By Michael Goth
During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s three low budget horror films redefined the horror genre. The films were George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968), Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left (1972) and Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).
Craven’s film was and remains to this day the most unsettling of the three, which is probably why it didn’t take in nearly as much at the box office as Hooper’s and Romero’s. It’s my guess that until MGM released Last House on video during the summer of 2000 that more people had probably heard about the film then had actually seen it. And that MGM release, like an 80’s release of the film that was banned as a “video nasty”, featured many of the film’s more graphic scenes edited down. It wasn’t until 2003 that MGM put out an uncut version of the film on DVD.
The Last House on the Left starts out rather comical and lightweight before an almost unbearable horror and sense of dread takes over. Even in the early scenes there is a certain intensity and feeling of doom just beneath the surface of the humor.
While recently watching the teaser trailer for a new film currently In production called Within These Walls, I was reminded of my very first time seeing Craven’s classic but unquestionably disturbing classic.
Within These Walls is a psychological horror film written by Kelsey Zukowski and James Tucker, with Tucker directing. The story is about a young woman (Zukowski), who has recently lost her mother. She decides to stay in the house that her mother had lived in. However, the house is home to more than just memories. There is a lurking evil possessing the house that will pray on all of the young woman’s weaknesses and will bring her to the edge of madness like Jack Nicholson in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.
Kelsey Zukowski has stated to being an admirer of Wes Craven, which may account for why the scenes in the teaser trailer for Within These Walls feels so much like early Craven such as Last House and 1977’s The Hills Have Eyes. Also, director Tucker seems to have a documentary film like style which Craven also brought to his first two films.
Another trait that the team of Zukowski and Tucker share with Craven is the desire to take an audience on a psychological trip that will test their endurance. When Craven made The Last House on the Left there were cases of grown men crying while watching the film as it presented an intensity and realism in its portrayal of violence that no one had ever seen before.
In an era when many horror movies rely too much on CGI effects and bloodletting to get a reaction from an audience, Within These Walls represents a return to old style movie making when horror was a way to address cultural and psychological issues. James Tucker and Kelsey Zukowski are using horror today very much the way Wes Craven did in the 1970’s.