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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Last House on the Left
3 Disc Ultimate Edition


Starring: Sandra Cassel, Lucy Grantham and David Hess
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 18
Available 20 October 2008

Two young women venture from their suburban homes and travel to the somewhat seedier part of town to see a band. On the street they approach a man to ask if he has any puff for sale. He invites them in, where another two men and a woman wanted by the police take them captive. The next morning they are tied and gagged and subjected to depraved acts of terror. Meanwhile, the parents of one are happily preparing her birthday celebrations...

The Last House on the Left is a film which has gained a reputation considerable above its actual merit. The fact that it was originally banned (or cut) and that it was written by Sean S. Cunningham and directed by Wes Craven (both subsequent stalwarts of the horror film industry) has almost certainly raised its notorious status.

This is one of those horror films which I don’t enjoy watching; in fact, I would categorise it more as crime or thriller. Personally, the idea of a supernatural entity or faceless enemy decapitating or otherwise dispatching people in a number of eventful ways is infinitely more entertaining in a fantasy violence perspective. In other words, this isn’t very likely to happen in reality and so the plot can be more flexible and inventive.

The moment that women are seen to be sexually abused and otherwise subjected to physical terror it makes for uncomfortable viewing. No matter what a film script is trying to say, in my opinion it should be entertaining - it’s the reason people go to the cinema in the first place.

I can see how a film like Michael Haneke’s Funny Games might have been influenced by The Last House on the Left, with innocent middle-class people being victimised for no reason but the sheer hell of it.

If the ultimate objective of Cunningham and Craven was to shock audiences and 1972 society in general, then they succeeded in spades. What it does achieve is a convincing depiction of the end of the age of innocence, not just for the young women involved but for our ever-changing world. Bear in mind this is right at the end of psychedelia, so we have a bizarre mixture of happy-spacey music and trust, with brutal realism - even though much of it is inferred. The retribution of the family at the end could be said to contain the horror element and be the precursor to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre which came two years later.

Anyone who does deeply appreciate The Last House on the Left will welcome this 3-disc edition with a cleaner picture transfer and more extras (commentaries and documentaries) than you can shake a stick at. Disc 3 contains a feature length documentary The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film. As a long-time follower of horror I already know the majority of what they talk about, but it is nice to see and hear comments from John Carpenter (hooray!) and Wes Craven. There are also three short quizzes, but they are heavily weighted towards Wes Craven films.


Ty Power

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