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The Last House on the Left (1972) - Wes Craven

Related: American cinema - horror film - rape revenge trope


The Last House on the Left is a 1972 horror film written and directed by Wes Craven.

The screenplay is an adaptation of a medieval folk tale which was also the basis for the Ingmar Bergman film The Virgin Spring.

The story begins at the Collingwood home, located on the outskirts of a quiet suburban town. Teenager Mari's parents have allowed her to celebrate her birthday by going to New York to see a rock concert with her friend Phyllis. While attempting to purchase marijuana to properly commemorate the occasion, the girls are kidnapped by Krug, a dangerous escaped felon, and his criminal associates. The gang takes the two victims into the countryside and subjects them to rape and humiliating torture. After leaving the girls for dead, and finding themselves stranded on a lonely country road, the villains seek shelter with a hospitable couple, who are none other than the parents of the violated Mari. The gang attempt to pass themselves off as business travelers and all is well, until the increasingly suspicious parents discover the awful truth about their guests...

The film was controversial for its graphic (for the time) depiction of violence, and also for the manner in which the villain characters imposed their psychopathic will upon the victims.

In defense of the film, it should be noted that subsequent horror films, such as The Evil Dead, contained much more explicit and intense scenes of blood and gore. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, released two years later, received favorable reviews from many "mainstream" critics despite its low production values and explicit depiction of abhorrent behavior i.e. cannibalism. Furthermore, the critically acclaimed Pier Paolo Pasolini film SalÚ o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (1975) also had as its principal theme the ritualistic torture and sexual violation of young persons as a form of entertainment for the perpetrators.

Nevertheless, critical opinion remains sharply split on whether the film is a bold artistic statement, or just exploitative trash. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_House_on_the_Left [Oct 2004]

Amazon review

  • The Last House on the Left (1972) - Wes Craven [Amazon US]
    Future Nightmare creator and Scream weaver Wes Craven's film debut is a primitive little production that rises above its cut-rate production values and hazy, grainy patina via its grimly affecting portrait of human evil infiltrating a middle-class household. The story is adapted from Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring, but the film has more in common with Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs as it charts the descent of a harmless married couple into methodical killers. A quartet of criminals--a distorted version of the nuclear family--kidnaps a pair of teenage girls and proceeds to ravage, rape, torture, and finally brutally murder them in the woods, unwittingly within walking distance of their rural home. The killers take refuge in the girls' own home, but when the parents discover just who they are and what they've done, they plot violent retribution.

    Along with George Romero's Night of the Living Dead and Tobe Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Craven helped redefine American horror with this debut--all three movies portray modern society crumbling into madness and horror. But, unlike his fellow directors, Craven gives his film an uncomfortable verisimilitude, setting it squarely in the heartland of modern America. While at times it's awkward and inconsistent, with distracting comic interludes, his handling of the brutal horror scenes is unsettling, and the death of the daughter is an unexpectedly quiet and lyrical moment. --Sean Axmaker for Amazon.com

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