The Last House on the Left (Arrow Video) Blu-ray Review

Wes Craven’s Most Graphic, Disturbing Film

Long before Scream or A Nightmare On Elm Street, director Wes Craven first changed horror forever in 1972 with The Last House On The Left. Making a sleazy, low-budget remake of Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, Craven practically invented the torture porn genre years before anyone knew what that term meant. Raw, brutal, and graphic in ways no one had ever dared before, the movie crosses so many lines that you find it hard to believe it came out in the early Seventies.

If any movie can be labeled as a grindhouse experience, it’s the unflinching and uncomfortable violence seen in The Last House On The Left.

Mari Collingwood (Sandra Cassel) wants to celebrate her seventeenth birthday with her more worldly friend Phyllis (Lucy Grantham) by going to a concert. Mari comes from a respectable home with two parents that watch over their beloved daughter. The young girls are looking for a good time, maybe meet some boys and smoke a little weed. What they will find instead is pure, unending terror at the hands of strangers.

Looking to score weed, the pair run into a group of vicious criminals, headed up by the sadistic and depraved Krug (David Hess). Gagged and bound, the young women are bundled into a car trunk and driven to the woods, where the gang subject them to a terrifying ordeal of sexual humiliation, torture, and murder.

Craven’s version has a rawness which still frightens today

Krug’s motley crew of human monsters consists of Sadie, Krug’s vile girlfriend, Junior, his junkie son, and Weasel, a criminal pervert. Both Krug and Weasel are escaped convicts, Krug having been convicted of a triple murder. The most interesting aspect to this gang of criminals is how much Sadie participates as a woman in the sheer torture and exploitation of the young girls.

What makes The Last House On The Left so shocking is how uncompromising and unrelenting the plot unfolds. Mari and Phyllis are ruthlessly degraded and humiliated, stripped of their dignity. There is nothing redeeming about Krug and his crew of psychopaths. The movie took audiences by surprise in 1972, but even today remains a disturbing look into the twisted world of these criminals. This is not for the faint of heart. The movie has graphic scenes of rape and torture, not to mention the first use of a man wielding a chainsaw as a weapon.

What Wes Craven did with The Last House On The Left is not for everyone. This is grindhouse exploitation that explores how criminal deviants can destroy two innocent girls. It’s powerfully disturbing filmmaking that took what could have been another forgettable horror plot and exploded the conventions of its day. It’s an important landmark in horror cinema, even if it’s not a perfect film. The bits of humor, like the bumbling cops, feel tonally out of place. The last act culminates in black comedy, an oddly off-beat way to end what had been a brutal journey for these characters.

The movie actually received a glossy Hollywood remake in 2009, which softened some elements for mainstream consumption. Craven’s original has a rawness that still frightens today. This isn’t Wes Craven’s best, most polished horror film in technical terms, but remains a pivotal landmark in exploitation filmmaking.

Video

You can now give your old MGM Blu-ray away. Arrow Video provides a substantial upgrade over the MGM’s dilapidated film transfer with new 2K scans from original elements supplied by the producer, Sean Cunningham. Each cut offers largely the same presentation in terms of picture quality. The low-budget 1972 movie, shot on Super 16MM film and hard-matted to 1.85:1, was then blown-up to 35mm.

The unfiltered grain structure of this new transfer looks infinitely healthier and more stable than the MGM disc. Arrow gives Craven’s most preferred cut, the same one on the MGM disc, its own BD-50 in a splendid AVC encode that masterfully handles the rough, gritty film. The R-Rated cut (81:52)and Krug & Company cut (83:50 in HD) are together on a second BD-50.

The movie itself is no looker. The raw, almost documentary-like cinematography adds a jarring realism consciously intended by Wes Craven. A few unintended blemishes mar the presentation but only add to the movie’s grindhouse credibility.

The 1080P video is soft and diffused, pushing the film stock’s exposure issues. Elements of wear and debris occasionally pop up, from gate hairs along the top to remnants of vinegar syndrome. The sleazy film has serviceable black levels and an adequate contrast. The less-than-stellar resolution in close-ups are a result of limitations in the cheap film stock. Arrow Video avoids using serious processing on the transfer that may hurt it.

Audio

The Last House On The Left was an extremely low-budget production with corresponding audio quality. Its original monaural soundtrack has been restored from the original 17.5″ magnetic tracks. Presented in 1.0 PCM for each cut of the film, the quirky soundtrack by actor and musician David Hess sounds fine with adequate dynamics and fidelity. The dialogue remains intelligible, if a bit thin and lacking bass.

What most observers immediately notice is how the music doesn’t really fit the graphic and dehumanizing events happening on screen. The music by Hess is accomplished and decent music in its own right, good enough to earn an enclosed CD in the set. But it’s soft rock and folk tendencies makes for a strange, uneasy juxtaposition with one of the most notorious films of the 1970s.

Optional English SDH subtitles play in a white font.

Extras

Arrow Video serves up the most complete edition yet of The Last House On The Left in this limited edition 3-disc set (two Blu-rays and a CD of remastered original music from the film). Throwing in three separate cuts of the film, including the rarely seen Krug & Company version, makes the previous MGM Blu-ray edition obsolete. The Blu-rays are playable in both Region A and Region B.

A bevy of archival special features and a new audio commentary add up to an impressive set meant for the most dedicated horror fans. It’s a well-done package stuffed with goodies. There is something for everyone in this wide array of featurettes and interviews.

The rare Krug and Company cut is an interesting alternative to the main version of the film on disc one, sourced what is essentially a workprint. There are slight differences, including Mari at the lake lasting a tad longer.

A few hardcore fans will be disappointed to find out that the fabled 90-minute cut, supposedly completely uncensored and which hasn’t been seen since the movie first went out to theaters, is not here. Craven apparently deleted the extra material himself, embarrassed by the footage. We get glimpses of it in the outtakes and deleted scene. It’s very possible there is no surviving negative left with the fabled full-length cut. The 85-minute restored presentation is the version Craven himself finished in the early 2000s, putting some material back into the original R-rated version.

  • 6 x lobby card reproductions
  • Double-sided poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork
  • Limited edition 60 page perfect-bound book featuring new writing on the film by author Stephen Thrower
  • Isolated score newly remastered from the original 17.5″ magnetic tracks
  • Brand new audio commentary by podcasters Bill Ackerman and Amanda Reyes
  • Archival audio commentary with writer/director Wes Craven and producer Sean S. Cunningham
  • Archival audio commentary with stars David Hess, Marc Sheffler and Fred Lincoln
  • Archival introduction to the film by Wes Craven
  • Still Standing: The Legacy of The Last House on The Left – archival interview with Wes Craven
  • Celluloid Crime of the Century – archival documentary featuring interviews with Wes Craven, Sean S. Cunningham, actors David Hess, Fred Lincoln, Jeramie Rain, Marc Sheffler and Martin Kove
  • Scoring Last House on the Left – archival interview with actor/composer David Hess
  • It’s Only a Movie: The Making of The Last House on the Left – archival documentary
  • Forbidden Footage – the cast and crew of Last House on the film’s most controversial sequences
  • Junior’s Story – a brand new interview with actor Marc Sheffler
  • Blood and Guts- a brand new interview with makeup artist Anne Paul
  • The Road Leads to Terror – a brand new featurette revisiting the film’s original shooting locations
  • Deleted Scene – Mari Dying at the Lake
  • Extended Outtakes and Dailies , newly transferred in HD
  • Trailers, TV Spot & Radio Spots
  • Image Galleries
  • The Craven Touch (17:10 in HD) – A brand new featurette bringing together interviews with a number of Wes Craven’s collaborators, including Sean S. Cunningham, composer Charles Bernstein, producer Peter Locke, cinematographer Mark Irwin and actress Amanda Wyss
  • Early Days and ‘Night of Vengeance’ – filmmaker Roy Frumkes remembers Wes Craven and Last House on the Left
  • Tales That’ll Tear Your Heart Out – excerpts from an unfinished Wes Craven short
  • Q&A with Marc Sheffler from a 2017 screening of the film at The American Cinematheque
  • Krug Conquers England – archival featurette charting the theatrical tour of the first ever uncut screening of the film in the UK

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Last House On The Left
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

This isn’t Craven’s best horror film but is an important landmark in horror and exploitation.

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