House on the Edge
of the Park
Italy / 1980
Directed by Ruggero Deodato
Starring
David Hess
Annie Belle
Giovanni Lombardo Radice
Color / 87 Minutes / Not Rated
Format: DVD (R1 - NTSC)
Shriek Show
Music from the film
Ricky boogies!
MP3 format - 4.6 MB
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Review by
Brian Lindsey
 
1
    7   10 = Highest Rating  
If I had to boil my review of this flick down to just one word, it would be this: vile.
    Stupid, crass and extremely mean-spirited, Ruggero Deodato's House On The Edge Of The Park is an exercise in cinematic thuggery, pure and simple. I'm a fan of exploitation films but this one crosses the line there's no winking behind the envelope-pushing.
    After Last House on the Left and Hitch-Hike, David Hess's psycho maniac shtick is wearing mighty thin. Whether named Krug or Adam or in this case, Alex if you've seen the other two films then you know exactly what to expect. His character in House on the Edge of the Park, Alex, is a rapist-murderer with a mentally feeble sidekick named Ricky (Cannibal Apocalypse's Giovanni Lombardo Radice, AKA "John Morghen", in his film debut). The movie opens with Alex forcing a lone female motorist off the road with his car; he attacks the woman, raping and strangling her. (All of this is set to a syrupy love ballad called "Sweetly" in what I presume is a heavy-handed attempt at irony.) Next we see Alex and Ricky knocking off work at an auto repair garage in preparation for a night of "boogying." A well-to-do yuppie couple pulls into the shop complaining of car trouble; Ricky fixes the problem while Alex ogles the car's female occupant, sexy Lisa (Annie Belle of Laure). In what seems like an incredibly unbelievable plot development, Lisa and her companion Tom (Christian Borromeo of Tenebre) invite these ingrate grease monkeys to a private party in the suburbs. (More about this in a moment.) A small gathering of only five people (including a bald black woman), Ricky decides to enliven the party by doing an impromptu striptease to some funky disco music. Alex gets surly at this point, telling Ricky to stop because he's "acting like an asshole." (He's right, by the way.) After being prickteased by Lisa and catching the others cheating Ricky in a rigged game of poker, Alex becomes unhinged. These rich snobs are just using them as a form of entertainment. Time to turn the tables and have a little fun, home invasion-style.
    Alex, aided and abetted by his dimwitted cohort, proceeds to humiliate and terrorize the partygoers. The men are beaten, the women sexually accosted. At one point, after kicking the crap out of the one guy who shows resistance, Alex chucks him in the swimming pool and then urinates on his head when he tries to climb out. Lisa is forced to have sex with Alex but seems to enjoy it; afterwards she claims it was "disgusting." Later, one of the other victims, Gloria (Emanuelle in America's Lorraine De Selle), actually initiates sex with Ricky almost as if she feels sorry for him and this after he tried to rape her (but failed to get it up)! By far the worst treatment awaits Cindy (Brigitte Petronio), a very young looking virgin who shows up to the party late, walking straight into the lion's den. She's stripped naked and, in the film's most excruciating scene, slashed across the breasts and torso by the demented Alex.
    All in good fun, right?
    Once Alex and Ricky started on their little rampage I came very close to hurling things at the screen. Why? The almost complete inaction of the victims. Five people are held captive by two thugs, only one of which is armed with a razor. (There are plenty of makeshift weapons at hand... Brain 'em with a lamp, you dipshits!) The villains repeatedly turn their backs on the victims, who passively wait their turn for special treatment. It's maddeningly stupid, totally draining the flick of any pretense of reality until, that is, the surprise 'twist' ending and here I'm going to violate my usual guidelines and reveal the dénouement. So be warned this is an official SPOILER ALERT.
    It was all a trap. The woman Alex is shown raping and strangling during the opening is either a relative or good friend of the people at the party; they've purposely lured Alex, whom they know is responsible for the crime, to the house in order to kill him. The plan was to set him off, let him get a little rough, then shoot him in self-defense. Problem is, this little twist in the story is every bit as stupid as the partygoers being simply too inexplicably wimpy to resist. That the conspirators are willing to be beaten, tortured and raped just so they can kill Alex later is patently retarded. (Did Ricky write the script?) They even allow Cindy to be defiled and mutilated without lifting a finger, which at minimum stretches credulity a few Astronomical Units in length. Now if anything, I do not like to have my intelligence insulted... This movie basically tried to rub my face in shit while purporting to entertain. It actually made me angry because it was so stupid.
    This is not to say House on the Edge of the Park is incompetently made. It's well-directed by Deodato, who knows exactly how to push all the right exploitation buttons, though he tends to let scenes drag out too long in an indulgence of Hess' method acting. Gorehounds will be disappointed that the film is in no way a splatterfest; the torture and brutality committed by Alex is almost all psychological with the exception of the razor-slashing of Cindy, which, while not particularly bloody, will most certainly have you squirming in discomfort. (The camera lovingly lingers on this sexual torture with the glee of crazy Alex himself.) Horndogs will find more to savor here since the women get naked on numerous occasions... Annie Belle is undeniably hot, and has an especially steamy shower scene.
   As for me, I'm just too pissed off at being played for a chump to cut this movie any slack.

Shriek Show's DVD, released late last year, is purportedly the best edition of House on home video, surpassing both the British and Dutch Region 2 versions and the bargain bin Brentwood effort (which packages the movie in a multi-disc set with other supposedly public domain horror flicks). The SS disc is completely uncut and presents the film via an anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer, displaying strong, vivid colors and generally crisp detail. The only defect is some occasional artifacting in certain scenes; in all honesty I wasn't much bothered by it. (It looks worse when viewed on a PC monitor.) The mono audio track is clear and distortion free, if a bit flat not an uncommon trait with Eurohorror titles by any means.
    As for extras, the disc comes with the expected slate of trailers for Shriek Show releases (Eaten Alive, Seven Blood-Stained Orchids, Zombie 3, Zombie 4: After Death), including the English-language promo for House which, in a hilarious instance of bungled translation, repeatedly displays the film's title as House Of The Park On The Edge. Rounding out the DVD are some amusing liner notes by Casey Scott, an image gallery and three videotaped interviews. In the longest interview (36 minutes), recorded at his home, David Hess shares his thoughts on a variety of subjects, to include the film, his director and costars, being typecast as a sociopath, his approach to acting in general and the role of violent movies in influencing the behavior of those who watch them. He also spends a good deal of time detailing how he and his current wife met and developed their relationship, though remains mum on her acting role in House as Alex's first rape/murder victim. (Mrs. Hess also appears during the piece's final minutes but declines to say anything about her appearance in the film.) In a 16-minute interview the always interesting Giovanni Radice, speaking in English, sticks mainly to House, director Deodato and his fellow performers, providing humorous anecdotes about his sex scene with Lorraine De Selle. Finally, a short chat with Ruggero Deodato (8 min.) finds the director reassessing House in a much more positive light than he'd previously regarded it. His chief complaints now are the lack of time to properly shoot the picture (only three weeks) and the "greediness" of star Hess, who was constantly upping the ante in terms of perks/monetary demands. 6/15/03
NOTE The disc has a technical fault which prevents the English subtitles for the Deodato interview from showing up on the screen. I was able to view them on my computer's DVD-ROM drive, however, by first starting one of the other interviews, enabling the subtitle option, then backing out and restarting the Deodato piece.
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