“The Last House On The Left” Turns 50

2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the infamous “The Last House On The Left”.

There are certain films out there that come with a certain reputation, you don’t even have to have seen that film but you’ll know it by reputation.

One of those films for me is 1972’s “The Last House On The Left” which celebrates it’s 50th anniversary this year. All I’d heard about this film was its brutality and how hard it was to watch, I was young, I was naive. I figured how hard could it be to watch a film that was made so long ago, how wrong I was.

Like a lot of kids that grew up with a steady diet of VHS we watched a ton of films that looking back on. maybe we shouldn’t have watched. I mean sure we’d have nightmares, scare ourselves so much we’d be stuck to our seats and even terrify each other by jumping out of dark places, but it was a fun time to say the least.

But this film, this film was something different. This wasn’t a supernatural entity or people returning from the dead or even a good ol’ you cant keep me down slasher returning for the sixth time, this felt real, a little to real, so much so that instead of entertainment we all felt petrified and disgust.

Now when I say ‘we’ I mean the group of us who were having a sleepover and had discovered this in a box of tapes in my friends attic. I remember it being in a big box which is actually what attracted it to us in the first place and it was one none of us had ever seen so we thought ‘why not’.

We knew of Wes Craven because of “A Nightmare On Elm Street” and also saw Sean S. Cunningham’s name pop up who we know from “Friday The 13th” so our expectations were a bit different than what we were expecting, in fact this was a Horror movie unlike anything we’d ever seen before.

There was no sniggering at the inevitable topless scene or appreciating the practical effects used or laughing at the corny lines. We were in silence from beginning to end and even when it was over we knew we’d just witnessed something that was ultimately life changing for us all.

I can only imagine what it must’ve been like for viewers who saw this upon its release, I mean it’s fifty years later and people still have a hard time watching this film. It’s still strange to me that the men who I associate with making teenage Horror films (Wes Craven) wrote and directed this.

Of course this led down a track of other films with big reputations such as “Cannibal Ferox”, “I Spit On Your Grave”, “Cannibal Holocaust” and more. As disturbing as they all were it was “The Last House On The Left” that really made something of an impact on me more than the others.

Ultimately the film has been banned in several countries, including several times in the UK by the BBFC. Originally, in 1974, it was rejected for a cinema certificate. In 1984, it was banned again when it became a “video nasty”, and remained that way until 2000, when it was once more rejected for a cinema release.

In 2001, it was rejected and remained banned. Finally, a video version in 2002 was passed with around 30 seconds of cuts for an 18 rating, ending a 28 year streak of being banned. It was finally passed fully uncut by the BBFC in March 2008. The VHS I saw it on must’ve been extremely rare.

According to Wes Craven he never anticipated the extreme reactions that audiences would have to the film. Audiences were said to have vomited, fainted, and one moviegoer was rumoured to have had a heart attack. I can only imagine how much of a shock this had on viewers who saw it on the big screen.

Sean Cunningham said for years afterwards when he would tell people he produced this movie people would get up and walk away from him, as if he were a porn or a snuff director of some sort. He even said the same thing would happen to Wes Craven. It’s a miracle these guys managed to continue working by the sounds of it.

Fifty years on and the film is still thought of as a disturbing feature to watch and it is, I know I still find it a hard film to watch. Craven brought us a Horror that was a bit too real for some people, it was a Horror that you could read about in a newspaper or see on the news and that was too much for some.

But please remember people, “To avoid fainting, keep repeating: ‘It’s Only A Movie, It’s Only A Movie…”

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