Coroner’s Corner: Sleazy Roots Run Deep
by John Bikowski
Wes Craven is back, creepin’ out viewers with the thriller Red Eye. Most people associate Wes with his enormously popular Freddy Krueger creation in The Nightmare on Elm Street series. True aficionados can trace Wes back to one of the most infamous films of all time, The Last House on the Left. In the early ’70s, this film knocked audiences on their asses with its realistic portrayal of depravity and graphic violence. Watching this film gives the viewer a growing sense of guilt the longer you let the film run. As appalled as initial audiences were, the film did quite well. Eventually, the brutal content threatened to ruin the careers of all that were involved.
After the initial 1972 release, the film ran for a while in art houses and drive-ins until it showed up in a poor quality VHS from Vestron Video. It was marketed as “horror,” but in reality, it’s more of a “drama” for fans of the extreme. Surprisingly, MGM has restored the film to its uncut version, and has put together a top-notch DVD full of treats like documentaries and commentaries. Now a whole new generation of jaded viewers can sample the genius of Wes Craven at a very reasonable price.
The theme of the story is that even the kindest souls can resort to mind-numbing violence if provoked with the murder of a loved one. The story begins with sexy but sweet-seventeen Mari Collingwood on her way to a Bloodlust concert. Her conservative parents reluctantly let her go with her more seasoned pal Phyllis. The two young lasses try to score some weed before the show, but are tricked and captured by a group of escaped convicts/sadists. Krug (David Hess), the leader, is wanted for the triple murder of a priest and two nuns (nice guy!), and then there’s the horny Weasel, the animalistic Sadie, and the hooked on heroin Junior (Krug’s son). The film assaults your tastes by repeatedly cutting back and forth from Mari’s parents blissfully preparing her birthday party to Krug and company’s prolonged sexual, physical, and mental abuse of the two teens. After a long night, the girls are tossed into the trunk and driven out to the country. Ironically, the car breaks down right next to Mari’s house. The torture continues as the ladies are dragged into the woods and forced to pee their pants, fondle each other, and beat each other for Krug’s entertainment. When things get out of hand, the girls are slain and the murderers wash up and unknowingly head to Mari’s house. Krug lies about being an insurance salesmen with car trouble, and even though Mari’s parents are worried about their daughter’s disappearance, they open their home to the strangers. After overhearing some clues and discovering bloody clothing, the parents secretly head to the lake and find Mari’s hacked up body and realize the true horror of what happened. These two sweet people then embark on a full-force murder/revenge spree that is simply classic. After scenes of chainsawed torsos, death by penis chewing, and slit throats, Mari is avenged. End film.
The low budget and gritty filming actually brought out the grunge effect needed to tell the story. When Phyllis is told to “piss your pants,” she really does it. Yeah, the film is dated with funky clothes and hairdos, but it all adds to the charm. Especially charming is that despite the heavy violence, there are also some very funny scenes and dialogue.
Thanks to my Lollipop affiliation, I was able to sit down and chat with Krug (David Hess). He still scares the hell out of me, but he’s a helluva nice guy. I didn’t realize that he wrote and performed all of the music in the film. And he joked about how people in real life used to scream and run away from him if they recognized him from the flick. As far as I can tell, he only rapes and pillages in the film.