The Last House On the Left appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Shot on Super 16mm stock for a budget of about $90,000, one can’t expect House to look very good. The disc definitely lives up - or down - to those expectations; while I thought it provided picture quality that accurately represented the original material, the experience remained severely problematic.
Sharpness seemed fairly weak. Occasionally, close-ups came across as reasonably accurate, but the rest of the image appeared rather soft and fuzzy. The movie remained indistinct and bland most of the time. At least this meant I saw no issues related to jagged edges, moiré effects, but light edge haloes were apparent at times.
Print flaws were a minor issue. The most prominent distractions came from small hairs around the edges of the frame; these didn’t show up frequently, but they popped up a good four or five times. I also saw occasional thin vertical lines and a few specks.
Grain tended to be heavy, which made sense given the movie’s origins. Very few parts of the flick didn’t become affected by this issue. I didn’t regard this as a print flaw per se because the grain obviously came from the original cheap film stock. Nonetheless, I wanted to mention that the film displayed intensely heavy grain a lot of the time.
Colors consistently appeared drab. The film offered bland, messy tones that never displayed any form of vibrancy or life. In theory, they could have been less lively, I suppose, but the hues nonetheless seemed flat and runny.
Black levels looked pale and inky, while shadow detail was fairly thick and dense. Low-light scenes were visible, but the lackluster nature of the project made those shots tough to watch. Ultimately, though I felt the Blu-ray largely replicated the source appearance of The Last House on the Left, it presented an ugly piece of work.
Though superior, monaural soundtrack of The Last House on the Left didn’t do a lot to improve on the visuals. Overall, I felt this was a lifeless mix that also clearly was restricted by the film’s low budget. Speech tended to sound flat, but the lines seemed reasonably intelligible; they weren’t natural, but they weren’t bad.
Effects seemed flat and toothless, though they lacked any significant signs of distortion. Music lacked much range and failed to deliver a bright and distinct experience, but the score did display a little passable bass at times. Overall, the audio for House was mediocre given the movie’s age and origins.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2009 Collector’s Edition DVD? Audio demonstrated the most notable improvements. While the Blu-ray’s track was pretty bland, it seemed cleaner and less noisy than what I heard on the prior DVD.
Visuals offered a more complicated situation. I thought the Blu-ray was a bit cleaner than the DVD, as it showed fewer source defects. However, the increased resolution made edge haloes more obvious and intensified the already-heavy grain. I’d be hard-pressed to claim that the Blu-ray did much to improve the picture; it was an ugly DVD and it’s an ugly Blu-ray.
The Blu-ray mixes extras from the prior two DVDs. We find two audio commentaries, the first of which comes from the 2002 DVD. It features director Wes Craven and producer Sean S. Cunningham. Both men were recorded together for this running, screen-specific piece. Craven heavily dominated the track. Cunningham didn’t offer a lot of information, and most of what he said came in response to Craven’s material.
However, Cunningham did provide the commentary’s funniest crack toward its end. Craven covered a mix of elements related to the production as well as tidbits about the cast, reactions to the film, and other issues. He also offered a smart-assed critique of the flick, which he clearly doesn’t regard as his best hour. The commentary suffered from more than a few empty spaces, unfortunately, but in general it provided a reasonably informative and useful discussion.
For the second track, we hear from actor/composer David Hess and actors Marc Sheffler and Fred Lincoln. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific look at cast and performances, working with Craven and Cunningham, the score, and a mix of anecdotes.
At times the commentary nearly becomes obnoxious. It certainly features a more crass tone than normal, especially when we hear about who banged who on the set. Nonetheless, it also comes with a lot of honesty – much more than we normally get from these tracks. I wish the guys – especially Lincoln – had toned down their personalities a bit, but we still find some interesting insights, so the commentary’s worth a listen.
A mix of featurettes follow. Still Standing: The Legacy of Last House on the Left runs 14 minutes, 54 seconds and presents remarks from writer/director Wes Craven. We learn about the project’s origins and how it reflects its era, script and the “documentary style”, the film’s tone and reflections on its cultural implications, and remakes. Craven provides some interesting thoughts about the original film. However, this brief chat doesn’t substitute for the mysterious absence of his commentary from the old disc, and much of the last five minutes just feel like an ad for the Last House remake.
During the 39-minute and 34-second Celluloid Crime of the Century, we hear from Craven, Lincoln, Sheffler, Hess, producer Sean S. Cunningham, and actors Jeramie Rain and Martin Kove. “Crime” looks at the roots and development of Last House, influences on the film, aspects of its tone and violence, script and story, cast and performances, camerawork, editing and music, the flick’s initial release and reactions to it, and how the movie affected the careers of its participants.
“Crime” essentially renders “Standing” moot, as it repeats the useful parts of that featurette. “Crime” accentuates the commentary well and gives us a very nice overview of the production. It doesn’t shy away from controversy, as it embraces the negative elements associated with the flick; heck, the show even examines Lincoln’s dislike for it. We find a solid examination of Last House here.
Scoring Last House goes for nine minutes, 44 seconds and features Hess. He talks about the film’s music and also sings some of its songs. Hess throws out a few minor insights, but don’t expect a ton. He already covers most of this stuff in the commentary, and I find it tough to take his discussion of the music seriously since I think Last House comes with one of the worst scores ever composed.
Next comes an incomplete short film called Tales That Will Tear Your Heart Out. It runs 11 minutes, 29 seconds and comes from “a section of an unfinished anthology film directed by Wes Craven”. The 1976 flick failed to come to fruition due to monetary issues, and the footage we find is silent.
Which makes it of dubious value. I suppose Craven fans will be interested in it, but since there’s nothing here to set up the scenes or characters, we never have any idea what the flick’s about or what’s happening. Couldn’t they have at least provided dialogue subtitles for the silent footage? This is a forgettable reel.
Some cut material appears next. We get a Deleted Scene called “Mari Dying At the Lake” (0:59) as well as Never-Before-Seen Footage (5:36). The former gives a little more exposition that shows Mari when her parents find her, while the latter offers more material from the lakeside rape/torture sequences. As with Tales, the “Never-Before-Seen Footage” lacks sound, so it loses some value. We still see some moderately interesting outtakes. “Dying” isn’t terribly appealing, though, as it adds little.
After this we get a featurette called It’s Only a Movie. The 29-minute, one-second program mainly combines movie clips and new interviews with Craven, Cunningham, production assistant/assistant editor Steve Miner, and actors David Hess, Marc Sheffler, Fred Lincoln, Lucy Grantham, and Martin Kove. Some dailies, production materials, and still photos also appear; the show’s worth a look in just to see hippie-era Craven
Happily, that’s not the only attraction during this strong documentary. The program offers a solid discussion of the production. The participants cover the genesis of the collaboration between Craven and Cunningham and it also discusses the casting. They also toss out a lot of good production anecdotes and we get notes about the development of the film’s title and reactions to the flick. A few of these repeat material heard in the commentary, but most of it remains unique to this very entertaining and lively program.
That finishes the first side, so we now go to side two. Outtakes & Dailies gives us 14 minutes and one second of silent footage. We see behind the scenes shots from the creation of a few different scenes. Most of these don’t seem very interesting since we can’t hear anything, but the shots of Jeramie Rain as she plays with some fake intestines are very gross.
In addition to the movie’s silly theatrical trailer, the set provides a featurette called Forbidden Footage. Although the title implies it’ll include deleted scenes, nothing we see here fails to appear elsewhere on the disc. Instead, the eight-minute and 12-second program adds some additional comments about the film from Craven, Cunningham, Miner and actors Lincoln and Grantham. The material offers some interesting moments, but I’m not clear why the producers didn’t just incorporate it into the longer documentary.
Nearly 40 years after it first hit screens, The Last House on the Left still maintains a reputation as one of the most brutal and unnerving films ever made. I must admit I don’t get it. To be sure, the movie includes a lot of unpleasant material, but the ridiculously amateurish production defuses much of the impact. I found it impossible to take any of the action seriously due to the poor manner in which the filmmakers executed the piece.
The Blu-ray provides awful picture and mediocre audio, both of which were affected by the film’s bargain basement nature. We do find a nice collection of supplements, though, one that amasses all the components from both of the prior DVD releases. This is the best release of the flick due to its somewhat stronger audio and its more complete set of extras, but no one should expect improved visuals; this was, is and always will be an unattractive image, and Blu-ray can’t change that.
To rate this film visit the original review of THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT