Wednesday, October 19, 2011


The whole thing about this thing is that October is devoted to horror movies I haven't seen before.  So this alternate cut of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT is bending the rules, but it is an alternate cut and of course David Hess died recently, so I felt like watching it.  As far as I know, it can only be found on the 3-disc "ultimate edition" released in the UK.  Ironic, given that LAST HOUSE was banned from release in England during the video-nasty years.

Everything that could be written about LAST HOUSE has been written.  It's one of the most important films in horror because it was one of a group of movies that drove horror out of foggy vampire castles and into real life.  It forsook old tropes and traded them in for modern intensity.  That's because it's perhaps the ultimate "great-on-accident" film.  When Wes Craven directed it, he had no idea what a horror movie was, having been raised extremely Christian.  So a lot of the disconcerting things that drive people away from this film—the goofy comedy bleeding into horrifying sexual humiliation and bloody violence—exist because Wes Craven didn't know The Way to make a horror movie yet.  There is so much comedy here, peppered throughout the film.  Some of it is laugh out loud material, like when the exasperated Sheriff says, "Sometimes I wish I could be something else", and his dull-witted deputy answers, "Like a duck?"  Some is awkwardly placed and would not have happened if Craven knew the rules, like when Weasel is chasing Phyllis after her torture in the woods and wheezes, "I gotta quit smokin'!"

This would be a much less notable film without all that business, but it was also fortunate that David Hess was involved in this movie.  I like a lot of the performances on the bad-guy side, but Hess is definitely the stealer of the show as Krug.  A lesser actor would have stuck to one note, but Hess delivered scenes of real menace and scenes of weird comedy with the same energy (the first time Krug is on screen, he pops a kid's balloon with his cigar).  David Hess is also responsible for another essential component of LAST HOUSE/KRUG -- the music.  

David Hess started off his career as a musician prior to becoming an actor, writing songs for Elvis Presley and Pat Boone(!) among others.  He stated in interviews that he considered himself a musician first and tended to see his roles in terms of the music that might be played on the soundtrack.  Without David Hess, this movie would not have the haunting "Wait for the Rain" or the bizarre "Baddies' Theme".  It just wouldn't be the same thing.


The KRUG AND COMPANY cut actually varies very little from the LAST HOUSE that you've seen.  There's an additional brief scene of Sadie "tormenting" the girls and a scene in which Mari's parents find her alive (I prefer the standard version).  The print on the disc is pretty trashed with lots of scratches and pops.  But it's still worth a watch if you are refined enough to love this movie.  And the documentaries and stories on the Ultimate Edition make it well worth the purchase and postage.  RIP David Hess.

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