Director Lee Demabre brings us this perhaps autobiographical piece about a film director who is dealing with the poor criticism his last movie received.
He drowns his sorrows by indulging in a bit of voyeurism at the local strip club and here he meets a girl who glories in the name of Gigi Stops. Unfortunately, the car which runs her down does not live up to her name and Abel is left wondering what to do with the body. He could of course just call the authorities and have done with it but that wouldn’t make for a very satisfactory viewing experience. He decides therefore, to cover his tracks at the strip club by using the various body parts as props in his next movie, a horror film which to his delight is received to rapturous praise, particularly in the design. Abel decides to repeat his success but to do that, he is going to need more body parts….However he has reckoned without a reporter who decides to go undercover as an actress to find out what happened to her sister, a trail which will lead her inexorably to Abel’s door where an interesting fate awaits them both.
David Hess stars as Abel and gives an eye rolling performance as a man who becomes obsessed with his own success at any cost. It’s not intended to be taken seriously at any point and Hess’ performance is perfectly judged for the material, as are those of the supporting cast. Sacha Grey reveals that she has a little more acting talent than the average porn star but to be honest, no one is watching the movie for her performance and Hess walks off with every scene he is in. It’s a gloriously funny comedy horror that has a lot to say about the exploitative side of the entire genre and as such has a little more going for it than might be immediately apparent. Not a magnificent piece of celluloid but certainly one worth watching, probably on an evening with mates and beer. Enjoy!
The Last House on the Left should probably only be seen by people with a strong stomach—even today, after audiences have been exposed to films like the Saw series. However, despite mixed opinions, it is not your ordinary exploitation film, or, rather, it is a smarter-than-average example of the genre.
The film stars Sandra Peabody as a teenage girl named Mari, and Lucy Grantham as her friend, Phyllis. The two girls are kidnapped, raped, tortured, and eventually killed by an escaped convict named Krug (David Hess) and his gang. Presented with the opportunity for revenge, Mari’s parents (played by Richard Towers and Cynthia Carr) take it upon themselves to punish and kill the criminals themselves.
Wes Craven could have made a typical exploitation film, and for many reasons, The Last House on the Left does fit into that genre. However, several touches place it several cuts above the rest. For instance, there is the portrayal of the characters played by Peabody and Grantham. They could have been written as shallow ditzes, but the story allows them to display courage, strength, and even heroism—particularly in the case of Phyllis. These characters are not at all cardboard cutouts, which makes the depiction of their brutalization all the more appalling.
We should also discuss the revenge carried out by the parents. A key point here is that the parents do not just simply ensure they have evidence, call the police, and let justice take its course. They themselves become the punishers. This implies all sorts of fascinating, disturbing ideas about justice, authority, and personal vengeance. Perhaps this film riffs on situations wherein we lose our trust in authorities that cannot protect us and our loved ones from horrible dangers. Also, while we may believe in legal justice in the abstract, we might not find its proceedings satisfying if they are used to punish the victimization of someone we love. If your son/daughter has been brutally raped and murdered, you might be disappointed to see the culprits “only” jailed or humanely executed. Rather, you might want to use your own hands to make them suffer just as your loved one did. This movie’s plot plays on this understandable but disturbing desire.
We have discussed the film’s ideas about revenge. Now, what about the portrayal of the avengers themselves, i.e. the parents? The revenge of the parents is cathartic (both for the characters and the viewer), but in a way, it is also disturbing to see how these regular, decent people can be driven to just as much violence and cruelty as the insane criminals who are the villains. In other words, what really separates the good and everyday from the evil and bizarre?
The film ends before we can get any sort of satisfactory answer, no matter how crude and exploitative, to that question. This, besides the still-shocking torture and gore, explains the reason why the film continues to elicit such strong reactions, even almost forty years after it was made and released.
Year : 1972
Director : Wes Craven
Writer : Wes Craven
Starring: David Hess, Richard Towers, Cynthia Carr, Sandra Peabody, Lucy Grantham
Country: United States
Running time: 84 min, but can vary due to cuts (censorship!)