Tag Archives: the last house on the left

The Legacy of Wes Craven

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

I like scary movies. As such, along with the majority of other like-minded individuals, I too would consider myself a fan of the legendary film director, writer, producer and actor, Wes Craven, who earlier today it was announced had sadly passed away. Back in June this year, when the news about Sir Christopher Lee‘s passing broke, we put together an article celebrating the great man’s work. Similarly, it would feel very remiss of me to not do the same for Wes, one of the most influential genre directors of our time.

With almost 30 directing credits to his name and a number of titles that his contemporaries often state that they wish they had made, a man who is adored by his legions of fans, today is truly a sad day for horror film watchers everywhere. His twisted sense of humour and ability to reinvigorate a whole sub-genre proved he was a visionary well ahead of his time. His skill and passion is what makes his films still scary to this day.

But before you go to sleep tonight and see him in your dreams, or try to work out which of your friends is responsible for his death and has hidden his body in the boot of their car, I’m going to run through five of his films in no particular that everybody should see, staring with…


A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

nightmare on elm streetYou’re all quite rightly expecting it to be on the list, so let’s get this one down and then move on. I love A Nightmare on Elm Street. The whole ninety minutes are exactly what a film like this should be; imaginative (especially with its creative death scenes and tonally dark concept), perfect characters for its story, with a few surprisingly decent performances too. Freddy Krueger is undoubtedly one of the most recognisable horror characters invented. Even when he hasn’t got to do much but extend his arms and scrape his glove along a wall, thanks to the way Craven depicts and shoots him, the atmosphere is so tense you could cut it with a bladed-finger. The nightmarish dream-like aura that Craven captured is amazing to behold and helps establish Kreuger as this brilliantly menacing villain. Even though the sequels became increasingly goofy and lame as they went on, Craven’s original can still be taken in isolation as a solid, bold and visually exciting horror. It’s quite possibly the greatest supernatural slasher film ever made and my personal favourite of his.

 


The Last House on the Left (1972)

last house on the leftOppositely to A Nightmare on Elm Street, the first feature film that Craven directed back in 1972 is the one film of his I truly despise. Its characters are appalling, unpleasant and horrific individuals who rape a couple of girls and torture a family. I found it more than a little misogynistic, with some truly terrible performances from the cast. However, it did cost peanuts to make, was primarily set to appeal to the exploitation crowd and that’s exactly what it achieved, grossing nearly $3m from a very modest $87k budget. Whilst audiences mature and tastes change – what was once considered frightening is perhaps diluted these days by the torture porn and high levels of graphic detail found in similarly low budget horrors – the fact that The Last House on the Left can still make you sick to the pit of your stomach is perhaps an indicator of just how talented he was at his craft. Craven knew how to make something that would have a lasting effect; it’s an exploitative, disgusting revenge thriller that has no moral compass. So, whilst I hate this movie (slightly less than its remake) it is a good example of how his keenly aware intelligence as a film maker set him in good stead for the rest of his career. And after all, it’s only a movie…


The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

hills have eyseBelieve me, I was tempted to include The Hills Have Eyes Part II in this list purely for the scene where a dog has a flashback (yep, that’s a real thing and another example of Craven’s sense of humour) but truth be told, it’s an utter shambles of a film that Wes tried to disown. I’m also ashamed to admit that when I initially sat down to watch – and subsequently enjoyed – the 2006 version of The Hills Have Eyes, I had no idea it was a remake, let alone of a stone cold classic. OK, maybe that’s exaggerating its reputation slightly! Cult classic, perhaps. But Craven’s hill-billy-horror, about a bunch of ugly, deformed, incestuous cannibals preying on some unwitting souls whose caravan happens to have broken down in their patch of the desert, is still an entertainingly gruesome exploitation horror with a touch more nuance than in Craven’s previous outings. Released five years after The Last House on the Left, it’s got all the markings of a more confident and experienced director having much more fun this time around. It’s an over-the-top, slightly camp, grim and gory movie that shows off Craven’s flair for the dramatic.


Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)

new nightmareTwo years before Scream, Craven had a stab (excuse the pun) at the meta-slasher when he returned to the New Line Cinema franchise and the monster that he created ten years prior, way back in 1984. Although New Nightmare is technically not considered canon (i.e. a part of the existing timeline), it revels in its freedom to mock and modernise a rapidly failing series that lost touch with Craven’s original vision. With a vicious metal-claw-gloved slap across the face of those who went before him, Craven re-invented the character of Freddy Krueger, the child-molesting nightmare-invading demonic-killer back from beyond the grave. No longer was Krueger a creation portrayed by Robert Englund, but he became real entity, terrorising the actors from A Nightmare on Elm Street including ol’ Wes, who starred in New Nightmare as himself! Most crucially of all, he brought the horror back into the series, something that the garbage that was Freddy’s Dead forgot to do entirely. It may have had a similar level of awareness to Scream, but it took Craven another couple of years to really perfect the technique so expertly.


Scream (1996)

screamI would wager that almost everybody has at some point in their life been affected by one of Wes Craven’s movies. I can remember being at school when Scream came out. I was 10 years old in 1996. Such was its notoriety that even though I didn’t see it personally until a couple of years later, I was still aware of Ghostface. The mask was iconic and (from what I remember) was what every kid around our way wore for Halloween the following year. I eventually watched it on VHS a couple of years later at a mate’s house and can still remember us both being a bit giddy with excitement. We used to watch all kinds of dodgy horror movies back then after school (or on …extended… lunch breaks); Witchboard, I Know What You Did Last Summer, It, The Exorcist, Dawn of the Dead and of course A Nightmare on Elm Street. Although the call-backs and nods-to other slasher films flew right over my head back then, re-watching it for the first time as an adult back in 2012, it was like watching a whole new film. There are plenty of references dotted throughout to keep supplying that thrilling feeling whenever you spot a new one. The opening scene with Drew Barrymore alone in the house, being threatened by a stranger in a mask, is simply an outstanding opening to a movie and sets the tone early on. It’s just a fun, incredibly clever and always entertaining horror movie made by a horror movie fan for horror movie fans. We will miss Wes Craven like we’d miss any of our own.

A Decade In Horror: Halloween Special – The Noughties

It’s October! The leaves on the trees are turning brown, it’s getting darker earlier in the evening and folks are rummaging through their DVD collections, looking for their favourite horror films to watch in time for Halloween. As such, every week this month has seen us expand on our Decade In Film series with a spin off article focussing on five horror films from the sixties, the seventies, the eighties, the nineties and the noughties! The format is much the same as our regular series, but with a slight twist.

We’ve made it! Today is officially the spookiest day of the year, Halloween! It also sees us publish our final entry to the Decade In Horror series. Andrew, Liam, MikeOwen and Paul are back together for one last time to reveal what exactly is their favourite horror film of the noughties.

Following the technological apocalypse that occurred after Y2K, as predicted would happen by crazy sane people with ready access to billboards in the 1990s, only a few of the human race survived. Those of us who were smart enough to build shelters and hide in underground bunkers emerged in early 2000 to find a desolate landscape, occupied only by gruesome, fierce mutants and rogue machines hell-bent on destruction. It was up to us to rebuild humanity. And we did, one step at a time. First we tamed the machines, then we wiped out the mutants, leaving only a few of them to run our football clubs or become politicians (satire) leaving no trace of the worst fate to befall our kind in human history. Once we’d tidied up a bit, we got on with what we do best; i.e. making horror films. We created a whole new subgenre known today as “torture porn”, mainly thanks to the splat-pack; a group of directors who were raised on a diet of exploitation films and grotesque horrors. Films like Saw, Hostel and Wolf Creek defined the 00s’. Saw particularly so by really bringing the torture porn concept into the mainstream. Who didn’t at least know of Jigsaw and the infamous “I want to play a game” quote? But that wasn’t all that our new millennium had to offer. What actually were our favourites of this brand new era? First up picking his favourite is Liam, with something a bit different…


Ferpect Crime (2004)

ferpect crimeDon Antonio, this is not right at all. You are dead, you can’t chat with me.

This Spanish black comedy may appear an odd addition to a Halloween list but when you have a plot that contains; murder, dismemberment, psychotic obsession, arson, several attempted murders, blackmail and a belligerent ghost it’s pretty safe to say it belongs here. The title is a play on the Hitchcock classic Dial M For Murder released in Spain as “Perfect Crime”.

A revoltingly slick Super Salesman type has his perfect life smashed to pieces when he is left completely beholden to a woman he can’t stand the sight of.

There are a couple of problems with it. The first fifteen minutes are a bit worrying. It’s horribly mid 80s style American cheesiness. It even has Yello’s “Oh Yeah” playing in the background. But it does successfully show the man as a total moral vacuum and a sleazy, womanising jerk. The last fifteen minutes seem as though they were written by someone else, they don’t really fit and leave you wondering if he simply didn’t know how to end it. The middle hour makes it all worthwhile. His realisation that he is totally trapped, by this demented woman and her deranged family, starts a decline which only increases as he plots to find a way out. His paranoia and visions of a ghost are not helping.

This is an Oreo type of film. Don’t worry too much about the top & bottom, just enjoy the great middle bit.

by Liam (@ElmoreLTM)


The Devil’s Rejects (2005)

TDRBoy, the next word that comes out of your mouth better be some brilliant fuckin’ Mark Twain shit. ‘Cause it’s definitely getting chiselled on your tombstone.

Choosing a film for this decade was tough. There wasn’t much in the way of traditional horror to choose from. Rather, my favourites from the 00’s all kind of boiled down to ultra gory slasher style films or the newly founded “Torture Porn” sub-genre. With that in mind, my final choice is less a horror movie and more an ultra-violent thriller in the guise of a horror film.

The Devil’s Rejects is the sequel to Rob Zombie’s cult horror House of 1000 Corpses. But it’s a sequel with a twist, of sorts. The remaining members of the Firefly Clan (Sid Haig, Bill Mosely and Sherri Moon Zombie) are on the run from a maniacal sheriff hell bent on avenging the death of his brother in the first film. More of a road movie than a horror, the chase is on to bring the crazy hillbillies to justice.

The twist is that you aren’t siding with the cops in this film. Whether you want to or not, you’re going to end up rooting for the Rejects and you’re going to want them to come out on top. As they tear-arse their way across the county leaving an insane amount of carnage behind them, you still want them to get the better of William Forsythe’s sheriff.

The hillbilly horror has been around since a certain massacre in Texas shocked the world. But with brilliantly written characters; one of the scariest clowns in film history and some of the goriest deaths in quite some time, Rob Zombie’s darkly funny horror sequel stands as one of my favourites. Not just of the noughties, but of all time.

by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)


Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

trick r treatWhat in God’s name are you doing down there Wilkins? Hiding Bodies?

One of the hardest decisions of this project was the 00’s; so many great horror films to pick from! It helps that I’ve attended FrightFest for most of this decade. I’ve witnessed films on the big screen that many never have or will ever see again. It’s from FrightFest that my choice comes and one I was extremely excited to see when it was announced. Since that year, Trick ‘r Treat has become my Halloween film of choice.

I do like a good anthology film and horrors tend to work extremely well in this format. It’s rare to come across one where all the stories are rubbish as most work on some level. This one works on every level for me.

Trick ‘r Treat is a true Halloween horror; it’s not scary, it’s quite funny but it epitomises everything about the infamous holiday. The fun of dressing up, carving jack-o-lanterns, eating candy, urban legends and of course the real legends of that day. Then there is Sam, the spirit of Halloween, and the force of this film, taking his own story at the end, but always present as each of the previous stories unfold. Whilst his origins are never really explained, it’s fair to say that he maintains some sort of balance between the forces of evil and the human world. Those who disrespect Halloween – the dead and even the living – will feel the true force of Sam; and it very rarely ends well.

There are four main stories; The Principal, The School Bus Massacre Revisited, Surprise Party and Sam. It’s hard for me to choose a favourite, but pushed I would say it is Sam. It’s his look, dressed in an orange pyjama suit, wearing a burlap sack over his head and dragging his sack of candy and other feline treats behind him. He is one of my all-time favourite horror monsters. The way he appears through each story is rather creepy and retaining his mystery until his actual story just adds to his appeal.

Michael Dougherty has crafted a wonderful homage to Halloween. He has a great “monster” in the form of Sam, four excellent stories and the intelligence to interlink each story either by visuals or characters, giving a nice flow to the film’s timeline. Dylan Baker in The Principal and Brian Cox in Sam provide the stand out performances, whilst Anna Pacquin also has a decent role in Surprise Party. The rest of the supporting cast are fine, the script is great and the look of the film is outstanding due to Glen MacPherson’s brilliant cinematography. It never fails to entertain me and I really do look forward to watching it each year on Halloween.

by Mike Shawcross (@Shawky1969)


The House of the Devil (2009)

house of the devil titlesDuring the 1980s over 70% of American adults believed in the existence of abusive Satanic Cults… Another 30% rationalized the lack of evidence due to government cover ups… The following is based on true unexplained events…

The 2000’s was the first decade that I was actually old enough to go to the cinema and watch horror films. Of course, like a lot of people, I grew up watching them regardless of their recommended age certificates. However, the thrill of being allowed in to see films such as Thir13en Ghosts or Jeepers Creepers made up for the guff quality of a few of them. These were gory, horrible films that I could no longer be turned away from by uppity cinema staff.

Nevertheless, my personal relationship with horror films did dwindle slightly through the 00’s. My wife (then girlfriend) had no interest in them whatsoever, so we hardly ever watched them together. Arguably, it was Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake that, watching on DVD sometime around 2006, rekindled my love for horror. If I dug deep enough, I could probably name 10 or so horrors from this decade alone that would be in my all time favourites for this genre.

Perhaps none more so than Ti West’s occult movie, The House of the Devil. Released in the US in 2009, it’s actually set in the 1980’s. Student Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) is desperate for cash and applies for a job as a babysitter on the night of a lunar eclipse. It’s revealed the work is not exactly as described in the flyer, and against the better judgement of her friend (Greta Gerwig), takes on the job anyway. Far from the torture porn movies of earlier in the decade, or even some of  the absurd goofy comedy horrors of the 80’s, this is actually an incredibly atmospheric movie, rich in tension, mystery and psychological drama. It builds itself steadily towards an unforgettable final few scenes with an almighty killer blow for a finale. It established West as one of the directors I get most excited about whenever I hear he’s making a new movie and holds up well on every rewatch. A staple for my annual Halloween diet!

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)


The Last House on the Left (2009)

last house on the leftJustin, you gotta start putting other people’s needs ahead of your own. You knew not to bring anybody back here, but you did it anyway, didn’t you?

The Last House on the Left is a notorious 70’s offering, that still shocks today, the BBFC shit bricks and banned it. This remake passed me by at first, but kept seeing it on ‘under-appreciated’ lists and decided to give it a poke. .John Murphy’s instantly recognisable score makes you realise this isn’t just another horror movie made by film company accountants and shit out like a hundred Lionsgate turds.

In this version the deranged escapees are led by Garret Dillahunt, and his performance is eerie, brutal and chilling and the utterly deranged Sadie is admirably portrayed by Riki Lindhome. Even Aaron Paul puts in his only decent turn outside of Breaking Bad.

It’s a simple premise, two girls fall into the clutches of the dangerous gang. They’re then subjected to a horrific and sustained attack and ultimately end up facing a final and brutal assault near their remote home. Their attackers end up staying in the home of one of the girl’s parents…

Then shit gets real. Cold, realistic, horrifying and emotionless. This is nasty film, but it all pans out in a way that just about keeps you in the realm of, ‘this could happen…..’, and that’s why it’s so terrifying. This is the film to see on Halloween for proper chills.

by Paul Field (@pafster)


…and that just about wraps up our Decade In Horror series! Thanks to everyone for reading and who knows, maybe we’ll be back in six years time to do the same thing again? You can find the rest of our Decade In Horror series (or even our main Decade In Film articles) by clicking the respective hyperlinks.