An ugly, disturbing, passionately conceived cult favorite, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT is much more complex (albeit crudely made) than its controversial reputation would suggest. Loosely based on Ingmar Bergman's THE VIRGIN SPRING, Wes Craven's film depicts the atrocities committed by a
makeshift family of rootless criminals who kidnap, rape, and murder two teenaged girls on their way to a rock concert. The convicts then make their way through the dense New Jersey woods and take refuge with a suburban couple, posing as a family whose car has broken down. Little do the killers
know that the house they have picked for their refuge is owned by Dr. and Mrs. Collingwood, the parents of one of their victims. After discovering the truth, the nice middle-class couple exact savage revenge on the killers.
Expertly made on a tiny budget, this drive-in exploitation flick decisively transcends its genre. The extremely graphic violence is never played for thrills; indeed, Craven has said he wanted to resensitize Americans to the reality of violence in the wake of the Vietnam war. Craven--who would go
on to polish his themes in the slicker THE HILLS HAVE EYES--never for a moment allows the viewer to sympathize with the killers, but he does provide a window of understanding into how seemingly senseless acts of violence occur. The killers initially toy with the girls, as if playing a game; but
when the game gets out of hand and the girls wind up dead, the killers look at their corpses with saddened confusion, like children who have broken a favorite doll. Some have seen the film as a critique of the nuclear family, exploring the threat of patriarchal violence that lies beneath
traditional structures of domestic authority. Undeniably, the good Dr. Collingwood's behavior, from his surreptitious appraisal of his daughter's figure to his spectacularly gory revenge, is hardly a model of benign fatherhood.
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- Released: 1972
- Rating: R
- Review: An ugly, disturbing, passionately conceived cult favorite, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT is much more complex (albeit crudely made) than its controversial reputation would suggest. Loosely based on Ingmar Bergman's THE VIRGIN SPRING, Wes Craven's film depicts the… (more)