Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Review x Deux: The House On The Edge Of The Park (1980)

Here is a he said/she review of Ruggero Deodato's 1980 exploitation classic, The House On The Edge Of The Park.

Made For TV Mayhem and all-around movie Wiz AMANDA BY NIGHT and I both agree that there is much value to be found in Deodato's film, Whether it be by it's curious mix of entertainment & degradation or by it's thought provoking ideas supplied by the screenplay. Either way, this well-made Italian shocker often gets bunched up alongside the sleazy throwaways of the time.

House on the Edge of the Park
Review by Amanda Reyes

At once sleazy and slick and funny and degrading, THE HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK is an anomaly even in the world of Euro-sleaze. A supposed "message" picture, HOUSE actually uses that message as a means to take the viewer down a path of nihilism, rape and torture - And all with a smile on its face.

David Hess (Krug in LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT) is Alex, a jerky mutha who forces a young woman to pull over and then proceeds to rape her! All to the tune of "Sweetly, oh Sweetly," before he strangles her to death. That bastard!

Cut to some time later and a couple of rich snobs (dressed in pristine white) find themselves at Alex's auto shop. After a bit of I'm-rich-you're-poor-it's-too-late-to-go-boogying banter, Alex and his idiot-man-child friend Ricky (John Morghen) are invited to the couple's friend's house for an intimate party populated with three pretty girls and a couple of rich and wimpy guys (Christian Borremo, you're still so hot). The rich folks go about humiliating the lower class sleazebags, which isn't that hard in Ricky's case! Then Alex turns the tables and with knife in hand, he holds everyone hostage. And it's all downhill from there.

Although HOUSE is seething in rape and degradation, it lacks the bite the director's previous film CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST had. I, for one, am thankful. Don't get me wrong, HOLOCAUST is a work of fucking art. Do I ever want to see it again? No. But the lasting impression the film gave me regarding the true nature of "civilized man" is a haunting one that I'll not soon forget. HOUSE on the other hand, is just joyous sleaze! I know, chicks get raped left and right and it doesn't bother me one bit.

Well, I'll say one scene does indeed make me squirm in my seat. The scene with Cindy (Brigitte Petronio) - the virginal friend who makes the mistake of showing up late - will forever be emblazoned in my mind as one of the most disturbing and brutal attacks ever imprinted on celluloid.

But the rest of it is child's play. Seriously, this movie, as horrifying as it sounds, is much more of a fun roller coaster ride than a disturbed portrait of a maniac set loose. I wrote about this idea I had about the film in a review I did for Retro Slashers, but I think it's worth repeating: HOUSE feels like a vicious grindhouse remake of OF MICE AND MEN. The relationship between Ricky and Alex is something to behold. Their friendship is rife with darkness, but there’s some kind of love there (if absolutely no respect on Alex’s part!) and even if the film had shunned some more of the exploitable elements, their story almost makes the film worth watching. The rest of the cast is fantastic, with Annie Bell putting on one hell of a performance as the strong-willed Lisa. By far one of the most beautiful women on the planet, Annie is accompanied by the great Lorraine De Selle (CANNIBAL FEROX), but I would feel safe in saying this is Annie's film. She's triumphant as the take-no-prisoners chick who doesn't seem all that bent out of shape when the shit hits the fan. And I don't think she does ever tarnish that lily white dress. Love her!

By Michael J. Ferrari

While driving around the streets of Manhattan earlier today, I found myself remembering this exploitation gem as early scenes in the picture had characters driving around the city before they finally settle at the title’s implied locale and the party begins.

The Story follows Alex and Ricky as they invite themselves to that party hosted by a well-to-do twosome who happen upon the parking garage Alex works in one night with car trouble. The man (who looks like a blonde Cillian Murphy) throws money at the two apparent grease monkeys to fix his troubled car. Instead he gets a bit more than he bargained for…Or does he?

David Hess brings his strangely hypnotic sadistic charisma back to the screen nearly 10 years after Wes Craven’s Last House On The Left and he picks it up like he never left. These 2 movie shows are almost always inevitably compared to each other as they not only feature Hess as the leading man with a penchant for rape and murder but they also, albeit superficially, share common themes. Not to mention similar titles.

Ruggero Deodato’s picture more than likely exists because of that earlier one but I think he achieves something a bit more substantial and mature. Movie shows made in the horror and exploitation genres usually find their own way to best provoke, disturb or entertain the audience but it’s rare when a picture can do all 3 simultaneously. Mr. Craven’s picture when compared to Deodato’s is often mentioned as the better of the two, but, can one honestly say that they left a viewing of LAST HOUSE feeling like they were entertained as much as they were shocked?

...Wait, uh, is Ciaran Murphy in this movie?...

In HOUSE ON THE EDGE you’ll find wall-to-wall rape, violence and social anxiety, but you’ll also be treated to a catchy disco number, wacky dancing courtesy of Alex’s none-too-bright sidekick Ricky, surprisingly lush cinematography and a distinctly modern (for the time) set design. Craven’s earlier effort is much more gung-ho and guerilla-like even if it’s inspiration sprung forth from an art house picture (Ingmar Bergman’s THE VIRGIN SPRING)

Deodato’s picture actually reverts more back to Bergman’s style by treating the proceedings as more of a stage production. The action is almost entirely set inside of a house, which essentially becomes the stage for the drama to play out. And like Bergman, Deodato deflects whatever staginess the story inherently brings with a visual sense that allows the viewer to become engulfed into each scene. Though admittedly, Bergman probably would have never had his characters tears off women’s undergarments with a straight razor while they exalt their sad existence upon one another. Deodato’s movie show goes to pretty dark places, but always within the realm of possibility. Mankind’s savage nature is clearly on hand here but Deodato’s point is that such savagery can be laid out on so many levels, especially by those of such polar economic means.

The picture becomes a real clash of the rich vs. the working class, and the ugliness of everyone by the end is truly apparent. The movie imposes a surprise twist, which only confounds the idea that people will go to any length to get what they want, and hurt who ever they must to in the process. Could he have picked a character even more puritanical than Cindy to suddenly show up in a late reel to only be the reception of that hurt or what? Deodato’s picture is clearly an indictment on our culture, especially since it was made in 1980, when we were supposedly were just recovering from a decade of excess...We’ve learned nothing since!

Alex and Ricky’s path follows them from a night of potential partying, poker and poon and even though it ultimately ends in blood shed, was it not worth it all to have a bald black woman yell out “Hot Diggity!” when you get your groove on to the disco beat?


mandingo said...

A classic indeed; Hess was never better than in these two horrorshows, except for, perhaps the impressive 'Hitch Hike".

Hess was certainly a one-note player, but oh what a note! Although there is some perverse part of me that can imagine him as a game show host in the network of my mind; say, hosting a version of 'the dating game', with a few subtle little differences...

kindertrauma said...

I love this movie! I got to meet Giovanni Lombardo Radice at a horror convention and he was the nicest guy in the world. I have a beautiful still from this film autographed by him hanging in my studio. Great reviews both of you!-UNk

Maria Maria said...

And what a ride it is. "The House on the Edge of the Park" is yet another variation (I'll avoid the term 'rip-off') of "Last House on the Left," which succeeds because of David Hess's outstanding portrayal of a razor-wielding psycho. Unlike "Last House," which made generational conflict its primary theme, HotEotP is an unashamed exploitation picture that director Ruggero Deodato uses to embellish the excesses of the genre, and there's no better an actor than Hess to carry out such activities.

Hess plays Alex, a NY mechanic who, before the opening credits begin to roll, rapes and strangles an anonymous female (although it's not made clear whether the girl is actually dead). Cut to him and his friend Ricky (Giovanni Lombardo Radice), who have plans to go "boogie-ing" when they're accosted by a rich young couple with car trouble. Ricky fixes the problem (a torn alternator wire), and Alex persuades the couple to invite them to a little 'get-together' at an appropriately-secluded villa. Before long, Alex and Ricky are engaging in some rather heavy petting, and things turn violent. medico en linea doctor en linea psicólogo en linea veterinario en linea abogado en linea abogado España abogado chile abogado costa rica psiquiatra en linea mecanico en lineaThat's the basic plot setup. At times, the movie moves from scene to scene as if being improvised on the spot, which either intesifies the action or slows it down. That the house (as a setting) is rather small limits the amount of action that can go on inside it. Yet Ruggero Deodato knows how to manipulate his audience--his use of violence and sex to advance the film along works in all the right ways, and keeps your attention. And the sex, violence, and depraved behavior here is pretty extreme, to say the least (the film boasts only one murder, but is far more vicious than LHotL, in my opinion).

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