To avoid fainting, keep repeating, “It’s only a movie . . . it’s only a movie . . .”
As all true horror buffs know, The Last House on the Left (1972) is a must-see cult classic. More a low-budget (albeit sickening) drama than an actual horror film, it has been described as
a supremely schizophrenic movie, alternating awkward scenes of bad comedy with gruesome and unsettling moments of violence that reach a nasty level of documentary realism.
Bring it on! Except . . .
I’ve been reluctant to watch this must-see cult classic. It keeps getting moved to the bottom of my “Gross, Scary, Awful Movies” list. I have a high tolerance for gore and scares, but Last House comes under the heading of “disturbing.” There’s a difference between scary and disturbing. Scary can be exhilarating, fun, an over-the-top adrenalin rush. Disturbing can leave you feeling sad and sick and sort of lost. SciFilm says the movie is for people who are
willing to be disturbed, to be angered, to be moved in a detrimental way by cinema. It is not for the thrill-seekers or gorehounds really, because there is no sense of outrageousness here. . . . The outrageousness is in its reality, and it is an ugly reality.
OK, now I have to watch it. Maybe some of us need to see these “ugly realities” on film to remind us how lucky we are not to have to see them in real life.
Director Wes Craven introduces the film by recommending that viewers remove small children and “innocent animals” (hee!) and taking a tranquilizer (which I TOTALLY did) before watching. Two teenage girls, Phyllis and Mari, are on their way to a rock concert (Blood Lust!) when they are kidnapped by a group of sex-crime fugitives. Now here I have to interject. Nothing would have happened to these girls if they weren’t trying to score some grass. They asked the wrong guy and got pulled into a nightmare. Kids, if you must do drugs, don’t follow the dealer into his apartment/sex-lair where his gang members are waiting to punch you in the stomach.
When Mari doesn’t show up the following morning, her parents are understandably concerned. The tubby sheriff and his hayseed deputy (“comic” relief) aren’t much help. Little do any of them know that the two girls have been dragged by the gang (Krug, Weasel, Junior, and Sadie) into the woods right by Mari’s house, where they are tortured, raped, . . . and finally killed.
OK, that was bad. Disturbing in a quiet, low-tech, no-special-effects way. But here comes the payoff. The blood-splattered killers clean themselves up and head to Mari’s parents’ house, posing as insurance salesmen (!) whose car has broken down. They’re invited to stay the night—in Mari’s room!!! Mom overhears them mention the murdered girls and puts two and two together. She and her husband plot their revenge . . .
. . . which includes chainsaws, knives, and a blow job that ends in the worst possible way. Yay, Mom and Dad! You’re psycho-killers now, too!
Maybe I’m almost completely desensitized, but this didn’t bother me as much as I’d expected. Only when I thought the family dog was gonna get it did my finger hover over the fast-forward button. Don’t get me wrong—I don’t enjoy watching teenage girls get tortured and killed. But in addition to the admittedly disturbing scenes, there’s quite a bit of humor, both intentional and un-, bizarro music, and deliciously terrible acting. Plus, yes, I think I am completely desensitized. I’m sure if I’d seen this in 1972 my head would have exploded. As it was, I just felt sort of queasy and more determined than ever to stay away from heavy metal rock concerts and guys named Weasel.
JD’s Top 10 Disturbing Movies
1. Cannibal Holocaust
2. I Spit on Your Grave
3. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
4. Event Horizon
5. High Tension
6. House of 1000 Corpses
7. Vanished (original)
10. Clockwork Orange
Fun Facts about Last House on the Left
- Based on Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring
Banned in the UK during the “Video Nasty” scare of the 1980s
- The sound track listing includes “Phyllis Spills Her Guts” and “Etude for Chainsaw / Goodbye, Dick”
- Some of the original titles: Night of Vengeance, Sex Crime of the Century, and Grim Company
- According to imdb.com, here’s what some of the cast members have been up to:
- Sandra Cassel, who played Mari, was apparently so genuinely scared during the filming that she walked out at one point. She went on to star in Legacy of Satan and Massage Parlor Hookers.
- David Hess, who played Krug, the main baddie, has been on episodes of “Manimal” and played “Robaire” in Valley of the Dolls.
- Fred J. Lincoln (Weasel) has an impressive list of directing credits, including The Last Whore House on the Left, as well as a part in the classic Edward Penishands 3 (look it up yourself, sicko).
- Jeramie Rain, whose psycho-lesbian character is described as “animal-like” in the movie, married . . . Richard Dreyfuss!
If you want to watch Last House on the Left:
- Nothing really bad happens until about 00:28:25.
- If you’re only interested in watching Weasel get his dick bitten off (sorry, spoiler!), fast-forward to 1:13:30.
- Enjoy the DVD extras, including
- Lively commentary by Craven and producer Sean Cunningham
- Outtakes & Dailies: no sound, but you get to see the 7-minute “Murder Sequence,” which includes the famous disembowelment scene—the intestines of which, you may be pleased to know, are actually condoms filled with peanut butter and jelly
- Forbidden Footage features Craven and Cunningham expressing disbelief that anyone would want to censor their film (INTESTINES, people!) as well as interviews with some of the cast. Who haven’t aged particularly well.
- Read Roger Ebert’s review (3 and 1/2 stars!)
- Watch the trailer
- Read the book
- Buy tranquilizers
And remember, it’s only a movie . . . it’s only a movie . . .
* Today’s lyrics are courtesy of The Damned.