New on DVD: The Last House on the Left

Just keep repeating: "It's only a movie." When that's the tagline, you know you're in for an unforgettable experience.

Mari (Sandra Cassel) and Phyllis (Lucy Grantham) are best friends headed to a concert. But before setting off, they decide to try to score some weed, asking the first delinquent-type they pass. Unfortunately for the girls, they run into a group (David Hess, Fred Lincoln, Jeramie Rain and Marc Sheffler) far worse than delinquents. The deranged family proceeds to humiliate and torture the teens before killing them. Fate and a broken down car leads them to seek help at the house belonging to Mari's parents (Richard Towers and Cynthia Carr). When the parents find out their house guests killed their daughter, they seek the bloodiest revenge.

This horrific picture was directed by Wes Craven (Scream trilogy) and produced by Sean S. Cunningham (Friday the 13th) in 1972. Influenced by the horror of the Vietnam War, Craven wrote a script with what appeared on the page to be over-the-top violence. When shooting with little known actors willing to take the scenes to their limit, what once seemed absurd became realistic and disturbing. And the terribleness of their actions is compounded by the upbeat soundtrack that parallels the violence.

The violence in the first and latter half of the film is quite contrasted. Whereas the acts committed by the gang are somewhat spontaneous and in the moment, those of the parents are deliberate and with purpose. The first evokes hints of shame from the perpetrators, while the latter nears satisfaction. In the end, it shows it’s not just the underbelly of society that is capable of extreme violence.

The re-release on DVD allows for an insightful look back at the movie that made history and was banned from the U.K. and Australia. “Still Standing: The Legacy of The Last House on the Left” has Craven discussing his brainchild and the unexpected impact it produced. “Celluloid Crime of the Century” is a 40-minute documentary featuring interviews with most of those involved in the film’s production. “Scoring Last House” centres on Hess, who also provided the film’s unusual soundtrack. The deleted scene and never-before-seen-footage (which has no sound) both take place in the first act; the footage fills in a time gap that maybe didn’t need filling. Craven’s soundless, unfinished short film is included here as well. Finally, the audio commentary with Hess, Sheffler and Lincoln is quite possibly the most candid commentary ever recorded as the trio discuss shooting the film and their off-set affairs. At one point, the guys rightly agree the film cannot be remade and still be as good.

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