The Last House on the Left tells the story of a girl’s night out gone very wrong. In reality, I suppose you could say that it was about three different groups whose respective nights don’t quite end the way they’d hoped. Mari and her friend Phyllis head out of the suburbs to see a rock show in Harlem. They’re almost adults now, they can handle a rock show in Harlem, what’s the worst that could happen? Well, when they get to the city they decide to try and score some weed. The people they ask just so happen to be a traveling group of serial rapists and murderers. They proceed to rape Phyllis and then put both of the girls into the trunk of their car like leftovers for later. They then stop at some random spot in the suburbs for more rape and torture and it just so happens to be right across the street from Mari’s house. That’s when the shit really hits the fan.
This movie is significant to any and all horror aficionados, such as myself, for two reasons. First, it is considered one of the first to usher in the age of, what is known as, new horror. It’s not new anymore, as this movie came out in the early ‘70’s, but what ‘new horror’ means is that horror shifted from being not so creepy swamp monsters and vampires and started being about truly terrifying supernatural possessions and serial killers. Freddy Kruger and Rosemary’s Satanic baby are very different from flying brain monsters and movie adaptations of Edgar Allen Poe starring someone like Vincent Price. I suppose you can say that new horror is when horror went from being creepy to being scary. The second things significant about this movie is that it introduced the world to a, then, literature professor who was interested in making movies named Wes Craven.
Despite it’s prominence in the history of the genre, I’d never seen it. I figured it was about time. It’s influence is undeniable and I’m not sure there’d ever have been a John Carpenter or Toby Hooper without inspirations like this out there. That said, let’s talk about the movie watching experience. The performances were really uneven. Some, like Jeramie Rain and David Hess, were really great and memorable, while others were totally one note amateurish performances. In fact, just about everything about this movie was uneven, with moments of greatness peppered with things that just didn’t work at all. For example, the music was awful, completely out of sync with the tone of the movie and distracting and they would toss in these stupid moments of goofy cop comedy right after some heavy rape scene. In the end, it meant one could clearly tell the director had talent and promise, but the movie itself just wasn’t that engaging or scary, at all. Long story short, see it if you’re a fan of the genre and want your movie watching collection to be complete, but, otherwise, you can probably skip it.