Monday, May 25, 2009

The Last House on the Left (1972)

Decades before Hostel, Turistas, and Captivity, The Last House on the Left was the original torture porn. This was the film that kicked off Wes Craven's career, even though it was extremely low budget and heavily "borrowed" from The Virgin Spring. The flick's tagline warned, "to avoid fainting, keep repeating 'it's only a movie, only a movie.'"

The Last House on the Left gained extreme notoriety over the years due to it's controversial and gruesome content. Originally rated "X" and banned in several countries, an original version, containing most notably the forced lesbian scene, is still not available in any release.

The introduction to this movie cautions that it is based on true events. Although this is not the case, the film lacks monsters and spiritual beings, and is definitely something that could happen in 1970s upstate New York, and even today.

We kick things off with a shower scene that attempts to be "artsy" in only the way that low-budget 70s horror can be. We've got young, sweet Mari Collingwood, who is off to see a band in the city, underage and sans bra. She is meeting up with her friend Phyllis who appears to be a bit more outgoing and promiscuous than our young Mari.

The girls meet up and down some alch in the woods before hitting up the concert in the big bad city. They ignore warnings of escaped convicts being broadcast on the radio, like most teenagers would. Upon arrival in the city, they decide that Bloodlust would be a lot more rad with some weed so they look for the hookup. Now I know zero about buying drugs but common sense would tell me not to enter some random apartment to complete the transaction. Obviously the apartment is chock-full of jailbirds looking for cute girls and things do not go well.

Next thing we know, Mari's parents are worried and the two lovely ladies are in the trunk of a car headed upstate. The car is, of course being driven by said escaped convicts. We've got a father and son (Krug and Junior), their buddy Weasel, and their galpal Sadie. Krug (pronounced "Krueg" as in short for Freddy) is running the show and even has his son hooked on heroin to keep him in line. Sadie is being used as the town pump and Weasel in chilling out in a suit and joining in every once in a while.

They make their way upstate and the car breaks down right outside of Mari's house! Of course, this is the basis and ultimate irony of this movie. They ditch the car and pull the girls into the woods for some "fun." The following scenes are harrowing, yet interesting. The girls are abused, tortured and raped, actions which are obvious and expected from the movie's description. However, the choice of bouncy and upbeat music during these incidents is quite jarring. Also, the dynamic of the two teenage girls really plays into the drama; the more sexually experience Phyllis really takes one for the team.

More violence and abuse ensues and unfortunately for the attackers, they take refuge in the home of Mari's parents. I don't want to give too much away past this point, but the revenge scenes are really Home Alone meets I Spit on Your Grave. As lousy as the production value is, the movie is a true classic. There's enough mystery behind the violence to make it more Audition than Hostel and it really shows the beginning of the genius that is Wes Craven. Check it out, you won't regret it.