A viewer’s perspective of a horror film can change over the years. Not so much considering whether a film was really scary, but what scares you in the film. This became so true when watching The Last House on the Left. Decades ago a younger me found the nightmare being of following a stranger into a bad place. Now as a father, the movie is what can go wrong in letting your teenager go off for a fun night in the city. Even though the fear changes, the frightening and unrelenting horror of the movie remains the same. Arrow Video’s The Last House on the Left: Limited Edition boxset contains three different cuts, a soundtrack CD and enough bonus features to get the place considered a Hoarder house.
Mari Collingwood’s 17th birthday is a big event. Even the mailman is amazed at how many cards Mari (Massage Parlor Murders!‘s Sandra Peabody) have received. She’s the sweetest girl in the world. Her parents (Cynthia Carr and Gaylord St. James) are eager to throw a little party, but Mari’s big desire is to hang out with her friend Phyllis (Lucy Grantham) and go to a concert in the city. Her parents are a little reluctant, but their little girl has now grown up so they let her go. What’s the worse that can happen? Things get bad quick when Phyllis wants to score a little weed before the show. Since this was a time when pot was illegal, she couldn’t just hang out a pharmacy to score. Instead she asks a guy on a doorstep if he’s got a little extra to sell. Sure he does, but they need to come upstairs to his apartment to finalize the sale. This is where Mari’s birthday fun comes to an abrupt end. Turns out the alleged dealer has escaped from prison along with two other guys thanks to Sadie (Jeramie Rain). Krug Stillo (Swamp Thing‘s David A. Hess), Fred “Weasel” Podowski (Pay the Babysitter‘s Fred Lincoln) and Junior Stillo (Marc Sheffler) are three guys who are sadistic criminals who don’t want to hold back with the two girls. As they begin their Hellish time, Mari’s parents are innocently at home decorating their house to surprise their daughter when she gets back from the show. The criminals toss the girls in the trunk of their getaway car and hit the road. When they stop in the woods, Mari recognizes this place as being close to home, but there’s little hope of escaping the grasp of Krug and company.
Wes Craven’s cinematic experience before making Last House on the Left was in the adult film business in New York City. And he made a roughie film that reflects that world. The film’s brutal carnality feels like Jamie Gillis could show up at any moment. The film is sadistic at so many levels. It goes for the worst nightmare of playing on the kindness of suburban hearts. Not to give away too much but Krug and company show up at Mari’s folks house as innocent strangers with car issues. The parents are such great hosts that they become another set of victims. The violence escalates to a chainsaw and a body part bit off. This is that horror film that your local morality police blamed on the evils of Hollywood studios. Although it was made in New York with as an indie film.
The best part of the boxset is that there’s three different cuts of the film. The primary one to watch is the Unrated Cut version (84:12) with the violence amped up. The blood flows off the screen. This is the one that didn’t get to play theaters in the early ’70s. Krug & Company Cut (83:50) has one big scene that reunites the family for a brief time. Then there’s the R-rated Cut (81:54) which is probably meant to be shown when Great Aunt Anna drops by to play canasta. None of the three kids will get shown on The Disney Channel. Although there is a little comic relief in the two cops looking for Mari. They are bumblers even though the deputy is Martin Kove who would be such a menace in The Karate Kid. These two Barney Fifes are probably the only reason you can watch and remind yourself that it’s only a film.
The Last House on the Left is a frightening affair for teenagers and parents which makes it a rare horror film that grows with you instead of merely on you. After watching the film, you’ll want to grab your kid and let them know that you’ll be taking them to the concert instead of their clueless friend who can’t tell the difference between a pot dealer and a dangerous prison escapee.
The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer makes the film look like a nightmarish educational film from the early ’70s. There’s the classic New York City grain texture on the screen. The audio is Uncompressed PCM Mono Audio. The mix is good enough to hear Hess’s songs and Mari’s screams without adjusting the volume. The movies are subtitled.
6 collector’s postcards from the film suitable for framing.
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 let you enjoy the music without the screams.
Audio commentaries include three choices. The first is new with podcaster Bill Ackerman and author Amanda Reyes. They talk about the history of the film and where it fits in the horror genres of the time. Archival commentary with writer/director Wes Craven and producer Sean S. Cunningham gets deeper into the tales they share in the video interviews. Archival commentary with stars David Hess, Marc Sheffler and Fred Lincoln brings back the boys of violence.
Introduction to the film by Wes Craven (0:40) has him declare the most complete release of the film. He asks small children and animals be removed from the room.
Still Standing: The Legacy of The Last House on the Left (14:54) is archival interview with Wes Craven from 2009. He says he didn’t realize what they had made until they saw it with an audience in a theater. They thought it would be a little shocking. Craven passed away in 2015.
Celluloid Crime of the Century (39:34) is an archival documentary from 2002 featuring interviews with Wes Craven, Sean S. Cunningham, actors David Hess, Fred Lincoln, Jeramie Rain, Marc Sheffler and Martin Kove. Craven talks about how he was fired from his first gig by a bad splice job. He hooked up with Sean S. Cunningham while making an adult film. Cunningham would go onto make Friday 13th. Craven brings up how he based in on Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring. Except Craven didn’t go outhouse. The cast talks about how even more horrific the script was since it had cannibalism.
Scoring Last House (9:44) is an archival interview with actor/composer David Hess from 2002. That’s right, the horrific villain scored the film and sang a few songs. He talks of his musical career. He passed away in 2011.
It’s Only a Movie: The Making of Last House in the Left (29:01) bring together cast and crew in 2002. Craven made the film with the backing of New England theater owners that wanted a film to run with their Hollywood film.
Forbidden Footage (8:12) looks at the film’s most controversial sequences with cast and crew.
Junior’s Story (14:24) is a brand new interview with actor Marc Sheffler. He talks about getting his first audition in Manhattan. He had to have the nightmare. His main experience was on stage and doing an adult film as a fully clothed comic in a scene.
Blood and Guts (13:52) is a brand new interview with makeup artist Anne Paul. She auditioned for a role, but asked for the make up gig. She had no experience, but got away with it. She had a knack for spreading blood around.
The Road Leads to Terror (5:48) revisits the film’s original shooting locations. Michael Gingold starts with the office that Wes and Sam worked. He spots the evil apartment. Oddly enough, across the street is the 13th precinct police station.
Deleted Scene (1:04) Mari Dying at the Lake has the parents find their daughter too late.
Extended Outtakes and Dailies (47:08) are newly transferred in HD. This is a great way to understand what goes into shooting a horror film and editing.
Trailers, TV Spot and Radio Spots remind us that it’s only a movie. Just a brilliant marketing move. The TV Spot is when it was double featured with Don’t Open The Window.
Image Galleries for promotional items and production stills.
The Craven Touch (17:10) is fresh 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. Cunningham talks of how he made the visuals work. He got into movies when he was a college professor and oversaw a student project.
Early Days and “Night of Vengeance” ((:04) allows filmmaker Roy Frumkes (Street Trash) remembers Wes Craven and Last House on the Left.
Tales That’ll Tear Your Heart Out (11:19) is unfinished short film by Wes Craven that was supposed to be part of an anthology. They ran out of cash so it’s silent. It’s kinda of a Western with a lot of big mustaches on the cast.
Q&A with Marc Sheffler (12:27) is from a 2017 screening of the film at The American Cinematheque. Mark reminds everyone that it was all just a movie.
Songs In the Key of Krug (9:41) is Hess talking of his passion for John Garfield.
Krug Conquers England (24:12) covers theatrical tour of the first ever uncut screening of the film in the UK back in 2000. Hess must remind people he’s normal guy who has never hurt anyone like his character. He brought along his acoustic guitar for the tour. The film played on a double feature with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It was a video nasty fest.
Arrow Video presents Last House on the Left: Limited Edition. Directed by: Wes Craven. Screenplay by: Wes Craven. Starring: Sandra Peabody, Lucy Grantham, David A. Hess, Fred Lincoln & Jeramie Rain. Rated: Unrated. Boxset Contents: 3 films on 2 Blu-ray Discs. Released: July 3, 2018.
Tags: Arrow Video, The Last House On The Left, Wes Craven