Halloween Scene: The Last House on the Left (1972)

7:28:45 pm

I had been warned to actually not watch Last House by fellow horror fan Rickey Purdin (follow the link to check out some of his recent horror related artwork), mostly because of the multiple scenes of rape, sexual assault and violence against women. He actually told me about this moments after Blockbuster sent me an E-mail letting me know Last House was on its way (when I really wanted The Strangers!). I asked if it was worse than I Spit On Your Grave and he said no, so I figured I’d watch it anyway, it being Wes Craven’s first flick and all.

Here’s the thing about the movie, it’s completely all over the place. It starts off as a couple of teens having a good time, then jumps into horror territory as they get snatched by four escaped criminals (killers, rapists, thieves and junkies). You’d think it would stay pretty serious after that, but Craven throws a number of curve balls at the viewer. The most prominent ones to me were the musical choices. You’ve got some pretty intense scenes followed by really upbeat pop music. I’m not sure if it’s there to undermine the mood of the movie or to lighten the mood.

The other curve ball comes in the form of two lazy, bumbling police officers. I thought they would get vindicated when they quickly realize the criminals are in their jurisdiction only to be shown as complete jokes when they run out of gas and later try to get a ride in a chicken truck. Huh? They show up at the very end but all the damage has been done by then.

And by damage I mean that the criminals leave the city with the two girls in the trunk of their car. As they’re driving through the sticks, the car just happens to break down right in front of the main girl’s house. Maybe I missed the reason why they were heading in that direction in the first place, but that just seemed ridiculous. The criminals then do terrible things to the girls in the woods and eventually make their way up to the main girl’s parents’ house where they plan to rob and/or kill them. The parents figure out what’s up and take their revenge on the criminals. All the while the film seems real in the same way that Texas Chainsaw Massacre does with the graininess of the footage. There’s a remake coming out soon, that I’m sure will look like all the other horror movies coming out today. The closest modern filmmakers get to this is shooting on video or handheld digital, but it just doesn’t feel the same. But, hey, maybe in 30 years when movies are implanted directly into our corneas it won’t matter.

Like Rickey, I found the sexual assault scenes to be sickening, but most of them happened off screen. In a weird way, it’s hard to stay focused on any one terrible thing these terrible people do as the mood keeps bouncing around. I wonder if Craven was playing with his audience or just not really sure what he was doing. I’m guessing the former.

The one element of this movie that I did enjoy immensely was the fact that the parents got revenge on their daughter’s SPOILER killer. So often with horror movies, all you get are scenes of the bad guys slaughtering kids and whatnot, with the kids getting away for a short time just to get recaptured or getting away from the trouble. It feels good to watch someone actually get revenge all in the same movie instead of waiting for the sequel.

Last House is not the kind of movie I’d watch over and over again, but I am glad I saw it, if for no other reason than I want to see all the works of Wes Craven. I also can’t really recommend it, unless you too want to see what Wes Craven was working on 24 years before he did Scream and 12 years before Nightmare on Elm Street. Next up on the Craven train will probably be Last House on the Left unless I break down and buy the new Nightmare on Elm Street four packs this Halloween season.

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