Sandra Cassel as Mari Collingwood
Lucy Grantham as Phyllis Stone
David Hess as Krug Stillo
Richard Towers as Dr. John Collingwood
Surprisingly, a large number of horror fans have not seen this gem of a movie, and I am ashamed to admit that I used to be one of them. Despite The Last House on the Leftbeing horror legend Wes Craven’s first release as a writer and a director, not to mention simply groundbreaking, it has flown under the radar and not received the attention it deserves. Also, it is worth noting that Sean S. Cunningham of Friday the 13th notoriety produced The Last House on the Left which should be added incentive to watch it.
Mari (Sandra Cassel) and Phyllis (Lucy Grantham) travel to the city to see a concert in celebration of Mari’s 17th birthday. The two naïve teenage girls go on a reckless mission to find pot before the concert, but what they find is much more dangerous for their health and safety.
The girls encounter Krug (David Hess) and his band of criminals fresh from a daring prison escape and become two more victims without a chance in hell of survival. The sadistic gang inflicts some of the most gruesome and disturbing acts upon Mari and Phyllis ever caught on film. What makes the scenes even more unsettling, if that’s even possible, is the realism. When I watched The Last House on the Left I felt like a bystander hiding in the woods and the only thing I could do was watch dumbfounded. Rape, humiliation and torture are on the menu, but if you’re the squeamish type please don’t tune out yet. The Last House on the Left has numerous redeeming qualities.
After the murder of the two helpless girls the group seeks shelter in a house very, very close to where the girls met their demise. Unbeknownst to Krug & Co. (the films alternate title) the house is the home of the recent victim Mari. It is only a matter of time before Mari’s father John (Richard Towers) finds out who his houseguests really are and what they just did to his little girl. What ensues is an act of revenge that will guarantee to be burned into your brain until the day you die.
The pace of The Last House on the Left is sporadic in a way that keeps you glued to the screen to see what develops next. Krug and his gang change between charming, funny, merciless and psychotic all in matter of minutes so you never really know what to expect. The Last House on the Left does a fantastic job of showing what a psychopathic group is capable of and what the worst of human nature really looks like up close.
In order to fully appreciate The Last House on the Left I think it helps to have a bit of context. In 1972, when this film was made, there had not been other movies with this sort of ultra-violence, so what Craven created was off the beaten path of what was acceptable and expected in horror. In fact, even after several cuts The Last House on the Left was still rated X, so the makers spliced in an R rating themselves and released it. Wes Craven was daring both on film and behind the scenes.
The Last House on the Left is the originator, not the imitator, of shock movie classics and demands precious space in your DVD collection. Trust me, love it or hate it, you won’t forget The Last House on the Left any time soon.