The Last House on the Left (1972)

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
The Last House on the Left (1972) Movie Poster Image
Amateurish bloodbath that became a cult-horror hit.
  • R
  • 1972
  • 91 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 7 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The theme is revenge, and whether those who participate in premeditated payback-killing become just as degraded and psychopathic as the worst offenders shown here. Consequently, even the "nice" parents in the movie become vicious (contrastingly, the script shows at least one of the junkie-outlaw gang that's the target of their wrath suffering because of his tortured conscience). Police are made to look like bumbling fools.

Violence

Shootings, knifings, beatings, an electrocution, and bitings that leave victims bruised and bloody, climaxing in an attack with a chainsaw. One character is bitten in the penis during an act of oral sex (nothing explicit shown, but the idea is conveyed hideously). A youth shoots himself in the head. One female character is a sexually licentious plaything for a group of men; another, though married, pretends to seduce one of the villains.

Sex

Intense rape-molestation scenes, mainly depicted via closeups of the faces of the marauder and the victim. A barely offscreen act of oral sex. Two young women forced to undress and embrace in a quasi-lesbian fashion. Female toplessness. Talk of sex and breast development.

Language

God's name in vain, "s--t," "bitch," "damn," and "piss." Filmmakers drew the line at the f-word, though, using "frigging" instead.

Consumerism

Mainly car model makes and soft-drink can labels shown. There is a natural tie-in with the 2009 remake.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cigarette and cigar smoking, the repeated statement that one of the characters is a heroin junkie (and kept that way by his father as a means of control); he subsequently goes through vomiting and withdrawal symptoms. Underage drinking happens, and there is an attempted drug deal to obtain marijuana.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the savage violence in this film -- conveyed mainly in reaction shots and quick cutaways, but still intense -- includes close-range shooting, knifing/slashing, a castration-by-biting (you read that correctly), and an attack with a chainsaw. There is shower nudity (practically in the opening scene), and two women are terrorized at knifepoint, forced to strip and submit to rape and degrading acts. Drug use, though not really shown, is discussed frequently, and alcohol is enthusiastically consumed. The main drive of the plot is murder (committed by bereaved parents) as an act of revenge; law enforcement is not even discussed as an option, and police are depicted as bumblers anyway. A 2009 big-budget remake of this film drew more attention to the cheapie original.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 11 and 18+ year old Written bytrena February 26, 2009

seen the first one

I will not see this remake. I am now 43 years old and I still remember the first make of this movie and how it horrified me. It still sticks with me as the mo... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byjuderman13 July 26, 2009

Message

how can you say this movie has bad messages just because it's a revenge movie?? So your saying that if someone did that to your kids you wouldn't go t... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byHorror Movie Re... October 4, 2018

Poorly Made Revenge Film, Not For Kids

Trust me this movie is very inappropriate for children. I can only recommend it for extremely mature 17 year olds and up. Wes Craven was an extremely talented f... Continue reading

What's the story?

Although this claims up front to be based on a "true story" (a common exploitation gimmick), many have discerned LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT to be a loose remake of the Swedish art-house classic The Virgin Spring, a stately, medieval tale of a grief-stricken father's revenge on his daughter's murderers. In this update, teenager Mari Collingwood and her somewhat wilder girlfriend celebrate Mari's birthday via an unchaperoned trip to the big city and a rock concert. Lured to an apartment by claims of marijuana for sale, the pair are seized by a trio of escaped convicts and their moll, who toy with the helpless victims at first, but ultimately drive them out to the woods and kill them. Fatefully, the culprits' car breaks down near the Collingwood home, where Mari's straightlaced parents politely let them stay overnight, even as the couple frets over their daughter's absence. Soon Dr. and Mrs. Collingwood realize exactly who their visitors are...

Is it any good?

Done on a shoestring budget with no-name actors (some moonlighting from porno flicks), the dreadful Last House on the Left became a "grindhouse" hit. A few appreciative critics call it a classic -- others condemned it as vile garbage -- though amidst grubby production values and community-theater acting, there are only brief hints writer-director Wes Craven would later be hero to young, thrill-hungry moviegoers for masterminding the Scream and Freddy Krueger film series.

A comment-worthy touch here: the idea (brought out better in Craven's even grislier The Hills Have Eyes) that "ordinary" people, one of them a doctor, could commit appalling slaughter, just as heinous as the villains here -- so what makes them any better? Still, it takes an effort for modern viewers to look past the outdated hairstyles, muffled dialogue, and primitive visuals that horror-fanciers have found so compelling. Especially painful/jarring are the moments of would-be comedy relief and a wildly uneven grab-bag of soundtrack songs, ranging from spacey hippie ballads to a jug-band and kazoo (!) fanfare.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why this crudely-made shocker became so popular, while some critics thought it the worst thing they'd ever seen. Was it simply a classic ad campaign ("Keep Telling Yourself...`It's Only a Movie. It's Only a Movie...'"). Or is filmmaker Wes Craven's mastery of visceral horror and psychological suspense actually present, under all the fuzzy sound, iffy acting, and low-budget camerawork? You could use this film to get horror-minded kids to watch a foreign-language art-movie classic, Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring, to compare-contrast. Which one is a stronger portrait of parental grief and vengeance?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate