The original The Last House on the Left went out to theaters with an R rating, but it wasn’t one that came from the MPAA. The new The Last House on the Left has an R rating, and it was granted by the MPAA with what sounds like enthusiasm, according to Wes Craven.
The new film isn’t quite as graphic or brutal as the original, but it’s pretty hardcore. The central rape scene remains very rough, and there’s more violence and even nudity (and violence and nudity) sprinkled throughout. We’re living in an era with a more permissive MPAA for sure (the Watchmen Owlship sex scene would have not gotten past the MPAA a decade ago), but I was still shocked at what producer Wes Craven and director Dennis Iliadis managed to get into a movie that’s hitting malls across America this weekend.
I spoke with Craven at a party for the film a couple of weeks ago, and I asked him about the different MPAA experiences with the different versions of the film. “I had no idea the MPAA existed,” he laughed when talking about making his first film way back in 1972. That’s ironic when you consider that Craven and the MPAA would be butting heads again and again throughout the 80s and the 90s (Scream was almost murdered by the ratings board).
Craven and his co-producer Sean Cunnningham submitted their original Last House to the MPAA and it was rejected for an R. Cunningham had the idea to substitute white leader film for all the scenes the MPAA made them cut. “Eventually we had a 65 minute long movie,” Craven said.
Realizing that there was no possible way the movie they made would ever get an R rating, Cunningham hit on a plan. The two went to a post-production facility across the street from their editing room and asked if they had an R rating tag laying around. They brought the R tag back to the editing room and simply attached it to their uncut film. They put an R rating on the poster. And they sent their film, unedited and with a phony R, into the world.
This time the MPAA experience was easier. And the R rating you’ll see on the film and the poster is a real R rating. While the ratings board asked for some trims, they left most of the movie intact. “They said it was a work of art,” Craven told me proudly.
The Last House on the Left a work of art? How things have changed in almost forty years. Find out for yourself this weekend, when the new movie opens everywhere.