The Last House On The Beach (1978)

DVD Cover (Severin Films)
Francesco Prosperi Francesco Prosperi
Florinda Bolkan Florinda Bolkan
Ray Lovelock Ray Lovelock
Flavio Andreini Flavio Andreini
Sherry Buchanan Sherry Buchanan
Stefano Cedrati Stefano Cedrati

5.8 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres: Horror, Nunsploitation, Sadistic Horror
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Review by Chad
Added: September 29, 2008
Whenever a film is released and does some semblance of business in theaters or in the home video department, you can bet your ass that there will be imitators. A film does not have to be a mega-blockbuster to be imitated; no sir, just look at the recent crop of blockbuster parodies such as Date Movie and Epic Movie for proof of that. Every now and then, a film comes along that inspires the usual crop of imitations and knockoffs, and at the same time, these films create a whole new genre. Night of the Living Dead did this with the zombie genre, and even though we're just a few days shy of the fortieth anniversary of that film's debut, you can still see Romero's original vision in just about every zombie flick released today. Would we even have the undead without his film?

Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left also inspired a subgenre of films, that being... well, I suppose that you could label them as "home invasion / rape / murder / revenge" flicks, even though that doesn't exactly roll off the tongue quite as easily as "zombie flick" or "torture porn." Although these films didn't catch on over here in the States to any extent, they were huge business everywhere else in the world, especially over in Italy where horror fans expected the lines to be pushed just a little more than those of us living over here. Each of these films attempted to inject a little variety into their storylines, but they all basically boiled down to the same thing: a group of thugs barge into an innocent family's house, terrorize them for a while, and then... well, one of the two factions usually winds up laying in a pool of their own blood. The Last House on the Beach is no exception, and surprisingly, the film is pretty damned good.

We begin the film with three such thugs - Aldo (Ray Lovelock), Walter (Flavio Andreini), and Nino (Stefano Cedrati) - carrying out a bank robbery that ends with our heroes carting away a bag full of cash and leaving numerous innocent bystanders dead. They manage to make a clean getaway and elude the cops for a while, but as is always the case, something goes wrong: namely, their car dies on them. Luck is with them, however, as they spot a fancy house nearby and decide to hole up there for a couple of days until they can get their car fixed.

What they find is that the house is inhabited by a nun named Sister Cristina (Florinda Bolkan) along with five of her students (Italian exploitation mainstays Sherry Buchanan, Laura Tanziani, Luisa Maneri, Laura Trotter, and Karina Verlier). The three gentleman realize that they can probably do more than just hole up in this house for a while, and what follows is a couple of days worth of rape, torture, humiliation, and desperate attempts at escape by the ladies. How much will they endure before hitting their collective breaking point and putting the crucifixes away and opting for revenge instead of prayer?

Yes, this particular film attempted to mix in a little nunsploitation with the storyline, but make no mistake about it: this is your typical home invasion flick, complete with everything one would expect from the genre. Originality was not its selling point, but this doesn't necessarily make it a bad film. Substandard dubbing notwithstanding, I felt that the cast members turned in surprisingly good performances, and there is one rape scene in particular that is especially powerful thanks to the actress "selling" it better than most actresses would have.

Making this meal even tastier is the fact that Franco Prosperi (of Mondo Cane fame) really knew how to shoot a scene; the aforementioned rape scene wasn't overly graphic in and of itself, but thanks to the way that it was shot and the way the actress was highlighted during the act, it worked better than it could have. Also, watch for a kill towards the end of the film that would sound trivial on paper, but is especially memorable thanks to the way that it was filmed. Of course, there's also the ending... well, I'm not going to spoil it, but the final scene here imitates a scene from another movie that Quentin Tarantino "borrowed" from for one of his releases.

With that said, I should point out that this is a film that relies more on the character interactions rather than mindless violence and endless humiliation. Granted, there is a body count, sure, there are a couple of rape scenes, and yes, there's one particularly nasty scene that fans of the red stuff will enjoy, but keep in mind that this film does not give us brutality and bloodshed from start to finish. This is not a bad thing with this particular film, as I felt that there was enough of a story here to keep things interesting throughout the running time, but those of you who watch these films for wall-to-wall titties and gore may walk away disappointed.

The only real fault that I could find with the film was the dubbing, which sort of dragged down a scene or two thanks to the voice actors not being as convincing as they could have been. It's far from a deal breaker as the dubbing wasn't as bad here as it is in most films that pull this little stunt, but it is noticeable. I'm not sure if the film was originally dubbed or if Severin Films decided to release this without the original audio track, but personally, I would have preferred subtitles. Still, it's an entertaining film, and even though it's not terribly original, those of you who enjoyed the numerous similar films that came before this will probably enjoy this one just as much. 7.5/10.
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