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 15+
Based on 11 reviews

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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.


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.


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.


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


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
Adult Written byMartin_Canine June 30, 2016

Intense low budget thriller by a great director; as violent and disturbing as it gets

"The Last House on the Left" is the debut film of Wes Craven, who would later go on to direct 'Nightmare on Elm Street' and the 'Scream... Continue reading
Parent of a 10 and 13-year-old Written bySuperParent August 29, 2009

Wes... this is so you!

David Hess is a scary buttocks killer as the role, if you have a little girl she might get scared if she watches this! This film does deal with extremely explic... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bywill_thrill123 January 1, 2021

Eh, ok I guess

very disturbing, but I guess it is ok
Teen, 14 years old Written bybraedvon October 21, 2020

Such an amazing terrifying horror movie, but definitely for adults ONLY!!!

The Last House on the Left is about two teen girls who get murdered by a group of adults, though there's a twist ending! This movie would've been okay... 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

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