The Last House on the Left (1972)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Last House on the Left</strong> (1972)

(In French, On Cable TV, February 2019) There are two things that are guaranteed to drive me up the wall in terms of movies, and Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left manages to hit both of them at once: Amateurish filmmaking and nihilistic horror. To be fair, this was an incredibly innovative film at the time of its release: by the early-1970s, horror films hadn’t yet gone to the extremes that we’ve somehow grown accustomed to, and there was an undeniable New Hollywood quality to the intention of turning out an exploitative gory cinema-vérité horror film in which a heroine is raped and killed, only for the parents to take merciless revenge. Public reaction at the time was aghast, and even today it’s easy to see why: the film is an extremely unpleasant combination of naturalistic filmmaking and merciless gore. Craven’s first film did not have the budget to be slick, and even the film’s biggest opponents (that would be me) will recognize that the overbearing musical cues, hair stuck in the film, muddy picture quality, choppy editing, neighbourhood sets and static cameras do create an eerie realism that would have been destroyed by higher production values. Even today, the very early-1970s fashion and music fix the film to a very specific time. Still, there’s no denying that the movie is excruciating to watch, especially when the filmmakers refuse any easy escape. The rape sequence drags on and on, and the film doesn’t spare anyone even when the parents of the murdered girl take their revenge. At some point, even jaded reviewer such as myself have to recognize that this is a specific kind of movie and that it appeals to a specific kind of audience. But certainly not everyone.

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