Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Last House on the Left (1972)

Directed by Wes Craven
1972. Rated R, 84 minutes


Sandra Peabody
Lucy Grantham
David Hess
Jeramie Rain
Fred J. Lincoln
Marc Sheffler
Richard Towers
Cynthia Carr

While on the way to a concert, two girls try to score some marijuana and find themselves in a house full of psychotic criminals with other plans for the girls. Director Wes Craven is a legend in the horror business and this is his first film. That much is evident by how unsure of itself the movie is. Craven gives us a film full of feminine/parental angst and feminist empowerment at a time when women's rights had re-ascended to center stage a few years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the slowing of the Civil Rights Movement. It also gives us a cast of perfectly eccentric and vile villains based enough in reality to be really unsettling. However, as if its afraid to scare its audience too much we get ridiculously over the top comic relief from a pair of cops who essentially provide a template for the moronic duo of Roscoe and Enis of The Dukes of Hazzard TV series that would follow a few years later. Even worse, their scenes come complete with goofy music. Whenever they appear onscreen, which is way too often, they instantly take you out of the mood the rest of the movie works so hard to build up. Its obvious Craven wants you to take it seriously but simply underestimates his audience's willingness to be repulsed without relent. The film has a great horror plot with an even greater twist but its a very uneven watch. Because it inspired an entire sub-genre of horror flicks*, its become overrated and viewed as a classic. I liked it well enough, but it consistently keeps itself from becoming the great movie everyone says it is.

*That sub-genre simply dictates that young travelers and/or pleasure seekers go down the wrong road or knock on the wrong door and find themselves abducted and tortured by a group/family of psychopaths.

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