It’s “Only” a Movie: “Last House on the Left” (1972) Review

Wes Craven’s original masterpiece “Last House on the Left” is probably one of the hardest movies that I have ever had to review. Let me warn you first and foremost, those expecting a teenybopper horror flick like “Scream” are going to be in for a surprise. Ninety minutes of pure terror, “Last House on the Left” takes no prisoners and remains today just as powerful as it did when it was first released nearly forty years ago.

I feel like, by now, everyone knows the story. Mari Collingwood (Sandra Cassel) plans to celebrate her 17th birthday by attending a concert with her friend, Phyllis Stone (Lucy Grantham). On their way to the concern, they hear a news report on the car radio of a recent prison escape, involving criminals Krug Stillo (David A. Hess), a rapist and serial killer, his son Junior (Marc Sheffler), Sadie (Jeramie Rain), a psychopath and sadist, and Fred “Weasel” Podowski (Fred Lincoln) a child molester and murderer. Before the concert, Mari and Phyllis stroll the streets, seeking someone who might sell them marijuana. They find Junior, who leads them back to an apartment, where they are immediately trapped by the criminals. Phyllis tries to escape to no avail.

The next morning, the girls are locked in a car trunk and taken to the countryside as the gang intends to leave the state. Their car breaks down right in front of Mari’s house while police are in her home talking to Mari’s parents about her disappearance in a chillingly surreal scene. Phyllis is beaten as Mari realizes that they are near her own home while she is dragged to the woods. The girls are untied and Phyllis is forced to urinate on herself by the gang. Phyllis runs away to distract the kidnappers and offer Mari an opportunity to escape. She is chased by Sadie and Weasel, while Junior stays behind to guard Mari, who tries to convince Junior that her father can help him, and she gives him her peace symbol necklace as a symbol of her trust. Phyllis manages to hit Sadie in the face with a rock and runs. She is then cornered, and Weasel stabs her in the back. She crawls away and manages to lean against a tree. Phyllis is then stabbed numerous times until she bleeds to death.

Mari eventually convinces Junior to let her go, but they are immediately halted by Krug. Krug then pulls down Mari’s pants and rapes her. The rape lacks barely a minute but feels like eternity as Craven isn’t afraid to show the depravity of the disgusting act. Mari quietly says a prayer then walks into a nearby lake. Krug shoots Mari and she floats on the top of the lake.

After cleaning up, the gang go to the Collingwoods’ home, masquerading as traveling salesmen. Mari’s parents agree to let them stay overnight. Junior exposes their identity when Mari’s mother, Estelle, sees Mari’s peace symbol necklace dangling around his neck. The parents then decide to get revenge. In the end, who is the victim and who is the villain? Sometimes these lines bleed into each other. In the best horror movies, they become one.

Extremely graphic and brutally raw would still be downplaying how disturbing this is. The entire film is shot and filmed with a dark, dreary look that perfectly fits the sick tone of the movie. It’s raw and powerful but don’t say I didn’t warn you. Let’s just say, they don’t make movies like this anymore. It really is too bad because this film is as much a masterpieces as it ever has been.