david a hess

The Last House on the Left (1972)

Starring: Sandra Cassel, Lucy Grantham, David A. Hess, Fred Lincoln, Jeramie Rain, Marc Sheffler

Screenplay: Wes Craven

Director: Wes Craven

It’s weird to think of this trash classic being 40 years old now. It’s based on Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, but only loosely, and it has no pretensions towards art, though it’s definitely unique.

Mari (Cassel) goes to celebrate her 17th birthday with a loose friend, Phyllis, at a rock concert. She lives with her parents in a home out in a rural, wooded area, the house of the film’s title. On the way to the show, which apparently is near a slum, they try to score some weed from a young man (Sheffler) hanging out on a stoop. He leads them to his apartment, where he then locks them in with his gang. He’s Junkie, the son of the gang’s leader, Krug (Hess), who apparently got him hooked, and then there’s Weasel (Lincoln), a nattily dressed molester, and finally, Sadie (Rain), the bisexual sadist. 

After what we can assume was a night of gang rape, the girls are locked in a car trunk and taken out to the country. Our gang are fugitives and know they need to get out of town. By an incredible coincidence, they park across from Mari’s house. Her parents and the cops searching for Mari both fail to look into the fugitives’ car, and then the two officers’ car runs out of gas, leading to lots of would-be comedy, while Mari and Phyllis undergo more torture and try to survive. Phyllis makes a run for it while Krug is looking for wood, leaving Weasel and Sadie to chase after her and Mari try to convince the not-yet-irredeemable Junkie to let her go. Surprisingly, neither make it, and the film takes a surprising turn, as Krug & Co spend the night with Mari’s kind parents. The mom comes to realize these fiends killed her little girl, and the parents concoct a surprisingly elaborate revenge.

Craven’s an entertaining filmmaker, even here, with little budget. It’s an exploitation film, starting off right away with a shower scene and then making a big deal about Mari’s budding sexuality, but there’s at least some point to it. In a scene with her parents, they discuss not only how much Mari is becoming a woman but how the peace and love generation had gotten darker, foreshadowing the depravity to come. Craven makes some mistakes, such as the parents’ revenge, which has a more gimmicky tone than the grimly realistic rest of the main story. Another flaw is the goofy bits of business with the bumbling cops, and these scenes and some others are scored with corny, upbeat music not suited to a thriller. Other parts of the movie feature sensitive singer-songwriter stuff from Hess, the same guy who plays the monstrous Krug. The songs aren’t particularly good, but do differentiate this from most horror movies.

It’s kind of interesting what happened to the cast of this unassuming film. Lincoln had a long career in porn, Hess has been a musician and director, and Rain was involved with Bob Dylan and John Belushi, and was married to Richard Dreyfuss. 

…Capitalism is basically a system where everything is for sale, and the more money you have, the more you can get. And, in particular, that’s true of freedom. Freedom is one of the commodities that is for sale, and if you are affluent, you can have a lot of it. It shows up in all sorts of ways. It shows up if you get in trouble with the law, let’s say, or in any aspect of life it shows up. And for that reason it makes a lot of sense, if you accept the capitalist system, to try to accumulate property, not just because you want material welfare, but because that guarantees your freedom, it makes it possible for you to amass that commodity. […] what you’re going to find is that the defense of free institutions will largely be in the hands of those who benefit from them, namely the wealthy, and the powerful. They can purchase that commodity and, therefore, they want those institutions to exist, like free press, and all that.
—  “Anarchism : Noam Chomsky interviewed by David Dobereiner, John Hess, Doug Richardson & Tom Woodhull” in: C. P. Otero (ed.), Language and Politics, Black Rose, 1988, pp. 166-196, January, 1974.
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Sean Pertwee, Ben McKenzie, Michael Chiklis, Cory Michael Smith, Chris Chalk, Erin Richards, Robin Lord Taylor, Drew Powell, Camren Bicondova, Morena Baccarin, Jessica Lucas and David Mazouz at the FOX FANFARE AT SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON on Saturday, July 23

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10 Trickiest Trompe L’oeils in Summer Gallery Shows

The practice of tricking viewers to think an artwork is something else dates back to antiquity, but it never gets old. Indeed it’s one of the top trends of the summer art season, judging by the number of gallery shows featuring objects that flaunt mad technical skills–and a deadpan sense of humor–to make you do that double-take. See if you can guess the materials of these trompe l’oeil works currently on view in Chelsea and the Lower East Side.

From top: David Adamo, “Untitled (orange peel),” 2014, bronze, at Kai Matsumiya; Nicolas Party Blackam, “Stone (orange),“ 2012, acrylic on stone, at Salon 94 Bowery; Hannah Cole, "Safety Fence,” 2015, acrylic on canvas, at The Lodge Gallery; Bill Adams, “Balls,” 2015, clay, acrylic, and marker, at Kerry Schuss; Matthias Merkel Hess, 3 of his “5 Gallon Bucket,” 2015, stoneware, at Salon 94 Freemans; Martha Friedman, “Loaf 1,” 2010, cast rubber, at The Hole; Leslie Wayne, “Paint Rag 57 (Adinkra),” 2015, oil on panel, at Mixed Greens; Lauren Seiden, “Cloaked,” 2015, graphite on paper, at Louis B. James; Bertozzi and Casoni, “Cestino della discordia,” 2012, glazed ceramic, at Sperone Westwater; Sarah Harrison, “Rug 13,” 2015, oil on panel, at Mixed Greens.

Here's the full speech Jared Leto gave at the Independent Spirit awards

I’d like to thank, first of all, the youngest and the most inspiring actor in the entire fucking room, Bruce Dern. In case this is the last time that I get to thank anyone, I’ve wrote down a couple names. I want to thank Film Independent and Jason Weinberg. Thank you Jason for making this so fun and so classy and so cool. I’m really so honored to be able to work with you. Robin Baum, as well, the most beautiful and classy publicist in the business—wherever you are and your daughter somewhere, hiding. To my bigger and better brain, thank you for everything. Nick Sullivan and Jim Toth, I love you guys so much, thank you. Josh Lieberman, Mora Rifter, Jean-Marc Vallee, Matthew McConaughey—alright, alright, alright. After Dallas Buyers Club, I think I’m going to pull the opposite of a McConaissance and just do romantic comedies. I do want to say, my mother took me—Oh hey Keanu. I love you.— she introduced me to art house cinemas when I was a kid and she introduced me to  independent cinema. And I’m so fucking proud to be a part of this gang of dreamers here today—people who take risks and put it all on the line and people who change lives. Very, very proud to be a part of you guys. To continue the list now: Jennifer Garner, Robbie Brenner, Rachel Winter, Holly Wiersma, Logan Levy, Nathan Ross, Cassian Elwes, Robin Mathews, Kurt and Bart—they have no last names, but they are wonderful—Joe Newcomb, Nicholas Chartier, the absolutely incredible team at Focus Features—I love you guys. You are amazing at what you do. Calpernia Addams, Mark Twain, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Ansel Adams, Steve Jobs, Mozart, the one and only River Phoenix, Kurt Cobain, the seven billion human beings on the planet, and all of the planets and animals. Keith Stanfield. The late, great James Gandolfini, his kid, and his wife, who are here—I share this with you. Will Forte, you are talented and incredible—thank you so much. Michael Fassbender, David Fincher, Terrence Malick, Scorsese, Hermann Hesse, Stanislavski, Boleslavsky, Darren Aronofsky, Marisa Tomei, Reese Witherspoon, Diane Kruger, Sarah Polley, Peter Bogdanovich, Maria Bello, Peter Travers, Wayne Gretzky. I don’t know why I said that. I think that ’s a typo actually. Fucking iPhone. Sorry, the iTunes guys are here. Thank you as well. I want to say, #mymindisblown, just to get a little trending topic in there. I would like to thank the makers of vegan butter and baby Jesus. I have to thank Christopher Walken, who always deserves to be thanked. Homemade burritos, my brother Shannon, my mother Constance, Whitcomb L. Judson—the inventor of the zipper, the city of angels, and this is a special one: I want to thank all of the woman I’ve been with and all of the women who think they’ve been with me. Dr. Seuss. Ted Sarantos. Netflix. Philip Seymour Hoffman. My future ex-wife, Lupita, I’m thinking about you. And just a couple more: The C.I.A… I mean, CAA. The Echelon, the dark force, the dreamers, the believers, the 36 million who have died of AIDS. And the 35 million who are still living with H.I.V. AIDs around the world, I dedicate this to you. To the L.G.B.T. and Q community, here’s to life.

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This was so heartfelt and touching. He thanked River Phoenix. And told Keanu he loved him. Just perfect.