3/10
Too many things just don't work
23 November 2010
Here we go with another horror movie from the notorious 1970's. I seem to have been on a streak of good or at least decent films of this genre, but sadly, The Last House on the Left ended that streak. The movie is about two seventeen year old girls who are kidnapped by a band of four sadistic murderers and rapists while trying to score some dope. They are violently terrorized, raped, then murdered. Afterwords, the awful gang of people decide to take some temporary refuge in a lovely country house which happens to be the house of one of the girls they just murdered. Violence and terror ensues, but not to much extent. This movie tries to hard, yet at the same time doesn't try hard enough.

The entire editing of the film seems shoddy and careless at first, but I soon realized that the director, Wes Craven, was trying to give the film a sort of claustrophobic and sinister feel with the snappy and often times strange cuts. However, whatever he was going for was not achieved in my eyes and I was left with something that just didn't feel right. Perhaps with some more finite tweaking to the structure and editing of the film it would have worked out, but I'm not here to judge the "what ifs" just what I saw on my TV screen. There were some other technical issues that begged me just a little bit, such as a couple of characters whose voices were overdubbed very poorly. I often times don't mind this because it gives the film a strange and independent feel, which works in its own strange way in other low budget horror films like Evil Dead, for example. But here it was just distracting.

Probably the biggest issue with The Last House on the Left is its characterization. The film really has four sets of characters, the two seventeen year old girls, the two parents of one of the girls, the four murderers, and two police officers. Each group is either underdeveloped or poorly designed. The film starts without establishing much character, but we do feel a sense of close family ties between the daughter Mari and her loving parents. Yet through the rest of the film the development seems to come to a halt, thus during the gruesome rapes and murders, I didn't feel as much sympathy as I should have. I'm not saying I didn't have sympathy because that's not something that's hard to achieve when you are watching two innocent characters get beaten, raped, and then murdered.

At the beginning of the film the parents were developed about as much as the two girls were, and I definitely got a sense of what they were all about, but it didn't go much further from there. Then at the end of the film the parents go on a violent revenge spree against the people who murdered their daughter, and this practically comes out of nowhere. There's no time to develop these hard hitting emotions that these two empathetic characters are experiencing. Instead we jump straight into revenge without any warning. In hindsight, this could work in some way, but it's not too important to dwell on because the girls and the parents are the strongest of the four groups of characters in this film. The problems really arise with the last two groups.

The band of four murderers are not doubt disgusting and vile people, who we are obviously supposed to despise with every fiber of our body. This isn't something thats hard to do, but the major problem with these characters is just how ridiculous and foolish they are. They're a bunch of buffoons and some of their interactions are almost comical at times. There are times when they feel utterly harmless because of how idiotic they all are. It's this that completely removes the sense of danger we are supposed to feel emanating from these horrid people, and the film loses all of its claustrophobic and "all hope is lost" feel. At this point it becomes pretty boring as opposed to scary.

Finally we have the two police officers who are hired by the parents to find their missing daughter. These are two of the most useless and idiotic characters I've seen in a movie. Every one of their scenes is a slapstick act that isn't even funny. Their roles in the film serve no purpose. Even if they were intentionally utilized to be the comic relief of the film, which seems pretty ridiculous in a horror film like this, then they even failed on that level because instead of a laugh or even a chuckle, all they received from me was an ashamed palm to the face gesture, otherwise known as facepalm.

The Last House on the Left could have been good. Hell, it could have been great. It has the right elements, and because it doesn't deal with the supernatural or paranormal, it is something that could actually happen to somebody as innocent as the girls who were murdered in this film. But unfortunately it misses the mark with poor visual decisions and bad characters that couldn't at all keep me interested in this film. There are a dozen other 70's horror flicks that I would recommend before this one, so avoid it and go re watch The Shining.
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