Tag Archives: the last house on the left

RIP Wes Craven

31 Aug

I just wanted to write a few words on here about one of my favorite film makers of all time.

Wes Craven redefined what it meant to make a horror movie and knew the perfect balance between being scared and laughing. He’s legendary amongst his peers and has created a huge filmography to prove his greatness.

From The Last House on the Left all the way to Scream 4, his works are legendary. The world has lost a great mind today.

craven

Advertisements

The Serpent and the Rainbow – Review

23 Jul

To fans of horror, Wes Craven is the equivalent of an Olympian god. I would normally say that that previous statement is a bit much, but I really can’t. Just look at his ridiculously influential body of work and compare it to anyone else working in the genre. There are some people who come close, but in my book, he’s the guy. While certainly showing his skill in the maniac killer/slasher format, he also showed his ability to work with fantasy with films like A Nightmare on Elm Street and the topic of today’s review, The Serpent and the Rainbow.

250px-Serpentandtherainbow

 

After returning from Haiti and recovering from a near death experience, Harvard anthropologist Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman) is recruited by a pharmaceutical company to return to Haiti after they discovered a potion that seems to bring the dead back to life as zombies (not in the eat your brains kind of way either). Dr. Alan meets with a Haitian psychiatrist, Marielle (Cathy Tyson), and the two begin their investigation to procure this potion. What Alan doesn’t realize is that the captain of the Haitian secret police, Captain Peytraud (Zakes Mokae), is a practitioner in black magic, and will do anything in his power to keep Dr. Alan away from the potion, even if it means forcing him to face one of man’s most basic fears: being buried alive.

So, it’s been established that Wes Craven is a master of horror, but The Serpent and the Rainbow isn’t exactly a horror movie. There are definitely scenes that will freak you out, what with all of the weird voodoo images and the whole idea of being buried alive is enough to make anyone stifle a scream. What the movie is before any of that, though, is a mystery film with a lot of fantasy thrown into the mix. The whole plot is about Dr. Alan figuring out the mystery of the potion that brings people back to life, and his conflict between believing that the potion really is some sort of black magic, or if it just plays on the body’s biochemistry in a way that he doesn’t understand.

satr3

 

The idea that this movie isn’t really a straight up horror movie may turn some people off to watching it, since that’s what you expect when you watch a Wes Craven movie. The horror aspects of this movie also feel very traditional. The most obvious comparison I can make for this movie is the 1943 film I Walked With a Zombie produced by another icon of horror, Val Lewton. Both have scenes of voodoo rituals and people being brought back to life as zombies, and in that same vein The Serpent and the Rainbow feels like an old fashioned horror film, even though it was produced in 1988.

What I mean by this is that it’s a film that doesn’t rely on scares to tell the story, unlike many horror movies both older and new. Even Craven’s film The Last House on the Left is told through a strictly horror point of view that heavily features rape and brutal violence in order to tell the story. This one has voodoo rituals involved and lots of blood, but it builds its story on suspense, taut pacing, and the curiosity of the mystery of the potion. That being said, another strong point of this movie is the eerie atmosphere which even brings a sociopolitical to the forefront since the story takes place in the midst of a Haitian revolution.

The Serpent and the Rainbow may not be the most effective film in Wes Craven’s filmography, but it is a memorable horror movie to say the least. I respect the way that the story is told through the eyes of mystery and suspense, but I also appreciate the scenes of genuine terror that are appropriately sprinkled throughout the rest of the movie. While I do say that this film is more of a fantasy and a mystery, I will also say that it is a genuine tale of horror that features themes of plot elements that I haven’t seen in a horror movie in years.

The Last House on the Left (1972) – Review

22 Jul

In terms of horror, there are many different iconic film makers that shaped what the genre is truly meant to be, but I think we can all agree that Wes Craven is the guy. This isn’t the first time I’ve covered Craven’s films on here so this should come as no surprise that I look up to him as a writer and as a director. Even the greatest of film makers have to start somewhere, and for Wes Craven is was in 1972 with his now infamous film The Last House on the Left. In terms of coming out of the starting gate, I don’t think Mr. Craven would have wanted it any other way.

last_house_on_the_left_poster_01

Mari Collingwood (Sandra Cassel) is a typical upper-middle class teenage girl who is celebrating her seventeenth birthday by going to a rock concert with her friend Phillis (Lucy Grantham). The two girls seem completely carefree despite the warnings of Mari’s parents (Gaylord St. James and Cynthia Carr) and start the night with some drinking and a search for some weed. Their attempts are stopped when they are kidnapped by a group of escaped convicts led by the sadistic Krug (David A. Hess). The two girls then endure a period of rape, torture, and murder with the convicts thinking this is one last ride before they make their escape. What they didn’t count on was the vengeful spirit of Mari’s parents which leads to more bloodshed than the criminals could have believed.

Interestingly enough, Wes Craven was inspired by an Ingmar Bergman film from 1960 called The Virgin Spring, which has a story quite similar to this one. Bergman’s film was highly controversial and banned in certain places. Well if that happened to Bergman, it sure as hell happened to Craven. When The Last House on the Left was released in 1972 it was met with MAJOR controversy. According to Craven, people were vomiting, passing out, and leaving during screenings. He was also forced to cut a lot of scenes, but was still threatened with an X rating until it was finally slapped with an R just because he knew someone on the rating board. Even today, the BBFC has trouble censoring and releasing it and it was made over forty years ago!

last-house-on-the-left-2

It really says something when a jaded 21st century movie buff like me actually gets uncomfortable watching something, let alone something that was made way before I even existed. That’s the case with The Last House on the Left. The odd thing is that I can sit through something like Hostel or Saw and not really get uncomfortable because both of those examples really feels like a produced movie with production values that make it look nice and pretty. This was not the case for Craven’s debut. Everything from the actors to the production design is dirt cheap. The look can kind of be compared to the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre in how it almost has a documentary feel to it. I felt like I was watching these atrocities happen which made the entire experience all the more uncomfortable and sickening. But hey! This is a horror movie. That’s the whole point!

There are some really, and I mean really, stupid things that happen in this movie and the all revolve around two completely inept police officers. This is really the only shitty part about the movie. In one scene, I’ll be completely horrified by the violence and then the next scene I’ll be watching these two Keystone cops flopping all over the place and making themselves look like idiots. I’m all for comedic relief, and they provide some good stuff earlier on in the movie, but they become completely useless as the movie progresses.

Wes Craven really created something unbelievable with The Last House on the Left, a movie that still pushes the boundaries of what’s acceptable film making and even helped coin the British term “video nasty.” While it is a story about murder and revenge, it also gives us a look at the violence that even the most ordinary people keep deep down in their subconscious until it is forced back into their lives. This isn’t a perfect film, but it is a fine and disturbing example of modern day horror that was a game changer when it was released and a cornerstone to the genre today.