|Plot Outline: Alex is a psychopath who gets his kicks from raping women and sadistically torturing people. Like any good lunatic though, Alex likes to keep up a steady job. He and his best friend Ricky both work as mechanics in a autoshop where they spend their days waiting to go out at night and ‘boogie’! As they are gearing up for a night on the town though, a car with two wealthy young people pull up. The young man driving the car puts some pressure on Alex to help him get his car fixed, so Ricky steps in and takes care of the problem. The young driver fills us in that he is heading to a small ‘get together’ at a close friend’s house, so Alex being the gentleman he is, invites both himself and Ricky to tag along. Alex is eyeing the young girl in the car, and Ricky is almost borderline retarded. So they show up at the party, and the young girl from the car keeps teasing Alex sexually until he gets furious. The group taunts Ricky, making him dance for them (the man just can’t dance) and eventually humiliating him at poker. Alex does what he does best, he pulls out a razor blade and forces everyone to deal with his insanity. Now these kids are going to have to live through a night they’ll never forget.|
The Review: Here at Varied Celluloid, I have a very scientific way of choosing which films I want to review. I just review what I feel like watching. So for anyone who might be wondering why I would review House on the Edge of the Park before delving into the early king of the home invasion films, Last House on the Left, it’s based on the sole reason that I feel House on the Edge of the Park is a bit easier to watch. I don’t like starting out comparing the two films because that’s just what you expect every reviewer to do. Yes, this film does have the same star as Last House and he plays essentially the same role, and yes the plots are even highly similar when compared to one another but don’t let that detract you from viewing the film because you may actually be shocked into enjoying this film more than Craven’s picture. A very boisterous comment indeed, who am I to say such a thing? I’m nobody, it’s just an opinion. I too enjoy Last House to a great degree, but it’s hardly the type that could ever register as flawless. Not in anyone’s book. House on the Edge of the Park brings a lot of the things to the table that Craven had already pounded out in his film, but Deodato brings a completely different approach to the Home Invasion film. He delivers a film with a surprisingly minimal amount of gore and is as sleazy and disturbing as you would expect. He doesn’t just deliver some flick to play at the drive-in, he also includes a reverse morality play that is bound to mess with the head’s of anyone who might be watching the film for anything more than just seeing the sleaze played out on the screen. If you came for a film that will make your skin crawl, no doubt about it you may find it in this film, but sandwiched in between all of this is some genuine filmmaking talent. It could be all in my head, just trying to legitimize my love for exploitation cinema, but if so don’t let me know about it. Ruggero Deodato may not make it into any of those famous books about foreign cinema. Robert Maltin and Roger Ebert may never sing of his glory, but he’ll always have a place in the hart of cult cinema fans. Well, select fans. There wasn’t really a visual pattern between his different films, Cannibal Holocaust seemed to have been his most technically brilliant film, but unlike the majority of other similar directors in Italy at the time, he knew how to tell a story and he knew how to challenge his audience. Not just deliver buckets of pointless gore.
What drew me to the film on my first viewing wasn’t just the great (for an exploitation film of course) performances given by Hess and John Morghen, although both lived up to their reputations with the film, it was the morality tale in the film. My first reaction was negative, because we are literally given no one to root for in the film because every person is sickening. The people whom we are expected to grow sympathetic for, the victims, are nothing more than spoiled kids who make fun of our lower class goons. From the very beginning they are antagonistic and patronizing to these guys and the audience knows what will eventually happen. It’s like slapping a bull in the face, at first when Hess begins taking revenge on these saps it doesn’t seem too ridiculous to view him as the actual hero of the film. The first scene in the film shows him raping a woman after pulling her over, but this case is different. These people actually deserve a good slap, but then things start getting sadistic and demeaning and even though we don’t care for these spoiled brats, we still care that another human being could treat someone like this. The film is always moving, with the audience always unsure of their own personal attachments to the characters. Who is the ‘good’ one and who is the ‘bad’? I normally wouldn’t care for such relative morality, but I don’t think Deodato was getting at that. There is some humanity in some of these characters, and you might be shocked by the end of the film to see who is the most genuinely decent. I’m not going to sit here preaching at you and try to convince you that there is some huge underlying statement being made in the film. That it is somehow deep or intellectual to enjoy the film, not at all. If you watch it and find such things, that’s just an added bonus. For what it is, House on the Edge of the Park is an amazing piece of cinematic exploitation. There aren’t any gruesome death scenes, but there are some moments where you can’t help but feel a little dirty for sitting through such a film. The never ending threats of rape, followed by actual rapings and immense brutality, I imagine might could make some viewers just a little more than disturbed while watching the film. The sexual violence never seems to stop throughout the film and if that is a problem for you, then it might be smart to just pass this one on by. Women are beaten, raped and exposed more times than I dare count. It’s an exploitation film though, it comes with the territory. You don’t watch a film like this to feel good about society, yet the nihilism portrayed here might be a bit too much for some of the less receptive audiences.
Now, as I said above the performances given in the film are great by exploitation standards. What I mean by that is you can’t judge this film in the same regards as you would a serious drama. The dialogue in the film is stilted, rigid, cheesy and bares little resemblance to anything you could see someone saying in real life but I’m only stating the obvious. It was probably relatively low budget, with a majority of the dialogue dubbed in later and had only few intentions in the eyes of the producers. There’s a big difference, and the only real way to judge the performances is how well they fit into everything. John Morghen probably gives the standout performance, he is so over the top that he ranges from annoying to hilarious. He keeps the film interesting in my opinion, and for the most part he manages himself well. The sequence in which the snobs have him dancing, and almost stripping, in front of them is just plain bad. Morghen should never be asked to dance in any film he is ever in, because it is a terrible thing to see. No offense to the man, I think he’s a brilliant actor in the realm of cult cinema, but his dance moves look like a small child after receiving electro shock therapy or perhaps a lobotomy. David Hess is complained about often that he is just repeating his role from Last House on the Left, and maybe that’s true but thankfully we don’t have a soundtrack contributed by him this time around. The man just looks rough, and he’s twice as intimidating. He hams it up a bit here, but he’s good at what he does. If we didn’t buy the violent persona the film would fail, but Hess puts up a great show. Whether it’s better than Krug from Last House on the Left or not is debatable, but it is at least on the same level. Rugerro Deodato may never be accused of being a flashy director, but he gets his point across. There are few moments in the film that leave you in awe because of artistic decoration, but he knows how to keep things moving and focused that’s for sure. He tells this nihilistic and bleak story without pulling any punches. No intentional humor that I can recall and no breaks away from the story. There are no bumbling cops searching for the teens (ala Last House on the Left) and there are no characters introduced in the story who don’t go through this catastrophic turn of events. The film is meant to hit you hard, fast and leave you dazed. If it achieves it’s goal is up to the viewer, but I wouldn’t be giving it such a high rating if it didn’t do so for me. The soundtrack for the film can be a little weak at moments, especially any time the lame disco breaks take place, but the haunting theme song works very well in the film. Audio maestro Riz Ortolani returns to the Deodato stable delivering a soundtrack that doesn’t quite reach the high standards of the ‘weird-but-good’ Cannibal Holicaust score, but definitely deserves it’s own mention in any review.
Let’s make no bones about it though, this is definitely a B-Movie. An exploitation film. You should know what to expect, if you don’t then god help you. It contains the usual things that you might hear average critics rail on but if you don’t mind hearing a story told in the most unconventional of methods and you don’t mind getting a little grit on yourself then take this one out for a spin. If it disturbs you, leaves you breathless or makes you want to slam your fists down on the dvd player in frustration that someone could be so sick; then the film is doing what it’s supposed to. Revulsion is the highest achievement a film like this should strive for. I’m giving it a four on my measly scale. It’s not a film that everyone can just pick up and fall in love with, but for that select niche of freaks and weirdoes (like myself) who actually seek films like this out you may find a new classic.