The Last House on the Left (1972)

A Review By Asa Vajda

The story begins with two young teenage girls, one celebrating her 17th birthday (Mari) with her “delinquent” friend (Phyllis). The girls decide to get a little “grass” for the concert, but they get a little more than they bargain for when the two are kidnapped by a group of sadistic convicts. Unknowingly, their kidnappers take them to a secluded place in the woods, directly across from Mari’s home, where they are degraded, beaten, raped and sodomized, and then brutally murdered. Their murderers decide to hide out in the house for the night and take advantage of Mari’s parents’ kindness. When the parents discover the shocking truth of their missing daughter’s tragic end, they contrive revenge against her killers…

I’m going to start by saying this film has some good points, but it cannot counter-act with the overall incompetence of the whole film.

The most effective scene in the entire film is the scene that takes place in the woods. While watching the torture scenes, I could not help but feel an overwhelming sensation of disgust. A wave of nausea fell over me as I watched the young girls being brutally raped and savagely murdered. It’s one of the most realistic depictions of true sadism and has proven to be one of the most shocking scenes in cinematic history.

BUT… Here is my biggest complaint about the film. During the torture scene, they flash back and forth from a “comedy schtick ” scene involving two cops attempting to find a way to return to the place where they found the escapee’s car. Which is not only extremely annoying, but also ineffective and inconsistent with the serious impact of this particular scene.

This plus the overall bad direction, acting, slowness, the horrific hillbilly soundtrack, makes the film unbearably tedious to sit through the entire thing, even if it is Craven’s directorial debut. Craven manages to defile a lovely Bergman classic without even making it in anyway entertaining.

I’d suggest skipping this one, no matter how interesting the plot. Instead, I would recommend the beautifully filmed Ingmar Bergman original, The Virgin Spring, starring a young Max Von Sydow, based on an old Scandinavian wives’ tale. Or if you’d prefer something just a little sleazier, I would suggest Aldo Lado’s Last House Italian rip-off, The Night Train Murders.