The Last House on the Left (Wes Craven, 1972)
[originally posted 18Jun2001]
When was the last time you saw a movie that was the very definition of the word “pointless?” If you need to shut your brain off for an hour and a half, this is a good way to do it. I’m amazed anyone in Hollywood managed to let Craven direct another film after this ninety-minute waste of celluloid. And yet, somehow (probably because “hey, it’s the guy who directed Scream!”), it was re-released with new box art and everything last year. It should have faded into much-deserved obscurity, instead.
The plot centers around a girl named Mari Collingwood (Sandra Cassel, one of many people in this flick who never got another role—hmm, I wonder why) who goes off into the big evil city with her best friend to see a concert. On the way, she and best friend are waylaid by some escaped prisoners, who do very nasty things to them (all artfully shot, of course, to preserve the film’s R rating). Well, that’s the first half, anyway. The second half hinges on the climax to the first half, and in case you’ve been living in a cave hundreds of miles from the nearest newsstand that carries Fangoria, I’ll leave the second half to your imagination.
The main problem with the movie, aside from abysmal acting, a horrible script, amateurish direction, bad lighting, etc., etc., is that the movie loses its direction time and again. In the hands of a better director—perhaps even if Craven were to remake his own film—and with a better script (again, Craven could probably do his own rewrite, as he’s shown time and again he’s capable of better than this), this
could be a tight, punchy thriller with enough extremity about it to still appeal to the shock-flick underground. But what we have here is a film whose sole purpose, it seems, is to say “hey, we have this ratings system now, and I’m determined to abuse it in any way I can.” The result is a mess. *