Appellate Judge Tom Becker stayed at the Last House on the Beach. He kept telling himself, "It's only a vacation."
Suspense! Action! And an enchanting story! A test of your endurance!
If there's any doubt as to the influence of Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left, consider how many cheap-o exploitation films came along in its wake titled, "Last House…" We've had Last House Near the Lake, Last House in Istanbul, Last House on Dead End Street, plus the various "sequels" and a promised remake. Throw in the movies that co-opted LHotL's semi-brilliant ad campaign ("It's only a movie!"), and you've got enough crap celluloid to cover a landfill.
Which leads us to today's gem of the Mediterranean, Last House on the Beach (aka La Settima Donna, aka Terror—it's worth noting that many "Last House" cash-ins are imports that were actually called something else in their native lands).
This House houses a group of schoolgirls on a retreat with a nun, the hotsy-totsy Sister Christina (Florinda Bolkan, Don't Torture a Duckling). The girls pass their time sunbathing topless, reciting Shakespeare while wearing papier mâché animal heads, and chattering so incessantly that the English-language dubbers sound winded trying to keep up.
Suddenly, this seaside idyll is invaded by what appears to be a trio of malevolent boy banders. But don't be fooled—these new kids are off their rockers. They've just robbed a bank, shot some people, they're looking for a place to "hole up" 'til the heat's off—and they're sexual deviants! What a stroke of luck to stumble upon Sister Looks-Good-Naked and her nubile charges.
Last House on the Beach is a creaky, low-rent, Italian bungalow of an exploitation movie. The title alone should give you some idea of what you're in for—the "Last House" brand indicates some poor lovely is going to be brutalized and her attacker(s) made to pay—and once you hear Bolkan addressed as "Sister," you might think you've chanced upon a hallowed hybrid of sleaze: rape revenge and nunsploitation. Well, cool your jets, Charlie.
Yes, there's a rape here; a couple of rapes, actually. One is in slow motion and involves a guy in drag make-up; another makes use of a rather unpleasant looking object and includes repeat shots of a character wielding said object along with close ups of the teary eyes of the victim. While all this is certainly harrowing just by virtue of existing, it's not especially well-done or notable.
Part of the power of Craven's LHotL was that we got to know the characters—victims and villains—before the violence occurred, plus there was the jarring, yet effective, tonal shifting.
In LHotB, the girls are pretty interchangeable. We barely see them before the goons crash their vacation, and we don't see much of the goons before that, either. When the revenge part kicks in, it's pretty perfunctory and not half as grotesque as what Craven serves up.
As far as nunsploitation goes, this is rather tepid. Yes, Sister Christina is forcibly stripped in front of her cowering charges, and yes, she's later raped by two of the jugheads in a scene that seems strangely truncated, given this is the "uncut and uncensored for the first time" version. However, Bolkan gets off without being burned, boiled, or flayed alive, a fate that befell her more famous nunsploitation character, Flavia the Heretic—good for Sister Christina, not so good for fans of truly sick cinema.
Severin gives us an OK release, with a very nice widescreen transfer and decent audio (English dubtrack only, no subtitles). For extras, we get an interview with Ray Lovelock (The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue), who plays the "cute" thug (think Paul McCartney with a switchblade) and the German and Italian trailers.
You don't really watch a "Last House" movie so much as you subject yourself to it. Our trip to the beach is no exception. If badly dubbed Euro pseudo-shockers are your thing, then by all means, check this one out. Everyone else might just want to go for a swim and forget it.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Severin Films
• "Holy Beauty vs. The Evil Beasts," Interview with Ray Lovelock
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