“The Last House on the Left” endures as a curious oddity from one of the genre’s most sensitive directors. That may seem counterintuitive, with “The Hills Have Eyes” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” rounding out Wes Craven’s filmography. However, in the horror genre, the late legend was as humanist as they came. Craven was always interested in people, and while his output was often gruesome, it was never needlessly cruel. To Craven, death was never a joke. Admittedly, the same holds for “The Last House on the Left,” an early progenitor for an entire subgenre of rape-revenge features, even if Craven himself would later regret how far the film went.
Broadly, “The Last House on the Left” involves the sexual assault and death of young women. The film was even promoted with the tagline “Can a movie go too far?” In one of his last interviews with the Front, Craven admitted that the legacy of his horror classic had indeed gone too far. It’s a brutal, unforgiving film. Because of the low budget, its verisimilitude is frighteningly raw. Craven’s later career would be defined by his commitment to empathic, humanistic ideals, even if he pushed boundaries to their limit early on.
If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN’s National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).