The film that gave director Wes Craven his humble start as a macabre maestro of horror cinema.
To avoid fainting keep repeating, its only a Blu-ray…only a Blu-ray…only a Blu-ray…
While never quite carrying the drive-in cache of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Last House on the Left remains among the foremost examples of ’70s exploitation cinema. A seminal Grand Guignol in the early grindhouse tradition, not to mention the film that gave director Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Hills Have Eyes, Scream) his humble start as a macabre maestro of horror cinema.
A roughie remake of Ingmar Bergman’s Swedish arthouse release The Virgin Spring, Last House recounts the story of the free spirited yet guileless Mari (Sandra Peabody) who, on the eve of her 17th birthday, ventures into the big city accompanied by her friend Phyllis (Lucy Grantham). When an attempt to obtain marijuana goes awry, the pair crosses paths with Krug, played to sleazy perfection by David Hess (Hitch-Hike, Swamp Thing), and his vile gang of degenerate sadists. After kidnapping, torturing, sexually assaulting and brutally murdering Mari and Phyllis, Krug and co. find themselves at the eponymous “last house” (victim Mari’s house) and in the company of Mari’s parents, who enact their own homespun brand of vigilante justice by way of genital mutilation, electrocution and a chainsaw (trigger warnings for the faint of heart).
As any astute Arrow Video collector can attest to, the first thing I did when I retrieved my Blu-ray copy of Last House from the mail was reverse the cover. Arrow oft commissions contemporary cover art for their library of titles from the ’70s and ’80s and, while I appreciate the effort put in, I all the more appreciate the retro original poster art that brandishes the flip side of the covers. Arrow of course, acting as a Criterion of sorts to classic horror and exploitation cinema, have far more to offer with regard to their Blu-ray releases than mere cover art. This latest Last House release comes replete with three versions of the feature: the Unrated Cut, the R-Rated Cut and the “Krug & Company” Cut; all restored from a 35mm dupe negative and scanned in 2K resolution (a 4K scan being largely impractical as the original 16mm AB negative is lost to time).
Despite the unavailability of a scan from the original negative, Arrow’s latest release of Last House remains the best the film has ever looked on a home video format and it’s loaded with special features to boot. Aside from the ported over archival commentary tracks of late director Wes Craven, producer Sean S. Cunningham (Friday the 13th), and stars David Hess, Marc Sheffler and Fred Lincoln, there’s also a brand new audio commentary track featuring Bill Ackerman and Amanda Reyes. The multiple documentaries in the set include “Still Standing: The Legacy of The Last House on the Left,” “Celluloid Crime of the Century” and “It’s Only a Movie: The Making of Last House on the Left.” Those privy to the limited edition box set also receive lobby cards, a double-sided fold-out poster as well as an exclusive, near 60 page book featuring new writings by film author Stephen Thrower.
With a slew of similarly titled, micro-budgeted rip-offs (e.g. House on the Edge of the Park, also featuring Hess), a 2009 studio remake starring Breaking Bad‘s Aaron Paul and a cover of featured music track “Wait for the Rain” featured in Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever, Last House‘s legacy looms large. Arrow Video’s Last House Blu-ray offers hardcore fans a hard media release worthy of said film’s enduring legacy.