House on the Edge of the Park (1980)
By: Mr Intolerance on February 20, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Shriek Show (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0. 89 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Ruggero Deodato Starring: David A. Hess, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Annie Belle, Christian Borromeo, Marie Claude Joseph, Gabriel Di Guilio, Brigitte Petronio, Karoline Mardeck, Lorraine De Selle
Screenplay: Gianfranco Clerici, Vincenzo Mannino
Music: Riz Ortolani Country: Italy
AKA: La Casa sperduta nel parco
If you're looking for the uber-squalid, this is the movie for you. From the director of Cannibal Holocaust, Last Cannibal World and Cut and Run comes a movie that has no idea about pulling its punches – seriously, this film positively lacerates its viewers. Consider this: the BBFC cut nearly twice as much run-time from this film as from either Cannibal Holocaust or Island of Death, and about two minutes more than from Anthropophagus. It's not only for the blood and gore, but also the uber-misogyny, and the frank depictions of sexual brutality. If you're curious – that's 11 minutes and 43 seconds of cuts, which would be the replacing or excising of all the rape and sexual violence – thus rendering the movie a pointless exercise, considering what it's trying to say. And if you don't think 11 minutes 43 seconds is all that much, just sit in your room with your eyes closed for that long doing absolutely nothing. You'll find out it's a lot longer than you think.

By the way – that's not the version I'll be reviewing.

Alex (David Hess) and Ricky (Giovanni Lombardo Radice) are two sadistic nutcases who gatecrash a party and terrorise, torture, beat, molest and rape the young, rich, "classy", yet morally repellent people attending, for mocking them and their perceived lack of "class". It sounds grim, but watching it is even grimmer. Home invasion hell, basically.

I think when you get to the end, when Alex is using a straight-razor to carve up blond, virginal Cindy, you've probably hit Ruggero Deodato's ultimate low point as a director. Well, in terms of horribleness, anyway. Then it unexpectedly becomes a rape revenge film, and they're never pretty.

Is it a good film? I think so. It's not pretty, and it's certainly not for everyone, but if you want a nasty piece of work that's gruelling and totally unrelenting, you'd be damn hard-pressed to find a better example. It's kind of like if you had a copy of Last House on the Left that didn't have any of the stupid, slapstick comedy – just the unremitting bleak violence and sadism, or maybe Night Train Murders multiplied to its own exponential power. The lengths the revenger goes to in order to exact his toll – allowing various friends to be raped, sliced, beaten and otherwise abused – makes sure that no character in this film is sympathetic, even the perceived "hero". Everyone is grimy, tainted and horrible. Except maybe Cindy, although she's kind of a peripheral character at best, turning up in the last act of the film. We feel sorry for her because she turns up to a party, gets debased in front of a bunch of her friends and has her boobs sliced up with a straight-razor. But there is no depth to the character – she's simply there to be a victim. Which I guess is pretty fucking callous on the part of the director and the writer to begin with.

Is it merely exploitative? Jury's out, kids. I think you need to make that judgement on your own. I'm not saying it isn't exploitation – it is – but in my opinion, I think it goes further than being just exploitation.

It's probably worth watching just to see David Hess play the least-likeable screen villain ever (besides maybe John Lucker or the nameless necrophiliac from Aftermath). Seriously, he really pulls out ALL the stops in this baby – makes his performance as Krug in Last House on the Left look like about as threatening a villain as Dick Dastardly. But (and it's a big but, kinda like mine…) his death-scene is awful; seriously, the facial expression after he gets shot in the groin is laughably poor. But up until that point, I totally bought his performance – he's probably the only complex or developed character in what would have to rate as one of the most bleak and depressing films I've ever seen – and that includes Salo, Emanuelle In America, Devil's Experiment and Men Behind the Sun. Most of the rest of the actors (with the notable exception of the always reliable and entertaining Giovanni Lombardo Radice) are little better than cardboard cut-outs at best, even the usually competent Lorraine De Selle, a woman who's topless so often in the movies I've seen her in, I've begun to think her boobs are afraid of the dark.

Violent, depressing, morally questionable. Definitely worth a look, if you like that kind of thing. I do. Mind you, depending on where you live in the world, it's most likely banned or heavily cut.

Like Cindy.
Video
Crystal clear. There's a kind of icy beauty in the depiction of all this horror and uber-violence. If nothing else, it shows us that Deodato knows how to direct, and has a fine eye. Equally, Shriek Show rarely put out inferior quality prints – maybe Something Weird should sit up and take notice… Basically, this film looks the bomb. The colours of the characters clothes (so David Hess asserts in an interview on the disc) are meant to be symbolic – so pay attention!
Audio
Again, no complaints. Loud and clear. It's a dual mono track, but this is no action sound-fest a la War of the Worlds, so it loses nothing in my opinion. You watch this kind of film for the drama, or the voyeuristic pleasure of watching people get tortured (if you're a pervert), not for Hollywood-style shiny things and sound FX.
Extra Features
Reasonable amount, and some of them quite interesting. The interviews with Hess, Radice and Deodato are definitely good viewing. Radice in particular is an interesting and engaging speaker, although his historical revisionism regarding a number of his films is a little irksome – but that's his business. Besides those, there's a stills gallery, and trailers for HOTEOTP, Eaten Alive, Seven Bloodstained Orchids, Zombi 3 and Zombie 4. There are some Easter eggs, too, including a trivia quiz on the film (no, seriously!), a song by David Hess's son Jesse, and a gallery of foreign lobby cards for the film.
The Verdict
For a movie that's so reviled and vilified, it's surprisingly murder-free (well, almost). But there is a shocking amount of graphic violence (sexual and otherwise) on display – so don't say you weren't warned. The sequence with Cindy towards the end is extremely hard to watch, to say the least. However, it is intelligent film-making, and any kind of flaws you might find in HOTEOTP would be minor quibbles at best. I can't go the full five stars on this one – while it is an exceptional thriller, and exploitation par excellence, there's something that bugs me about it. I mentioned above the "icy beauty" – it's that cold, clinical tone that at times dominates the proceedings that I just can't get past. Like Wolf Creek – great film though it is - I should care about what happens to these characters, and I just don't.
Movie Score
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