I'm not sure of my general opinion of The Last House on the Left. I found a used copy about five years ago for $2.00, and I picked it up knowing that I was supposed to have watched it years ago. Then I completely failed to watch it until today.
I won't give a long summary of The Last House on the Left because I don't think it needs one. Not that I think you already know it (though you may), but I think a few short sentences will lay all the framework you need:
Mari and Phyllis are going to a rock concert to celebrate Mari's 17th birthday, when they decide the concert will be much better if they score some drugs first. Their detour into the seedy side of town leads to their kidnapping by a small band of escaped convicts, who torture and rape the girls, and eventually murder them. The convicts' car has thrown a rod, so they seek shelter at the first house they find, which, coincidentally, belongs to Mari's parents who are wondering why their daughter didn't come home last night. The walls of the house are thin, and after piecing together what happened, Mom and Dad decide to exact revenge.
I don't recognize anybody in this movie. Some of them are probably mildly famous, but I'm not looking them up because I'm working under a deadline (Halloween party). In other news, I totally have the work ethic of a professional journalist.
This was Wes Craven's first feature film after he left the porn industry. Oh, you didn't know he worked in porn during the '60s? Neither did I until today. Anyway, The Last House on the Left was made in 1972 on a shoestring budget, and that has translated to a stark, pseudo-documentary style which makes one uncomfortable. The rape and violence are impressively graphic, and I'm somewhat disturbed by the fact that this film has a large cult following. Craven reportedly wanted to make this a more "hardcore" film (referring, I assume, to violence, not sex), but was forced to tone it down. I can't imagine what he'd originally envisioned.
Even after the cuts to the shooting script, this movie has been heavily censored, especially in Britain. Even the supposedly-uncut versions of this movie are missing scenes. A remake came out in 2009, and The Internet Says that it's even more violent, but I find that difficult to believe. In fact, I'd say that The Last House on the Left belongs alongside I Spit on Your Grave and Cannibal Holocaust as one of the most unpleasant movies I've ever seen.
That's not saying that it's bad. It's very good at what it is intended to do. Some people like that, I guess, but I don't. My wife and I were recently discussing what defines a horror movie, and I realized that in order to consider it a horror movie, I need it to have a supernatural element. In order to enjoy it, I need the main character -- hero or villain -- to be likable, and preferably to survive. The Last House on the Left has neither of these things, and it's not as socially poignant as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.
Anyway, here's the trailer.