Wes Craven. The man responsible for A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Hills Have Eyes, and Scream, arguably three of the greatest horror films ever made.
Then there’s The Last House on the Left.
TLHOTL (that’s an ugly acronym, I’m sorry) was Craven’s first film, so I’ll give him a pass. Still…I can’t really say I liked it.
I know, it’s a classic, and no, I’m not some shit for brains millennial talking out of his ass. As you can clearly see from my prior posts here, I’ve seen a butt ton of old school horror movies. I cut my teeth on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, Dawn of the Dead, Fulci’s Zombie, and others. Hell, I was watching shit when I was seven years old. Seventies and eighties horror movies are…they’re home, you know?
I say that because anytime someone rips a classic, there’s libel to be some push back, and being twenty-five, I’m a prime target for the “You don’t get it, you grew up on crap” lecture. Or something.
The Last House on the Left feels like someone’s first movie. It feels like something a young, callow director would do. When I close my eyes and think of Craven doing this movie, I see a teenager fumbling to take off his girlfriend’s bra. And the poor bastard just can’t get it.
The movie starts with Mari, a pretty seventeen year old, and her friend Phyllis going to a concert in the city. Mari’s parents don’t approve of Phyllis or the neighborhood where the concert is being hosted, but allow their daughter to go with a warning to be careful.
On their way to the city, Mari and Phyllis hear a radio report of two violent convicts escaping from a prison with the help of “an animal-like woman” and one of the convict’s sons. Next we meet the gang. There’s Krug (David Hess, who would later play the same exact character in The House on the Edge of the Park – they even dressed him the same, lol!), Weasel, Sadie, and Krug’s kid, Junior (AKA Junkie, because Krug got him hooked on brown as a power play). Krug was in the slammer for killing a preist and two nuns (Craven was really trying to make him a bad dude), and Weasel was in for molesting kids, “peeping tomism,” and assaults. Sadie’s a psycho and Junior looks a lot like Hess…I wonder if they were actually related.
Anyway, Mari and Phyllis meet Junkie on the street and try to score some sweet grass off of him. He leads them into the apartment the gang is holed up in and hands them over to Krug in exchange for some H. Krug, Sadie, and Weasel strip Phyllis and rape her while Mari looks on.
The next morning, the gang hits the road, while Mari’s parents worry over her not coming home; they call the local police, and are rewarded with two dumbasses who couldn’t find their own assholes with a both hands, a flashlight, and Google Earth.
As fate would have it, the gang breaks down literally in front of Mari’s house. They take the girls into the woods and brutalize them. In a bid to escape, Mari gives Junior her peace sign necklace and promises to be his friend. Krug shuts that shit down real quick, raping Mari and shooting her.
Later, they seek refuge with Mari’s parents, claiming to be on a business trip. They quickly discover that their most recent victim lived there.
Junior goes into withdraws and winds up bent over the toilet. Mari’s mom helps him to bed, noticing the necklace. She then overhears Junior asking Krug for a fix and saying that they had to get out of there. “If they find out we killed their kid…”
Smooth move, Ex-lax.
Mari’s parents find their daughter’s body and bring her home, resolving to get revenge. The first to go is Weasel, who wakes up and finds Mari’s mom having a drink (presumably to calm her nerves). He comes onto her, and she takes him outside for a bout of middle-aged sex. Weasel claims that he can make love to her with his hands tied behind his back. Mari’s mom ties his hands with his tie and sucks his dick. Only instead of a happy ending, Weasel got a sad ending. A very sad ending.
She bit it off, is what I’m saying.
While all this is happening, Mari’s dad grabs a shotgun and sets up some Home Alone style traps. Krug and Sadie wake to the sound of Weasel’s shrieking, and find Mari’s dad aiming the gun at them. Krug cuts the lights, but Mari’s dad fires, catching him in the arm. Krug and Pops proceed to work each other over. Junior comes out with Krug’s pistol and threatens to shoot him, but takes his father’s advice and shoots himself instead (Jesus). Mari’s dad slips away and returns with a chainsaw.
Sadie attempts to flee, but Mari’s mom tackles her and they fight. Sadie eventually falls into a pool and Mari’s mom cuts her throat as, inside, Pops pulls a Leatherface on Krug just as the police arrive.
Oh, I forgot to mention. Those two dumbasses saw the gang’s car stalled on the side of the road as they pulled away earlier, but ignored it. A call came across the wire describing that car to a T, and they rush back to Mari’s house, only to run out of gas on the way. They literally spend the rest of the movie trying to get to the house. First a carload of hippies fake-offer them a ride and then flip them off, then an old black woman in a pick-up truck loaded down with chickens offers them a lift – but they have to sit on the roof, and the truck won’t go with their added weight.
My main complaint with this movie is those cops. Their scenes are totally inappropriate and just kill whatever tension Craven managed to build up before cutting back to them. Not only are these scenes inherently silly, they’re fucking scored with, like, slapstick music. It’s like if every time we see Leatherface chasing someone in TCM, we get the Benny Hill theme. It’s the dumbest shit. I also feel like Craven should have spent more time on Mari’s parents exacting their revenge. It was over so quickly. The whole movie builds up to it, and it’s, like, five minutes long, and is basically Krug getting chainsawed to death.
Speaking of Krug, I’m going to single David Hess out (just like I did with The House at the Edge of the Park). That man was a fucking genius at playing scumbag psychopaths. He really was. The dude who played Weasel wasn’t half bad, either. Now, he looks like the bastard love child of Christopher Walken and Mr. McMahon, but he’s a good actor. And boy can he scream.
Look, The Last House on the Left isn’t a terrible movie, but it’s amateurish. It reminds me of all the stupid-ass stories I wrote ten years ago and have locked in a drawer. Those things were the work of a young, inexperienced writer, just like The Last House on the Left is the work of a young, inexperienced director. Craven got better, though.
There’s hope for me yet.
Three and a half middle fingers.
PS. Having seen this movie now, it’s clear to me just how much they ripped it off in The House on the Edge of the Park. Like I said, David Hess was basically the same dude in both movies, right down to his black shirt. Was he the same character in every movie he was in?