While he’s sadly no longer with us, the legacy of Wes Craven in the horror genre and filmmaking as a whole still lives on. But back before Craven solidified himself as an all-time great, 1972 saw him put out his debut picture, The Last House on the Left. A movie overflowing with controversy, Last House has now been given a crammed new release courtesy of the brilliant folks at Arrow Video. Is this release worth your time, though, or does this particular road lead to nowhere?
For those unfamiliar with The Last House on the Left, the movie opens with young Mari (Sandra Cassell) celebrating her seventeenth birthday. Despite her parents concerns about her heading to the big city for a rock concert, she’s soon on her way to said gig with her BFF Phyllis (Lucy Grantham). Like so many youngsters in such movies of the day, the pair were soon on the hunt to find some marijuana to assist with their pre-gig partying. Before they know it, they end up at the mercy of a bunch of recently-released cons lead by David Hess’ Krug. What follows is notoriously brutal for its time, with Krug and his crew torturing, sexually abusing, and ultimately murdering the two girls. From there, we see a tale of brutal revenge come to the fore.
To give any further plot details would veer a little too much in to spoiler territory, but there’s a good chance you’ll have seen the 1972 effort already and be fully aware of what lies around the corner for Krug and Co. What will have you weighing up purchasing this new release, then, will be what makes it stand out from the earlier releases of Craven’s feature film debut. On that front, we have three different cuts of the movie included here, all with a 2K restoration that certainly helps to clean up a film that’s now 46 years old. There’s the uncut version, the R-rated version, and the infamous “Krug & Company” cut of the picture here, with that third cut being the most intriguing in how it actually slightly tweaks the known narrative a little.
The fact that this new release of The Last House on the Left is contained over two Blu-ray discs should give you an idea of just how much bonus material is included. Having three differing cuts of the movie itself is impressive, but there’s a jaw-dropping amount of extra content here. In fairness, a lot of this is archival, likely due to key players such as Wes Craven, David Hess, and Fred Lincoln sadly no longer being with us, but the archival material still gives a fascinating glimpse at a picture that was thrown in to the video nasties bin at one point in time. For longtime fans of Last House, it’s the new material that will be what has your eye, with The Craven Touch being the standout new addition here. And in fairness to genre podcasters Bill Ackerman and Amanda Reyes, they do a great job looking back at The Last House on the Left and its legacy during their audio commentary.
The Last House on the Left is still a tough watch, although fresh eyes to this film will maybe not find it quite as unrelenting and as upsetting by modern standards. That doesn’t mean to say that all of a sudden Krug and his gang are now angelical in contrast to the horrors that have followed in the subsequent decades, but more that the notorious reputation afforded to The Last House may be diluted by this point in the game should you have not seen the film before.
Is this Wes Craven’s finest hour? Absolutely not. What it is, though, is a first look at Craven’s masterful eye for social commentary on such a stage, with The Last House on the Left purposely designed to showcase horrific acts of violence and abuse as Craven’s response to the very real events of the Vietnam War. The legendary Craven believed that the constant refusal to show the exact details of brutality on the cinema screen had a numbing effect of sorts on what had gone on in Vietnam. Last House was his response to that, showing the brutal, unforgiving reality of life.
For Craven completists and longtime fans of The Last House on the Left, this release will be an absolute must-have. For those who have yet to see Last House or have often been put off by the reputation that hung over it for so long, this is the perfect opportunity to take in the movie without the shackles and ominous warnings of this being nothing but a trashy video nasty. The Last House on the Left is far from that, and it’s a hugely significant and relevant piece of horror history for a multitude of reasons.
Special Features: Three cuts of the film restored in 2 K / Brand new audio commentary by podcasts Bill Ackerman and Amanda Reyes / Brand new The Craven Touch featurette / Brand new interviews with March Sheffler and make-up artist Anne Paul / Never-been-seen Songs in the Key of Krug interview with David Hess / Two archival audio commentaries / Two archival documentaries / Archival interviews with Wes Craven and David Hess / Three archival featurettes / Deleted scenes / Outtakes / Trailers / TV and radio spots / Image gallery / Six lobby card reproductions / Double-sided poster / Limited edition perfect-bound book
THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: WES CRAVEN / STARRING: DAVID HESS, SANDRA CASSELL, LUCY GRANTHAM, FRED LINCOLN, JERAMIE RAIN, MARC SHEFFLER, ESTELLE COLLINGWOOD, GAYLOR ST. JAMES / RELEASE DATE: JUNE 18TH