For a good precursor to a really bad horror movie, check out…

Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring (1960) is an odd little movie that started a bigger chain than anybody could have expected. It was initially a small production based on a Swedish folk ballad called ‘Tore’s Daughter at Vange.’ The ballad is about a girl who awakes and gets ready for church in her father’s farm  (her father being the Tore of the title). She puts on her royal robes and goes riding off to church.

She rides around a giant tree,

now three herdsman she does see.

They say to her, “Come be our wife,

or thou shalt forfeit thy young life.”

“Do not lay a hand on me,

“Or my father’s wrath you’ll see.”

“For they kinsmen care not we,

We’ll kill them all as well as thee.”

These herdsman do proceed to rape and kill Karin, then hide her body under a tree, from which a spring mysteriously begins to sprout. They ride in to town and  arrive at her father’s farm, where he and his wife give them shelter and accomodation. When the herdsman offer the mother the golden robe that Karin was wearing as a gift, she realizes why her daughter has not returned. She informs her husband and so he does the only logical thing: kills them all with his knife, only reluctantly killing the youngest one; the ‘little brother.’ Being a man of faith, he feels guilty for his deed and decides to build a church of stone in atonement.

The Virgin Spring won an Academy Award for best foreign film in 1961 and stirred some controversy over its (by 1960’s standards) graphic rape scene. But today, it is known only as one of Bergman’s minor films, even among his devotees. Bergman himself would later dismiss it as a “cheap Kurosawa imitation.”

Fast forward forty-nine years and we have a teen-slasher/horror flick being released in theaters with roughly the same story, and not by coincidence. The Last House on the Left is a remake of Wes Craven’s original Last House on the Left from 1972, which was a remake of The Virgin Spring. There are numerous changes in both Last House films: there are two girls, not one; the religious significance of the original story is gone; the stories are set in the present. But the twisted ‘family’ of killers carries over, the ambiguous character of the Little brother carries over; the rape carries over. Craven’s film also became quite controversial for its over-the-top violence. But it is unlikely that this new Last House on the Left will cause any major contoversy or even be memorable at all. In fact, it is likely that the makers of the new film did not even realize the geneology of their own film. It was made as a simple attempt to cash-in, without having to come up with anything new. We’ve all heard that story from Hollywood before.

Still though, the lineage is there, and it is interesting in and of itself. The Virgin Spring can be found in Snell Library, containing a full version of ‘Tore’s Daughter at Vange.’ There’s half of the story for you.