Come August 30th, the 5th anniversary of Wes Craven's tragic passing will be here. I therefore decided to take a look back on some of the non-'Nightmare' films he did, which I have never seen until now. Although, regarding the first two titles on the list, I have seen their remakes; 'The Hills Have Eyes', and this, which you could watch as a double feature if you wanna feel incredibly uncomfortable for a few hours.
This particular film has reached the mantle of being a strong cult classic, considering the people involved in its creation - Wes Craven of 'Elm Street' fame writing and directing, and Sean S. Cunningham of 'Friday the 13th' fame producing, and this was pretty much a first for both of them, though Cunningham produced one film before it called 'Together', which was altogether his own. This film, regardless of how one may feel about it, is a piece of horror cinema history, bringing together the soon-to-be creators of Freddy and Jason, and they do a very good job here with getting to their audience.
The story revolves mainly around two girls, Mari Collingwood (Sandra Peabody), about to turn 17, and her friend, Phyllis Stone (Lucy Grantham). The pair head to a concert in what's considered a bad neighborhood, despite Mari's parents objections. She insists that Phyllis is street smart, and that they'll be okay as long as they stick together. Stick together, they do, but tragically not in the way they had hoped. In the meantime, Mari's parents are setting up for her birthday celebration when she comes back, making everything all the more harder to watch.
Upon asking a stranger where they could possibly score some weed, Mari and Phyllis find themselves in a spider's web situation, as they are forced to face every teenage girl's worst nightmare; a group of sexually deviant serial killers. About 80% of the film is a dragged out and perfectly uncomfortable series of events, and it's altogether pretty horrifying to sit through, especially if you're like me and really squirm at that kind of stuff. Although, I will say that if you have seen the 2009 remake, it is much more graphic. I found myself fast-forwarding the discomfort after a couple of minutes because I just couldn't sit through it. This is much more dragged out, but probably not quite as brutal... but it's still not cool, man.
Now, I've mentioned it a few times before, but I am absolutely not one to sit through torture porn. I simply don't like the shock value of it all, and the 2009 remake of this really cemented that fact. What's not so known about me is that often I feel like some of that can slide as long as the revenge taken on these characters ensures they get whatever they deserve. Honestly, 9 times out of 10, it works out that way, and this film is no exception. I won't say exactly what happens, but the revenge aspect of the film is what triggers thought. You come to realize that some of the revenge aspects may or may not be more brutal that what the revenge is about - but you also have no question about who the bad guys are. I have to admit that it's kind of interesting, and it's a good jumping off point for Craven and Cunningham.
With that said, however, that's just me. It should be very clear that this is absolutely not just one of those famous horror movies I'd recommend people check out based on whatever. It's an hour and a half of pure discomfort, one way or another, and I still had a hard time sitting through it - although having seen the remake, I pretty much knew what I was in for. The "trigger warning" list here is pretty extensive, and it wouldn't be any sort of surprise if one doesn't feel like sitting through it.
For what it is, it has its place in the horror history books. Aside from the names attached, it was also a borderline snuff film that went mainstream, and very risky for 1972. For context, one of the most shocking films of all time, 'The Exorcist', wouldn't be around until the next year, and that plays with the supernatural. This plays with real-world issues, and provides an in-depth cautionary tale about venturing out there and talking to strangers, even if you feel you're grown enough to take care of yourself. Craven could always write teenagers being forced to face their worst fears, and he does it here in a way that makes you fear for them.
It's very hard to give this one any sort of rating. It's not something I'd rush back to anytime soon, or even really felt like watching in the first place. It's uncomfortable and difficult to sit through without cringing. But if that's the whole point behind it, then it's effective - and the whole revenge aspect of it is more than just a guy with a gun - it goes full tilt slasher. Considering this film's place in the history books, and the idea that it made me look at this kind of thing in a new light (appreciating it, not necessarily liking it) I'm gonna play generously. After all, without the film's success, would I have ever seen a 'Friday the 13th' or 'Elm Street' film? If you're curious to see a bit of history for the horror books, I say go for it, but proceed with the utmost caution. I'll say it again; trigger warnings are all over this thing.