There's no mistaking Last House on the Left's legacy as one of the most imitated and visceral horror experiences of all time. The film, especially at the time, was a tour de force of Grindhouse filmmaking that shook you to the core and offered you a completely different angle to the revenge genre that we really hadn't seen before. Sure, if you were to watch it for the very first time today it might come off as amateur and not nearly as gory as you'd expect, but by 1972 standards, it was genre-defining and blindsided an unsuspecting public. Wes Craven's unapologetic view of raw interpersonal violence became a genre-defining classic, paving the way for a new sub-genre in the horror field and countless imitators.
But it wasn't a runaway success initially. Digging through the ample amount of extra features located within this excellent Arrow release, I learned a number of surprising things. Like LHonL went through several name changes while still in theaters because it just wasn't pulling people in. The title that we all know so well now actually came from someone else other than Wes Craven. Or that the film itself came about because local Drive-In theaters actually financed it, as was the case for many low-rent films back in the day so they could throw it in as a second feature after their main attraction.
Regardless, LHotL has remained one of the most legendary horror classics for nearly 50 years and it's status only continues to grow, with the culmination of this incredible new Blu-Ray set courtesy of Arrow Video, which includes not only the film, but 3 different cuts of the film, including the legendary uncut version. You also get a plethora of extras to indulge in, and just speaking from experience, you will need an entire weekend at least to dig through all of it. So let's dig in.
Though I'd seen this film maybe once or twice before, having watched it again recently at an adult age, I was able to look at it in a completely different light. I can see now what Wes Craven was trying to accomplish, whereas before I took the whole semi-documentary approach as just being amateurish. And it still comes across as very amateurish to me even today. The editing is pretty all over the place and even though I understand a lot of the style was made up on the spot, it's the type of film that's painfully obvious that it's the director's first film. I understand the documentary-style approach gives it a raw look and feel, but it also works against it in my opinion. But those were my only real gripes because the performances, especially from the menacing David Hess (as the killer's leader), elevate the film significantly. And you have to remember, none of these actors were pro's. This was Hess's first film, and a few of the other's actually came from a porn background, while other's were acting for the very first time. I think one of the most amusing bits of casting was a very young Martin Kove (Rambo: First Blood Part 2, The Karate Kid) as a bumbling deputy.
One of the other elements that I hadn't appreciated before, but was just full-on in love with this time around, and that is the films score and soundtrack, all courtesy of none other than David Hess himself. Hess was a musician before he was an actor, and supplied all of the music found within the film, oftentimes purposely making the music choice for a specific scene juxtapose that very moment to an eerie effect. And guess what??? Arrow has included David Hess's incredible soundtrack and score on a separate disc located within this massively impressive set.
I could go on and on about this release, about all of the things I learned for the very first time, of all the things I re-discovered, about every facet of the production, but in this case, it's probably best you discover them for yourself. The mountain of extra content will make even the most jaded collector happy and it's a blast to dig through.
Last House on the Left is available from any number of online retailers and personally speaking, worth every penny.