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The Last House On The Left: Unrated Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Further proof that the 70s were a wonderful time for horror films, although this is less of a horror film and more of a series of unfortunate and really messed up events involving two teenage girls and a group of escaped psychotic killer convicts, The Last House on the Left is a film that pushed boundaries at the time, feels dated today, but is still a solid retrace of the earlier steps taken by Wes Craven.  While Craven has recently done very little to keep me interested in what he has left to offer (he made the worst film of 2010 and Scream 4 was no return to form either), I can at least look back to these early days, when he had more interesting films to offer.  It also helps that this Blu-ray supplies plenty of further info about this film, its production, and the times in general.  Read on to find out more about this collector’s edition release of The Last House on the Left.

Film:

The Last House on the Left is a low budget horror film revolving around the plight of the Collingwood family.  Mari (Sandra Cassel) is celebrating her 17th birthday with her best friend Phyllis (Lucy Grantham), but things take a turn for the worse once they go looking to score weed from some random guy.  This guy turns out to be the son of an escaped convict, Krug (David Hess), a rapist and serial killer, who is currently squatting with a couple other psychopaths.  Mari and Phyllis are now trapped with these despicable people and there is nothing they can do about it.  This eventually leads to some sadistic acts that take place in the woods, where Mari is eventually left for dead.

Due to their location, things then take another turn for the worse as the same sadistic killers end up stopping at the home of Mari’s parents, looking for a place to stay overnight, as they are still wanted by the law.  Given that Mari’s parents were already quite concerned for their daughter and her mysterious absence, finding out the truth only leads to vicious acts of revenge.

Wes Craven’s first feature film is one that is designed to make you feel uncomfortable. It features nasty characters doing horrible things to innocent people. The acting and dialogue of some of the characters is somewhat hokey (especially early on), but its low budget and gritty approach makes it both forgivable and yet still disturbing and filled with unbearable tension at times.  It also helps that the performance by David Hess (who also sings on the soundtrack), in a film not known for its acting, does a great job at playing such a horrible person.

There is certainly a high amount of experimental filmmaking going on here.  Craven and producer Sean S. Cunningham (who would go on to create the Friday the 13th series) even say in the commentary how inexperienced they were at doing all of this work to come up with ways to be creative.  While shooting scenes that are basically torture for the young girls provided for a great amount of tension, other scenes attempt to go for humor (namely sequences involving bumbling cops and the use of music), which do little to help, sometimes throwing the tone too far off balance.  It can become a mixed bad at times and stretched thin in its plotting, but when the film gets dark, it becomes very effective in accomplishing what it tries to do.

Even to this day, I still find The Last House on the Left to be quite effective (and the remake isn’t bad either).  This was a film made in an experimental time for all filmmakers, and Craven and co. really took the ball and rolled with it.  It is a dark film and the twist in the third act further turns the story on its head and certainly brings the movie into its appropriate cult classic horror status.  Things do get quite gruesome and seeing a bit of Craven’s social commentary come into play is not bad either.  Despite its age and cost, the film is still engaging and disturbing.

Video:

Originally shot on 16 mm, this film is incredibly grainy and looks about the best it really can in its transfer onto Blu-ray.  The widescreen 1.85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer does enough to make it presentable.  For being a film set in the country, there are quite a lot of colors, which actually do come through quite well.  Really, this is already an incredibly gritty film as it is, but there are a number of spots where the level of specks becomes very apparent as well, which does hurt things a bit.  Given that I was already seeing so much grime and grain throughout, it was fairly unobtrusive when it came to viewing areas suffering more heavily from transfer issues, but again, this is about the best this film can look on Blu anyway.

Audio:

The only available audio track for this film is a DTS-HD 2.0 mono track, which is not the most rewarding when it comes to hearing this film play out.  Again, not much can be done to make a cheap film like this feel more presentable, but I would like to think a remaster of the audio track into a more acceptable mix could have made things better.  The balance between dialogue, score, and sound effects is not necessarily bad, it just seem very apparent that the sound presentation of this film is not as effective as it could be.

Special Features:

Somewhat surprisingly, this Blu-ray is completely packed with worthwhile extras.  Almost every aspect of this film is covered between the dual commentaries, behind the scenes footage, retrospective interviews, and more.  Unfortunately, all of the extras are presented in SD quality, but there is actually enough information present in these extras that I was willing to look past this…mostly.

Features include:

  • Audio Commentary by Director Wes Craven and Producer Sean Cunningham.  A really good discussion that is both informative and dryly humorous.
  • Audio Commentary with Actors David Hess, Marc Sheffler, and Fred Lincoln.  Equally informative and engaging.  It’s a real treat to get quality audio commentaries for this film.
  • Still Standing: The Legacy of The Last House on the Left Featurette with Wes Craven
  • Celluloid Crime of the Century Documentary
  • Scoring Last House Featurette
  • Tales That’ll Tear Your Heart Out Unfinished Short Film by Wes Craven
  • Deleted Scene: Mari Dying at the Lake
  • Never-Before-Seen Footage
  • It’s Only a Movie Featurette
  • Outtakes & Dailies
  • Forbidden Footage
  • Theatrical Trailer

Final Thoughts:

I am a big fan of 70s horror and I really enjoy what a film like this has to offer.  It’s a great look back at the start of Wes Craven’s career and how he managed to scrape up a budget, cast, and crew to create a highly disturbing film featuring some gruesome acts of violence and various moments of experimental filmmaking.  The Blu-ray is a mixed bag, as the video and audio barely register as average, given the age of the film and lack of a highly detailed restoration.  That said, the special features on this disc do a lot to provide plenty of useful information about the film and its production.  Regardless, the film is good enough that it is definitely worth checking out.

Order your copy here:



 

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

4 Responses to “The Last House On The Left: Unrated Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Matt Goodman

    Wes Craven before he went all “Soul to Take” on america. I really like this movie.

  2. Sean Ferguson

    Nice job Aaron! Thanks for covering it!

  3. Brian White

    I have never seen this version, just the remake 🙁

  4. Aaron Neuwirth

    I like the remake too, but this film has a grungy appeal to it as well.