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In his first and very controversial film, Wes Craven wrote and directed this story about teenaged girls Mari (Sandra Cassel) and Phyllis (Lucy Grantham) going out for a rock concert to celebrate Mari’s seventeenth birthday. However, their night out hits a bit of snag when they come across escaped convict Krug (David Hess) whilst trying to buy some marijuana. Krug, and his team of psycho friends, kidnap the two girls and carry them out to the woods where they are stripped, beaten, cut and raped for pure sick fun. Will the girls survive? What will their parents have to say? Will the cops actually take care of their cars, so the only one they have doesn’t break down when they need it most? All is revealed in the eighty minute movie.

Last House on the Left, The
As is obvious from the above description, this film is not an easy one to watch. At the time it was clouded in controversy and banned in several countries including the United Kingdom and Australia. Although today the bans are lifted, the film still remains one not for the faint of heart.

This is by no means a bad movie despite its violent content. It is truly scary at times, with David Hess playing his monstrous Krug brilliantly. Every moment he is on screen is a moment there are knots in the stomach, as his unpredictable nature just leaves you in pure fear as to what he is going to do next. Lucy Grantham and Sandra Cassel also play their roles very well. They would have been very hard roles to play with the extensive torture and rape scenes, but these girls bring a true humanity to their parts and are extremely convincing. The rest of the performances are pretty average to put it briefly. They are just too over the top. Using the cops are comical relief was a mistake as well; comic relief does not belong in this film.

There is much more to this film than the fine performances of the three leads. Wes Craven does well setting the mood with almost utter silence in the woods where half the movie takes place, and using jumpy and happy music to contrast the peril of the girls to the happiness of the parents at home—a really nice touch there. The silence Craven uses sets the scene nicely and is just one more thing to built tension. Just one last note, this film has one of the best frights ever involving a machete appearing into the frame unexpectedly. Watch out for it! It’s just too bad, once the bloodshed vengeance finale kicks in, the film loses its tension. It just becomes rather boring violence.

Last House on the Left, The
Overall it’s pretty intense. Not easy to view however, so having a break half way through may be a good idea if you get too upset. The scenes are well set; the silence of the woods gives of a creepy and very effective feel. This film had so much going for it, but some poor performances, some misplaced comedy and an unsatisfying finale draw it back a bit. But, overall, this is a good one for those looking for a scare.

Video
The film comes on a two sided disc with a 4:3 transfer on one side and a 1.85:1 widescreen transfer on the other. It’s a pretty average picture all up, but given the age of the film, and the style in which it was shot, it hardly seems surprising.

There are more than enough grain and scratches across the film. The colours are pretty well saturated, but skin tones are not very deep. The image is not very sharp and the shadow detail is poor, often clouding what is happening on screen. The film almost looks like it was taped off TV ten years ago. Also, if you look at the top left of the screen at 37:03 you will also notice what looks like a hair in the projector at a movie theatre. This lasts until 41:08, is rather distracting, and happens more than once. Like said before, the video quality is hardly surprising as the film was done thirty two years ago on a shoestring budget.

Last House on the Left, The
Audio
The disc has a Dolby Digital Mono track. Surprising considering the R2 DVD contains Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 tracks. But no matter, this track does all right for itself. It helps give off a feel that you really are in an old theatre when the film first was released. There is a little bit of distortion but this is to be expected from the films budget. Dialogue is mostly clear, but the fussy distortion and background noise can be an issue at times. The audio is always in synch which helps as well. Although the R2 may be the way to go due to its surround tracks, this works all right and gives off a 70s movie theatre feel.

Extras
A reasonable collection of extras are included on the disc. However, having to swap sides to access them all is an inconvenience we could live without.

Anyway, there is an optional introduction to the film by Wes Craven, who explains this is the most complete and uncut version of the film to date, and warns people about the content. Good to see him so proud of his work all these years later. Wes also takes part in a feature-length commentary with producer Sean S. Cunningham, which is a good little listen with some good info about the film and how it was made.

Last House on the Left, The
One the widescreen side of the disc there is a featurette entitled ‘It’s Only a Movie’, which was one of the films taglines. It features new interviews with cast and crew and some behind the scenes footage and some good little stories about the special effects, and the on-set vibe. Wes Craven and Sean S. Cunningham also tell the story of the films pre-production and its painful release. It’s a good featurette.

The other side of the disc there are ‘Outtakes’ and ‘Dailies’, which features some behind the scenes footage, deleted footage and some alternate angles. Not Bad. Not much, if any sound however. This side also contains a featurette entitles ‘Forbidden Footage’, which is a collection of the footage that had to be removed for the films release in 1972. Most of it is in this DVD version of the film, but there is some that was still missing for some very interesting reasons, and Wes and Sean go into great detail. The trailer is also featured.

This is a very good set of extras, but it’s just annoying that the disc has to be flipped to access them all.

Last House on the Left, The
Overall
This is a rather scary film that will not be for everyone. This one is only for the daring viewers! Despite how scary it can be, the movie is not without its flaws. The video is all right for the day, but with a bit more effort, it could have been better. The same can be said about the mono audio track. This film would have been all the better with the 5.1 atmosphere, but the mono still works well for itself. The extras are very nice and make for entertaining viewing. The disc has its ups and downs, but it’s a quality buy for fans. However, you may wish to go for the superior R2 version.


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