Vinyl Review: Last House On The Left Soundtrack (One Way Static Re-Issue)
When people talk about The Last House On The Left, one of the things they usually don’t bring up is the film’s score.
That’s not to say it’s bad or not worth mentioning, it’s just that in a film that features some of the most disturbing scenes of depravity and sadism ever put to celluloid, I guess discussions about the music kind of get swept aside.
In fact, the soundtrack never even got an official release when the movie first came out (despite what Wikipedia may tell you). It wasn’t actually released at all until 1999, and that was an ultra-limited edition affair that vanished almost immediately. It’s not until now, in 2013, that the film’s complete soundtrack is seeing a wide release – thanks to the new genre re-issue label One Way Static.
And it’s a really weird record.
Seriously. There’s a part with a kazoo.
The soundtrack to the Last House On The Left was widely composed and performed by the David Hess, who also starred as the film’s terrifyingly psychotic villain Krug Stillo. While Hess largely became known as a film villain in the 70s up through the 90s (mainly because of his performance in Last House) he actually got his start in the music business. In the early-60s he worked as a singer and songwriter, and even wrote a few songs for Elvis Presley, which is probably why some parts of the film’s soundtrack sound so out of place when compared to the horrific actions being committed on screen. Sure, there are tracks like the intro theme and a few somber instrumental interludes that fit the film’s dark tone, but then there are tracks like “Sadie And King,” which combines violent lyrics detailing the tragic fates of the film’s protagonists with an upbeat country beat (and that out-of-place kazoo) that just seem bizarre.
Even weirder are the occasional electronic bits that make up a handful of the tracks on the score. These very minimal, very experimental all-synthesizer compositions (which were typically employed during some of the more gruesome scenes) are very jarring and out-of-place when sandwiched in between Hess’s upbeat folk-rock and acoustic instrumentals. Although I guess that fits with the film’s overall feeling, which is also jarring with its odd switches between disturbing sexual violence and wacky screwball comedy (Remember the sheriff bits? Yikes).
This is the first release by One Way Static Records and they’ve really done a great job with it. Limited edition colored variants were available from their website, but I just bought the plain black edition at a record store. It sounds great, and the packaging, a nice gatefold sleeve with excellent linear notes from various exploitation film filmmakers, is also excellent. About the only thing I don’t like about the package is the bizarre OBI-like-strip that wraps around the spine. It’s not glued on, and you can’t affix it in any way, so keeping it with the sleeve (in the name of completeness) is a bit of a hassle. Although, I guess if I have to nitpick about packaging extras then that’s a pretty good sign.
The Last House soundtrack, just like the movie from which it comes from, is not for everyone. It’s an uneven and odd record that never really feels like a cohesive collection of music, it’s more like a hodgepodge of random tunes and bizarre electronic experiments. But if you’re a fan of the film, or like me and just like to hoard genre soundtracks, then you’ll enjoy this release. Also, for a freshman release by a new company, it’s remarkable. Here’s hoping One Way Static keeps it up for their next one, the score to The Hills Have Eyes.