Before Wes Craven made his mark on the horror genre with A Nightmare on Elm Street, he entered the world of the exploitation flick by writing and directing The Last House on the Left. This movie wallows in sleazy sex and gratituous violence.

Mari Collingwood (Sandra Cassel) is a, er, blossoming young girl on vacation at the titular lakeside house with her parents, Dr. John Collingwood (Richard Towers) and Estelle Collingwood (Cynthia Carr). Celebrating her seventeenth birthday, Mari heads to town with her "bad infleunce" friend Phyllis (Lucy Grantham) to see a heavy-metal concert ("Bloodlust") and score some weed.

Destiny has bad, bad plans for Mari and Phyllis. A trio of "murders, drug dealers and rapists" have escaped from prison: cruel leader Krug Stillo (David Hess); knife-wielding Fred "Weasel" Podowski (Fred Lincoln); and Junior Stillo (Marc Sheffler), kept hooked on drugs by his father Krug. These three are joined by Sadie (Jeramie Rain), a bisexual predator who helped them escape. And guess who Mari and Phyllis try to buy drugs from?

After the cruel and graphic encounter between the teens and the predators, the criminals wind up at the Collingwood house. And when the parents find out what happened to their daughter, revenge is swift and brutal.

The Last House on the Left is loosely based on Bergman's Virgin Spring, but Wes Craven's film is content to wallow in sleaze. From the opening shot of Sandra Cassel showering to the final bloody moments of the movie, this movie wants nothing more than to appeal to the basest parts of the audience. The acting is awful, as is the cheesy soundtrack, and the comic relief of two bungling cops is stupid and unfunny. Craven does manage to work in a few well-done moments -- Junior Stillo's nightmare, the contrast of the parents decorating their child's wholesome birthday celebration with the horrors happening to their child -- but The Last House on the Left ultimately fails to go beyond mere titillation and violence.

Overall grade: D-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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