Friday, 10 March 2017

DPP72: Last House on the Left

So what can I say about the The Last House on the Left well as you have proberbly guessed from the title of this post it was one of the DPP72 (to find out what this is look at my earlier posts on the subject), it is a 1972 American exploitation-horror film written, edited, and directed by Wes Craven, Yes that Wes Craven, the man who brought Freddy Krueger into our lives and dreams, and it was produced by Sean S. Cunningham yes that Sean S. Cunningham the creator of the Friday the 13TH series.

The story is inspired by a Swedish film called The Virgin Spring from the 1960’s which I have to admit I have never seen. It was the directorial debut of Wes Craven. The main thing this film is famous for in my opinion was bringing the phrase "To avoid fainting, keep repeating 'It's only a movie'..." in to the public’s eye with its advertising campaign. This phrase had been used by earlier film ads but it was really hammered home here and this phrase become highly associated with the whole Video Nasty’s scandal. 

The brief story of this film goes something like this, there is a group of wanted criminals who the police are looking for. A girl tells her parents she is going out to a concert with a friend, the girls run in to one member of the group of criminals who leads them back to their current hideout under the pretence of selling them drugs. Once there the girls are taken hostage, this leads to them being taken to a forest where they are physically and sexually abused for the groups amusement and finally murdered. The film was accused of being over the top in this regard but while it has a certain sadistic streak with members of the gang taking definite pleasure from the fear and humiliation of these young women, less is shown than in various other films. It can be disturbing at times but that is because you see enough to know what is happening and the villains come across as so deeply dislikeable that on any occasion where your imagination is left to fill in the blanks it is going to think of the worst possibility. 

I imagine back when this film was banned one of the things that led to that decision was the mixture of sexual assault and violence, I would say that there was a definite worry that with young ''attractive'' ladies being naked on screen while you saw characters clearly enjoying assaulting, humiliating and raping them worried some people. It perhaps made them wonder if there naked presence might somehow stimulate the viewer and cause some form of association between torture, assault, humiliation and gratification. It took until March the 17th 2008 for the BBFC to pass the full film uncut as fit for release. This was one year before this film would actually recieve a remake

People have argued over whether this film is an import piece of horror history or a piece of gutter trash and I have to admit I do tend to agree it’s a part of horror history. It is the editorial debut of Wes Craven, a man who is huge in the world of horror, it’s not a great film, he has done much better films since, but it is where he started. I don’t agree with any worries that people will be taught to associate any of the unpleasantries in this film with gratification, I watched it and I felt sorry and uncomfortable with the victims and I didn’t want their killers to get away with it, because I thought they deserved to be punished. This shows that the film had an effect on me, it got me to feel one way or another for most of the characters in it and surly that is one of the main reasons for film to exist, to get us invested in stories, to get us to care about who lives and who dies, what they do, who they are and how this is dealt with by the world that that has been created. Yes I agree that there are some shocking things in this film but I think a lot of them were handled as tastefully as they could be without rendering them pointless and nuterd beyond point and purpose.

Some of the music and the attempts of humour with strange police characters threw me a little but I think it was a conscious attempt to throw something in to the mix to stop everything from getting overly bogged down in doom and gloom, when you look at a lot of cravens latter work there is humour mixed in there often far better than it is here but it needs to be remembered that he was finding his feet here. 

I would give this film a 6 out of 10, it’s not brilliant, it’s not bad though, it’s watchable and you can see some good ideas and good implementation shining through. Due to the rape this film tends to get compared to I spit on your grave and I can see why, I certainly think this one is far easier to watch though especially if your squeamish, everything in this in that particular area can be cut down to about 5 minutes and it’s a lot more implied than in I spit on your grave so this is a much better starting point if your looking for a film of this type which is a little less full on, in honesty though unless your looking at this film for its historical value I would tend to recomend that for a more enjoyable film you look at something a little latter in Wes Craven's career.

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