Death of the Maiden (The Last House on the Left, 1972)

In the beginning of the 70’s Wes Craven was a college professor looking to transition his life. With the help of future Friday the 13th producer Sean S. Cunningham, Craven set out to write and direct his first film, a loose adaption of Ingmar Bergman’s the Virgin Spring.

The young Mari and her friend head off to see a concert in anticipation of her 17th birthday. But on the trip, the two young women end up crossing the paths of a sadistic group of escaped criminals. They proceed to rape and murder Mari’s friend, but Mari runs and falls into the river. Leaving her to die the crew seek a place to hide. They come across a remote house and convince the family to let them enter. The thugs are unaware that they have actually happened upon Mari’s family.

But later Mari appears at the house, on death’s door. Enraged, her parents set about bringing angry retribution up the criminals.

To be honest, the Last House on the Left is a movie I originally saw over 20 years ago.  It left me nauseous and I really doubted I would ever watch it again.  But I recently got the blu-ray incredibly cheap and decided to get it for the special features.

But I chose to watch the film once more to reassess the work.  And honestly, most of the film would be a workable crime thriller.  It has scummy bad guys lead by David Hess who is scary beyond words.  But the film also suffers from some tonal inconsistencies with the cops appearances in the film almost being comical.

But the thing that keeps me from recommending the film is not the rough edges of a new writer and director. It is the long and lingeringly graphic rape and murder sequence. Certainly, Craven does not play it for entertainment. It is excruciatingly gritty and uncomfortable to sit through. It makes this a film I just have no desire to return to.

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