Wednesday, September 6, 2006
Last House on the Left (1972)
A gritty, brutal look at the abduction, torture, humiliation, rape and murder of two innocent girls (Mari and Phyllis) at the hands of a group of escaped convicts and the lengths the parents of Mari go to for revenge.
This is a very hard movie to watch because of all the brutality. Wes Craven, who directed this in 1972, does not make the abduction at all sexy (many films seem to eroticize violence these days, especially towards women), but very uncomfortable. It's hard to watch what the convicts ("murderers, dope-pushers and rapists") do to Mari and Phyllis and equally difficult to listen to the girls plead, beg and bargain for their release. When the parents take their revenge at the end of the film, I cheered them on, but not before realizing that they had become what they hated. The killers became the victims, the victims became the killers.
Craven made this ugly, brutal film to reflect the ugliness and brutality of the Vietnam War. As the violence against the two girls was random and pointless, so was the Vietnam War (according to Craven). The random chance that the convicts' car broke down in front of Mari's house is an ironic twist that makes the death of Mari and Phyllis that much more tragic. I believe this also reflects Craven's views on violence and the Vietnam War. The bumbling cops that many think are in the film to evoke comic relief are actually another social commentary Craven uses to express his disgust in authority figures. The cops come far too late to save Mari and Phyllis, which is the result of their own stupidity for not planning ahead. They had realized where the escaped convicts were, and that they had the girls, but they ran out of gas before they could reach Mari's house. Their ineptitude cost Mari and Phyllis their lives and forced Mari's parents to take the law into their own hands. There is a definite connection between that aspect of the film and Craven's view on the U.S. government at the time.
Last House on the Left is an extremely uncomfortable movie to watch, but one that raises many important social questions. It's significance in horror is unquestioned, as it has influenced many films from those with a cinema verite style to the rape/revenge kind to torture flicks.
It's tagline is, "It's only a movie...it's only a movie" but I believe Craven hoped audiences would recognize the social commentary he laced throughout.
Check it out on Amazon!