Part 5 of 13, excerpted from an essay entitled “Disturbo 13: The Most Disturbing Horror Films Ever Made” by Stanley Wiater.
Produced by former porno filmmaker Sean Cunningham (who later went on to produce the first Friday the 13th) and the directorial debut of Wes Craven (who went on to direct The Serpent and the Rainbow, A Nightmare of Elm Street, and several others) this is one of the vilest films to ever attain respectability as a horror “classic.” In truth, its status primarily lies in the fact that, as indicated, both men have since had very successful careers in the genre. Otherwise, this cheap and ugly film would probably totally—and thankfully—forgotten. (Although for some inexplicable reason, this is one of the late Roger Ebert’s favorite horror films. His review was even used in the movie’s posters.)
Supposedly inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s classic Virgin Spring, the story line has a gang of toughs (both male and female) brutalizing, raping, and finally murdering two teenage girls. By chance, the end up at the house of one of the slain girls, and when the parents discover what has happened to their daughter, they naturally become far more vicious and depraved than the trapped gang of punks in exacting their revenge. That the movie was shot on a shoestring budget with a cast of totally unknown “actors” only adds to the gruesome sensation of watching a cinema verité docudrama rather than a shameless piece of exploitation catering only to our basest senses. (For example, the story includes one of the cinema’s first demises by fellatio/castration.)
In any other genre, Last House on the Left would be a credit a first-time director or producer would do their best to make disappear, not to be revered as a milestone in splatter-cinema history.