By Brett Mullins
Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left is an early 1970s sexploitation film that has grown to become a classic in the horror genre. Unfortunately, the archival of a film doesn’t always entail if the film is actually good or not as will be illustrated with the convoluted tone of this film.
Mari Collingwood is a young attractive girl adored by her parents. While en route to a rock concert with her promiscuous friend Phyllis, on the eve of Mari’s seventeenth birthday, the two girls are kidnapped and, subsequently, raped and murdered by a band of psychotic lunatics freshly escaped from the jailhouse. Mari’s parents learn of their daughter’s death and seek revenge on those responsible.
This film has an original premise that has the opportunity to really draw the audience into the film, especially those moms and dads with teenage daughters of their own. The film fails greatly in this regard due to its repeated attempts to depict humor. This is not to say that serious films should not contain some comic relief; however, films that present a message about the depravity of violence should not have a rape scene punctuated by the goofy mishaps of incompetent law enforcement. The film goes to the point where the tone of the scene shifts so drastically that it is often not able to build on any established tension, because there’s none to be found.
At one point in the film, Dr. Collingwood, Mari’s father, is wielding a chainsaw and doing battle with one of Mari’s captors. During this scene, a close up is repeated multiple times of the doctor lumbering around the room ready to strike. While this scene certainly has the opportunity to be a tension-filled gorefest (even if the violence is only implied), Dr. Collingwood looks as though he could have been in The Munsters combining Herman's agility and Grandpa's sense of style.
If the few interesting tense implied scenes of rape, suicide, dentistry, decapitation and genital chomping are removed, this film is nothing more than awkward attempts at humor and people walking around in the woods yelling at one another. I’ll give Wes Carvan this: it was a good idea. Unfortunately for him, people have produced much more with a much lesser idea.