“To avoid fainting keep repeating, it’s only a movie… Only a movie… Only a movie… Only a movie.” – The infamous tagline to Wes Craven’s debut feature. With little in the way of budget or technical filmmaking ability The Last House on the Left was part of the exploitation (grindhouse) movie scene in the early 70’s. Famously censored and banned in the UK, Last House was caught up in the “video nasties” saga on the early 1980’s.It wasn’t until 2008 the film got a UK release without any cuts.
Last House has been one of my favourite horror films for a very long time. Thinking I was completely desensitized to cinematic gore and violence, the film did something to me that only the very best horror films can. It got under my skin, and affected me emotionally. I was genuinely upset and concerned by it.
It’s a combination of elements that add to the films brilliance. Firstly, it has a sustained feeling of dread throughout. This is perhaps to do with the lackluster production. It’s pretty badly made, and the sketchy editing, sound production and direction adds to the uneasy atmosphere that surrounds it. Furthermore, you have no clue where the film is going. There’s things in Last House that I’d never seen before, very strange and nasty elements to it that are rather hard to watch, even to the most seasoned horror fan. On top of this there are really bizarre and out-of-place comedy segments and interludes that have absolutely no place in the movie. It simply adds to the unhinged production.
It’s a very strange choice to have as one of my favourite films, but for me personally it resonated with me on levels that I didn’t know existed. Naturally, after a run of Hollywood remakes in 00’s of classic horror films, a Last House revamp / remake / re-imagining was inevitable. What followed was 2009’s reboot of the film, which wasn’t terrible. As far as rehashes go, it’s at the top end.