannered parents (Gaylord St. James and Cynthia Carr) are worried why she has not come home yet. After the murders are over (Mari is shot to death in a lake and Phyllis is eviscerated on the shore), Craven he tries to make us feel sympathy for the killers. He lingers on their faces and shows them bathing in the lake, trying to wash away the evidence of what they’ve done. By the time they arrive at Mari’s home—a coincidence that can’t help but feel contrived, we know, of course, that they’re going to get what’s coming to them.
Indeed, there are moments of unsettling power and even outright panic. The film is a blend of campy artifice and brutal realism. For its time, it was controversial and boundary pushing —and there’s value in that, from a cultural perspective. There are still many who feel that Craven ripped off the great Swedish director Ingmar Bergman whose film is indeed a masterpiece and is filled with deeper themes of faith, redemption, the morality of revenge, and the problem of evil.
LIMITED 2 X BLU-RAY EDITION CONTENTS
Three cuts of the film newly restored in 2K from original film elements
Original Uncompressed Mono Audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Double-sided poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork
6 x lobby card reproductions
Limited edition perfect-bound book featuring new writing on the film by author Stephen Thrower
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Paul Shipper
DISC ONE THE UNCUT VERSION
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the Uncut Version
Brand new audio commentary by podcasters Bill Ackerman and Amanda Reyes
Archival audio commentary with writer/director Wes Craven and producer Sean S. Cunningham
Archival audio commentary with stars David Hess, Marc Sheffler and Fred Lincoln
Junior s Story a brand new interview with actor Marc Sheffler
Marc Sheffler in Conversation at the American Cinematheque
Brand new interview with wardrobe and make-up artist Anne Paul
Songs in the Key of Krug never-before-seen archive interview with David Hess
Celluloid Crime of the Century archival documentary featuring interviews with Wes Craven, Sean S. Cunningham, actors David Hess, Fred Lincoln, Jeramie Rain, Marc Sheffler and Martin Kove
Still Standing: The Legacy of The Last House on The Left archival interview with Wes Craven
Scoring Last House on the Left archival interview with actor/composer David Hess
It’s Only a Movie: The Making of The Last House on the Left archival documentary
Forbidden Footage the cast and crew of Last House on the film s most controversial sequences
Outtakes and Dailies
Trailers, TV Spot & Radio Spots
DISC TWO THE KRUG & COMPANY & R-RATED CUTS
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the Krug and Company and R-rated cuts of the film
The Craven Touch brand new featurette bringing together interviews with a number of Wes Craven s collaborators, including Sean S. Cunningham, composer Charles Bernstein, producer Peter Locke, cinematographer Mark Irwin and actress Amanda Wyss
Early Days and ‘Night of Vengeance’ filmmaker Roy Frumkes remembers Wes Craven and Last House on the Left
Tales That’ll Tear Your Heart Out excerpts from an unfinished Wes Craven short