Written by: Wes Craven
Directed by: Wes Craven
Starring: David Hess, Lucy Grantham, Sandra Cassel, Marc Sheffler, Jeramie Rain, Fred J. Lincoln
- Running audio commentary by director Craven and producer Sean Cunningham
- Outtakes and Dailies
- Making Of Featurette
- Forbidden Footage Featurette
- Theatrical Trailer
Released by: MGM
My Advice: Rent it, if you’re a Craven fan.
This was Wes Craven‘s first feature film so a lot of slack must be given to his directing style or lack thereof. The dialogue is mediocre at best and the mixture of horror and humor is present–but is mixed very clumsily. There is also Craven’s playing with our expectations, with the gang killing the girls in the middle of the movie (if it’s spelled out in the blurb on the back of the DVD, it ain’t spoilers, folks), instead of having them escape. There is also a heavy documentary influence because that was all Craven had worked on so far in his career. This film was definitely shot on the cheap.
But the major issue with this movie is the extreme violence. Yes, the acts committed against the girls, then at the gang, are graphic and ugly. Craven wanted them to be brutal, not to hidden by a cutaway shot or staging them to be less shocking. The director isn’t glamorizing the violence, but showing it for what it is. Still, for a lot of people the starkness of the cruelty is too much. It’s hard to tell if Craven has the brutality simply for shock value or he’s trying to say something. To be honest, this film would be moldering somewhere in the bargain bin if this wasn’t Craven’s first.
There are some good features though. There is a documentary on making the film, which in the end sounds like every other low-budget independent movie. But there were unique difficulties with this movie, such as many actors, after reading the script, refusing to have any part in it. Even the title was a problem. After trying “Sex Crime of the Century” and “Night of Vengeance”, the distribution company came up with something with a little more subtlety and mystery to it. The Forbidden Footage featurette talks about how many theater owners made cuts to some of the more intense sequences, like the gang ordering Phyllis to piss in her pants and the ‘intestines’ sequence (done with lambskin condoms and ground chuck). Of course this is done with an anti-censorship slant, but after watching this, I can see the theater’s point.
The commentary goes into more detail about their inexperience at filmmaking: how they used the producer’s family house in Connecticut for the film, how they never applied for permits because they didn’t know about them, and how they didn’t realize they needed to safety the chainsaw to prevent any accidents.
I really don’t know if I can recommend this for the general audience. There are better films out there that examine the brutality of evil men and I know some people will be disturbed by the violence in The Last House on the Left. However, if you still want to rent it, don’t say I didn’t warn you.