“Pretty soon the girls would become victims of more than being sex objects. If outsiders moved in so easily for sex, they could just as easily started maneuvering some of the girls into heavier shit -- like chains, whips, blood-drinking, animal death and even human sacrifice.”
-Charles Manson, Manson in His Own Words
Much like Charles Manson, Terry Hawkins, the anti-hero (emphasis on anti) of Last House on Dead End Street, is an evil demigod that manipulates aimless outsiders into unleashing a campaign of hatred against society. In this case, Hawkins enlists the aid of two broke and disillusioned girls, a desperate cameraman, and some maniac who was recently released from an insane asylum for having sex with a dead calf while working in a slaughterhouse. Specifically, this group is in the business of making snuff films, as Charlie hinted at in the above quote, although they seem to be doing it more so for thrill seeking purposes rather than profit.
It’s a long standing urban legend that the Manson family made such films, although no evidence has ever been found. LHODES seems to transform this urban legend, not into a realistic recreation of what might have happened, but into a waking nightmare instead.
So, while the usual movie within a movie or found footage angle is meant to trick the viewer into believing that what they are seeing is real, here it is used to disorientate the viewer and break down this reality. For example, the point of view is rarely from that of the super 8 camera used to capture the snuff films, and indeed the cameraman is often seen roving around, as if mocking the victim with his camera. The perpetrators are often wearing creepy masks, even dancing around laughing, as if the movie is taking place is an alternate universe where the making of a snuff film is a cause for hilarity and joyous celebration.
Then there’s the fanged mouth painting that hangs above them as they dissect one of the victims, and the spotlights towards the end that are reminiscent of the monolith discovery scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey. What starts as gritty realism devolves into a madness inducing vision ripped out of the bleakest of psyches. According to director Watkins, since he got the camera, film, and processing for free, he was able to use the entirety of the $1500 or so budget on crystal meth to inspire and fuel his mostly unscripted opus. That’s somehow appropriate; here is a film not logically constructed but forced into existence by a psychotic, drug fueled id.