• Last House On The Left (Blu-ray)

    Released by: MGM/Fox
    Released on: 1/30/2011
    Director: Wes Craven:
    Cast: David Hess, Fred J. Lincoln, Sandra Peabody
    Year: 1972
    The Movie:

    What more remains to be said about Wes Craven’s debut feature?

    Part of a small group of truly infamous 70’s horror films LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT has always been a deeply polarizing piece of work. Lauded for its gritty commitment to showing realistic violence by some and denigrated as a sick freak show by others this has never been a film to engender blasé responses.

    Cribbed from Ingmar Bergman’s THE VIRGIN SPRING the plot is almost a Greek tragedy: two girls out for a night on the town are kidnapped, raped and tortured by a gang of sadistic criminals. The gang then seek refuge at the home of one of the girls they have just murdered. Once the parents discover what has happened the last act is all about how they exact grisly revenge.

    Even fans of the film often make excuses for its myriad flaws - and the fact is that on many levels LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT is a bit of a mess. Shot on the ultra cheap (and looking it) it's an ugly film visually. Craven had yet to develop his slick later style so the film often comes across as amateurish. The acting is uneven and the finale seriously strains credibility. The soundtrack - created by actor David Hess, is truly bizarre. Catchy, often syrupy “avocado mafia” style soft rock playing over scenes of sometimes horrific violence makes for an unsettling experience.

    But what HOUSE gets right it gets right in spades. The murder and rape of the two girls in the woods is a masterpiece of confrontational cinema: we are forced to watch these enormously likeable and attractive women suffer at the hands of the degenerate gang. It's an unflinching sequence and this is where Craven’s “message” comes through. Violence on film SHOULD be difficult to watch. And here - it is. Those who have criticized the film for its onscreen brutality wholly miss the point. LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT is not designed to titillate - it is designed to horrify. And this is not a horror film for those of a more delicate sensibility.

    As for the acting, Hess delivers a career making performance as the charismatic and brutish Krug but Fred Lincoln as Weasel is the overlooked gem here. With his cheap suit and 50’s hoodlum aura Lincoln is the “calmer” part of a sick yin-and-yang relationship with Hess. But there is some real subtlety in what Lincoln is doing. Of the two girls Grantham is the more accomplished but Peabody is fine. Martin Kove (as a cop) went on to much later success in mainsteam fare like THE KARATE KID, but his scenes in this film are awful. In fact, the whole sub plot with the police and its absurd comic overtones is rightly regarded as the film’s Achilles heel. It really is that bad.

    LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT has earned its reputation however and remains, along with I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, a classic of uncompromising cinema. Long may it continue to horrify new viewers.


    MGM brings HOUSE to Blu-Ray with a minimum cash outlay for restoration. This is essentially a Hi-Def upgrade on their dvd “Collectors Edition“ and includes all of the special features from that release. As far as the main feature goes - this is as good as LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT is ever going to look barring a very expensive frame-by-frame restoration. That does not mean this is ever going to be a reference quality Blu. Fact is, this is a 16mm film shot on the cheap and blown up to 35 mm… and looks it. What makes this a worthwhile purchase is the increase in detail: there is a marginal but noticeable improvement from the most recent dvd. The film’s grain structure has been left intact - there is no overuse of DNR - but the flipside of that is that the flaws inherent in the source material are quite evident. The picture tends toward softness and black levels are erratic but those issues have to do with the original elements and are not the fault of the transfer. Finally, dirt, scratches and the occasional hair pop up - just like they did on previous dvd versions. There has clearly not been a lot of restoration work done here.

    Audio is clear and most importantly, lossless. The DTS-HD Master Audio mono track should please purists not enamored of “newly created” surround sound mixes.

    The extras include 2 audio commentaries, and a collation of special features (documentaries and featurettes predominately) from previous dvd editions. Nothing is exclusive however, but it’s a comprehensive set of extras that should please most fans.

    It has come to my attention that the extras play “window boxed” in a small corner of the tv screen with some Blu ray players. Neither the Playstation 3 nor the Oppo that I tested the disc on did this, but it is an issue worth reporting.
    The Final Word:

    Overall this is an upgrade worth making for most fans of the film.
    Click the images below for full size Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Great review, Horamce!!!!