The Last House on the Left

The Last House on the Left

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Back in 1972, Wes Craven’s feature-film debut The Last House on the Left pushed more than a few puritanical buttons, but it was a scene featuring a girl pissing on demand that seemed to spark the most controversy. Some 30 years after its original theatrical release, this schlocky extrapolation of Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring is still the definitive horror-film-as-cautionary-tale. Dr. William Collingwood (Gaylord St. James) and his wife Estelle (Cynthia Carr) smother their daughter Mari (Sandra Cassel) with listen-young-lady care before the 17-year-old heads off to a Bloodlust concert with Manhattanite best friend Phyllis Stone (Lucy Grantham) in tow. Craven evokes the innocence of the love generation via hippie songs, a peace-sign necklace, and a carefree stroll through the woods (it’s there that Mari and Phyllis compare cup sizes and discuss romantic love). When the girls go looking for marijuana, they’re kidnapped, tortured, and killed by a group of Mansonesque escaped cons. It’s the ultimate Vietnam allegory, except there’s no room for peace here, just war. Craven heightens the dramatic tension by expertly cutting back and forth between the Collingwoods’ happy suburban home and the Stillo gang’s hike through the woods. Way before Drew Barrymore had her larynx cut in Scream, an irony-stoked Craven had the Stillo posse unintentionally making their way back to the Collingwood estate, and though this exploitation quickie’s infamous promotional hook read “It’s only a movie,” it could have easily been “It can happen in your backyard.”

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DVD
Distributor
MGM
Runtime
84 min
Rating
NR
Year
1972
Director
Wes Craven
Screenwriter
Wes Craven
Cast
Sandra Cassel, Lucy Grantham, David Hess, Fred J. Lincoln, Jeramie Rain, Marc Sheffler, Gaylord St. James, Cynthia Carr, Ada Washington, Marshall Anker, Martin Kove, Ray Edwards