Pretty much anything anyone's ever said about Last House on the Left is true. That includes the comments of its makers—first-time writer-director Wes Craven and producer Sean S. Cunningham—whose descriptions of the film as grindhouse product and thematically relevant statement are contradictory but accurate. Yep, it's a depraved exploitation film specifically designed to shock and repulse viewers. It's also a cultural artifact reflective of and reactive to the time it was made: horrors emergent from the Summer of Love pitted against the Vietnam War, and protective parents chafing their offspring, no longer children but still holding a naive belief in invulnerability despite a world of war, sex, and drugs (scored to rock and roll). Made on the cheap, Last House on the Left is raw and sometimes clumsy, and it glibly, even giddily doles out its intense and intimate horrors in a way that remains off-putting. The film that put Wes Craven on the map, it also remains a touchstone for modern horror.
Quite literally The Virgin Spring for the drive-in set, Last House on the Left offers, to those American suburbanites unlikely to venture into an art house, a spectacular indictment of complacent bourgeois superiority. Craven can't hold a candle to Ingmar Bergman, but his unknown actors (and don't we fear the unknown?) help to foster the film's sometime impression of "snuff." The story concerns seventeen-year-old Mari Collingwood (Sandra Cassel), who with friend Phyllis Stone (Lucy Grantham), runs afoul of a Manson-type family of rape-and-kill psychopaths: Krug Stillo (David A. Hess), his son Junior (Marc Sheffler), Sadie (Jeramie Rain), and Fred "Weasel" Podowski (Fred Lincoln). After doing their worst to the girls in the local woods, the gang's car breaks down, leading them to take refuge at—surprise!—the home of Mari's parents (Richard Towers and Cynthia Carr). Inevitably, the truth will out, leading to a showdown neither side is prepared to face. (Meanwhile, Marshall Anker's Sheriff and Martin Kove's Deputy utterly fail to save the day.)
Raised under Baptist restrictiveness, Craven clearly takes glee in lashing out via his sensational horror quickie. Last House on the Left testifies to the capacity for bloodlust barely concealed under our veneer of civilization, and Craven makes explicit reference to hippie culture and the peace movement, Mari's parents giving her a peace necklace, at the outset, that later becomes the telltale sign of her misfortune. Dennis Iliadis' 2009 remake makes some smart refinements to Craven's film, boasts stronger acting and greatly superior production values, but say what you will about Craven's shameless, disgusting resetting of Bergman: it's still an ear-splitting rebel yell against the collective establishment and the individual's faith in the tenuous social order.
Anyone who's ever seen Last House on the Left pretty much knows what to expect from a Blu-ray edition: a dirty-looking, often out-of-focus grainy print from a Super16 source. With that expectation firmly in place, viewers should be pleased with the Blu-ray edition, which presents the film in the best possible light. A digital cleanup wouldn't be doing this film any favors—it is what it is, hairs in the gate and all, and the boost in resolution does improve detail significantly over standard def, if also somewhat heightening the source's imperfections. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono soundtrack likewise is what it is and likewise maximizes the source: it's actually quite clean and clear—just lacking in dynamism and, obviously, any discrete immersion.
Bonus features are plentiful in this Unrated Collector's Edition. First up are an audio commentary with director Wes Craven and producer Sean S. Cunningham and audio commentary with actors David Hess, Marc Sheffler and Fred Lincoln. These will definitely please fans: while light-hearted, they're also plenty informative.
"Still Standing: The Legacy of Last House on the Left" (14:55,SD) is a sufficiently interesting clip-illustrated interview with Craven.
"Celluloid Crime of the Century" (39:34, SD) is the disc's most comprehensive featurette, produced in the UK by Blue Underground. Interviewed are Craven, Cunningham and most of the cast.
"Scoring Last House" (9:45, SD), also by Blue Underground, covers Hess' score.
"Tales That'll Tear Your Heart Out" (11:25, SD) is a reel of soundless clips from an unfinished early Craven film—of historical interest for rabid Craven fans.
Also here are "Deleted Scene: 'Mari Dying at the Lake'" (1:00, SD), "Never Before Seen Footage" (5:35, SD) comprising cut footage from Last House, the largely redundant but nevertheless welcome documentary inclusion "It´s Only A Movie" (29:00, SD), soundless "Outtakes & Dailies" (10:55, SD), "Forbidden Footage" (with sound) (8:12, SD) and the "Theatrical Trailer" (1:59, SD).
Horror fans couldn't ask for more from this hi-def upgrade offering comprehensive extras.
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
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