The Last House on the Left (1972)

Rating: D-

Dir: Wes Craven
Star: David Hess, Fred Lincoln, Sandra Cassel, Lucy Grantham

Nowadays, when “Wes Craven presents…” means dreck barely above “John Carpenter presents…”, it’s hard to imagine a time when he was the cutting edge of degenerate horror. Mind you it’s hard to imagine a time when Last House made audience members throw up – it’s just so amateur, barely above the level of a Herschell Gordon Lewis flick. Okay, it’s 30 years old, so the lack of gore is perhaps understandable, but were cinema-goers then so susceptible to really bad acting? The story – such as it is – has two halves. In the first, two girls are captured, tortured and murdered by escaped psycho Krug (Hess) and his cronies. The second has their car break down right outside the house belonging to one girl’s parents, a plot twist of equal audacity and idiocy.

The parents are not pleased when they discover their daughter’s fate, and wreak horrible revenge. There are a number of interesting possible angles here: who is worse, the amoral Krug, or the parents who do actually know better? However, the effect is crippled by crude, stereotype characters, bumbling comic relief cops, and a woefully inappropriate soundtrack that drain the film of impact. Hess does make an impressive loony, with a feral nastiness that convinces you any level of sadism is possible, but you don’t care about the victims at all. Worthy of note for its place in history, just not one that has stood the test of time at all well, as its only apparent purpose is to shock and disgust. Every bit as shallow as Music of the Heart, though mercifully free of Meryl Streep.