Why Last House on the Left remains one of the most prolific horror movies I’ve ever seen

It’s the first horror movie I ever watching based on a recommendation someone else made. Although it wasn’t intended to be a recommendation rather than a warning to stay away. The movie isn’t known for it’s gore or eve it’s jump scares. It’s more known for the way it take a seemingly innocent girls night out and turns it into a twisted tale of murder, mayhem and revenge.

The movie came with an aura of mystery surrounding it. It was the one horror film my mom told me never to watch. She said how she went to see it in theaters and it traumatized her. My mom never watched that many horror movies to my knowledge so it was unusual for me to hear her describe one she had seen. Even more so she described it as the most terrifying movie she had ever seen next to The Hills Have Eyes.

I grew up loving horror movies so for me knowing there was one out there that had frightened my mother so I had to check it out. As someone who watched as many horror films as I have I never expected it would leave a mark on me. I went into it thinking my mom oversold it. I was going to leave it behind thinking what a wuss she was. I was wrong.

To this day it remains one of the few horror movies that has affected me in such a negative way. So much so I’ve surely written about it more than once. To this day it remains one I make sure not to over do it. I like to savor it, hold it for special occasions where I can sink my teeth into it. Times when I need to be reminded that horror movies don’t have to be about the gore or the shock value. Sometimes they can just be terrifying all on their own.

The movie was one I took a long time for me to get into. The reason I put off watching it for so long was because my mom warned me not to watch it. The first time I watched it in fact was in 2005. It was on a road trip back to Idaho from Kansas. My sister and I were travelling by Grey Hound bus to go attend a funeral for a friend of ours who lost his battle with cancer. That road trip itself contributed to the chills the movie send down our spines as we watched for the first time with one of our friends who let us stay with her that weekend.

The movie opens with a couple of teenage girls from the country heading into the big city to attend a rock concert. It doesn’t take long before they find themselves wrapped up in a terrifying ordeal as they wind up being kidnapped by a group of escaped murders during a drug deal gone wrong.

The movie follows the twisted minds of those psychopaths as they take the girls via trunk of their car to the woods. There the two men and their overly sexual female accomplice proceed to rape and torture the young ladies in a harrowing scene that leaves the viewer in a state of shock. It’s not the most shocking scene you will see in comparison to modern movies but considering the time, the tone of the film and the reality we live in, the scene is quite effective in distilling true terror in the blood of those watching it.

It ends with one of the girls meeting her demise in a gruesome manner just off camera as was the norm during those days. It makes the scene more effective as they say leaving the horrors up to the viewers imagination. Meanwhile the friend uses the opportunity of her friends assault to escape into the woods in an attempt to save herself knowing it was too late for the other girl.

The movie takes a dark turn as it is revealed the girls were in the backyard of the main character the whole time!

This is where the movie gets dark. The murders find their way in the country hospitality of the parents of the daughter they just terrorized. Even after the girl escapes the band of misfits decide to enjoy the home as they discover they are sleeping in the bedroom of the girl they raped earlier that day.

It doesn’t take the movie long before the parents deduce what took place. The mother makes her way into the backyard where she discovers the body of one of the girls that had gone missing. The parents then concoct their own plan to enact revenge on the murders sleeping in their own daughters bed.

The thrills that this movie enacts come largely from the mixed tone. You have the comic relief of the local dopey cops, the out of touch-turned-violent parents, and the odd out of place country tunes playing in the background of a movie mixed with rape scenes that are borderline torture porn, a violence suicide and a drug addict’s struggle to come to terms with the guilt of what he did. The chills don’t come from the kills themselves but the look in on the young girls face as her teenage life comes to an abrupt end.

The movie ends with the sheriff walking in just as the dad is about to take a chainsaw to the leader of the criminals.

The aftermath of the film is a reminder that the two men responsible for putting it together would become masters of terror in the horror genre. Sean S. Cunningham would leave the movie behind to give birth to the Friday the 13th franchise. Wes Craven himself followed the movie up with creating the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise.

The movie gets a lot of its extended mythology among fans in the pedigree of the filmmakers behind it. Who knew the man who created Jason Vorhees and the father of Freddy Krueger would collaborate on a chilling suspenseful thrill ride a decade prior to their breakout successes respectively.

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Stephanie Bri

A transgender writer who also does podcasts and videos. If you like my writing please consider helping me survive. You can support me directly by giving money to my paypal: thetransformerscollector@yahoo.com. If you prefer CashApp my handle is @Stephaniebri22. Also feel free to donate to my Patreon. I know it's largely podcast-centric but every little bit helps. Find it by going to www.patreon.com/stephaniebri, Thank you.