There are 3 key points in the directing career of filmmaker Wes Craven that firmly cement him as one of the leading figures in modern horror cinema. It began with his 1972 directorial debut LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and continued with THE HILLS HAVE EYES which defined that decade of horror with gritty, realistic exploitation movies. At the height of the “slasher” boom in the early ’80s, just as the sub-genre was getting tired, Craven completely redefined it with A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. And again, in the mid-90’s, the self-aware, satirical nature of SCREAM ushered in a slew of copy-cats in its wake.
In the first half of his career, it was rare for Craven, himself, to take part in sequels to his own films. He only did THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART 2 out of financial necessity. And with NEW NIGHTMARE, it was a chance to rectify his absence from the NIGHTMARE franchise up until that point. In the latter half of his career, he wisely stayed on board to helm all four SCREAM movies. He also oversaw and produced the post-2000 remakes of his earliest films. But the one rumored film that almost became part of his filmography – which through the years has only yielded minor proof of its existence – is LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT PART 2, a direct sequel to the original film that kicked off his career in horror.
Let’s pull together all the facts and see what we can come up with to prove the validity of the proposed LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT PART 2! The most curious part is, considering the “finality” of the fates of David Hess’s Krug and his crew, where the hell could a sequel go? Well, apparently, hell would be the starting point.
Blumhouse.com contributor Stephen Scarlata had begun researching LAST HOUSE 2 for a potential piece on the website based on the fact that he vaguely remembered seeing a teaser trailer on an old Vestron Video VHS release. He only managed to dig up a few scattered pieces of information, however. I also called upon fellow contributor and author Joseph Maddrey, who had interviewed both Craven and producer Sean Cunningham on several occasions to see if anything about LAST HOUSE 2 emerged from those conversations. Last year, Maddrey released a book titled BEYOND FEAR, which reflects on the works of Stephen King, Wes Craven and George Romero. I was intrigued by one quickie sentence from his book which read, “Craven initially planned to write a sequel in which Krug and company return from hell and resume their killing spree, but he ultimately decided not to go there.”
When I asked Maddrey about this line in his book, he told me that the LAST HOUSE 2 sequel was mentioned in Brian J. Robb’s book SCREAMS & NIGHTMARES p. 32: “The director had his own idea for a sequel, which involved Krug and company coming back from hell to continue their reign of terror, but he felt people weren’t quite ready for that.”
While Maddrey never directly asked Wes Craven about LAST HOUSE 2, he did question the filmmaker about whether or not he ever considered directing the LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT remake, himself, to which Craven replied, “I would never go back to that. I think it’s almost inexcusable to go back, personally. That was done at a time when you just burn all your bridges and don’t care what anybody thinks about you, and so it’s just painful. I feel like you have a right as an artist to do anything once, but to repeat it just because it might sell….”
Earlier this year, Maddrey interviewed Cunningham for an article about the duo’s lost years together. While not featured in that actual article, Maddrey did bring up the “Krug escapes from hell” LAST HOUSE 2 rumor to see if it was ever seriously considered. He laughed and said, “I think we were both heavily into drugs at that time. I don’t think there was any way to take that seriously. That would not have been a serious consideration, at least not in the 70s certainly.”
Despite Cunningham’s comments, several very different versions of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT PART 2 have surfaced in recent years. While not connected to the Craven/Cunningham movie in any way, famed Italian filmmaker Ruggero Deodato (most well-known for CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST) directed David Hess as Alex, a very similar character to LAST HOUSE’s Krug, in the 1980 exploitation flick HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK.
In 1975, NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS was released in some territories as LAST HOUSE II. It also went under the title LAST STOP ON THE NIGHT TRAIN, and there’s a poster floating around where it’s called THE NEW HOUSE ON THE LEFT. Meanwhile, Mario Bava’s TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE, also known as BAY OF BLOOD, was released in some territories as LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT 2. Despite the fact that there’s no relation, nor any stars from the original in Bava’s movie, David Hess is still prominently featured in some of the newspaper ads for it. Ironically enough, a lot of the kills in the early FRIDAY THE 13TH films were lifted directly from TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE. But none of these were “official” sequels or tie-ins, until… 1985!
Shortly after the release of FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: A NEW BEGINNING, Vestron Video had planned a LAST HOUSE sequel and set FRIDAY V and SAVAGE STREETS director Danny Steinmann as the writer/director. VHS cassettes of Vestron’s heavily edited LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT release featured a teaser trailer after the main feature. The tagline read, “The House that set the standard for terror… You Won’t Believe Your Eyes!” Followed by a “Coming Soon” title card.
Despite my best efforts, I’ve been unable to track down this teaser anywhere online. (If someone’s got that Vestron VHS, do the right thing and get that thing up on You Tube!)
Initially, Craven claims to have written a script which Steinmann rejected! In the book LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT: THE MAKING OF A CULT CLASSIC by David A. Szulkin, Craven is quoted as saying, “I wrote a script for (producers) Philip Scuderi (and Steve Minasian), which had Krug and Weasel coming back from hell. But he decided he wanted to go in a different direction.”
In a set-report interview* with FANGORIA during the production of FRIDAY V, Steinmann spoke in detail about what he had planned for his version of LAST HOUSE II. The last paragraph of the article reads: “When the production of A NEW BEGINNING finishes, Steinmann forges right ahead into BEYOND THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, to be shot in Wisconsin in April. (1985) Krug, the ringleader of the band of sadists in the first LAST HOUSE picture, returns in the sequel, now making his home an isolated island with a group of reprobate friends. Krug will be played once more by David Hess. In what Steinmann describes as a DELIVERANCE-style situation, a group of kids on a rafting trip get lost and winds up on Krug’s island. Grisly terror no doubt awaits them.”
Sadly, it never went before cameras. There’s a citation on the LAST HOUSE Wikipedia page that claims it was due to rights issues, meaning someone who held the rights to the original blocked the sequel’s production from happening. Although, according to an interview with David Hess, perhaps it was for the best. “I saw a couple of different scripts, and one was worse than the next…it kind of fizzled. At one time they were going to set it up at a summer camp. Danny and I had a lot of talks about it, and we didn’t want to make a straight slasher movie… we thought that once we got on set, we could work with it and make it more interesting. After all, it would seem to me that it would be pretty hard to make a sequel to LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT; I mean, how are you going to better it?”
Did we really need a LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT PART 2? Of course not. But I’m intrigued by the desire not only to make one over the years, but to substitute so many other existing films as a LAST HOUSE sequel.
Either way, we will always have the original. And the much-better-than-it-should-be 2009 remake from Dennis Iliadis.
Below is a fun fan video showcasing her vast LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT collection!
* FANGORIA, Vol 3, Issue 44, p. 23, by David Everitt
** Special thanks to Stephen Scarlata and Joseph Maddrey with their help researching this article