Archive for October 18, 2011

So, anyway, fast-forward to 198o and there have been a slew of Last House rip-offs (my favorite being Roger Watkins’ The Last House On Dead End Street, which actually wasn’t a rip-ff at all but an exercise in zero-budget pure, unrefined cinematic nihilism of the highest order), but most of them lacked that certain extra punch so expertly delivered by the original. The Italians (and you probably already guessed that this was a spaghetti horror from the poster reproduced above), of course, never ones to pass up on a quick celluloid cash-in opportunity, figured a less-than-clever, but admittedly quite satisfying, way to resolve this little problem of diminishing returns — they’d just bring David Hess back and let him out-Krug himself in a movie that showed even less respect for squeamish stomachs and anything like the consensus definition of good taste than its obvious progenitor.

The end result? Director Ruggero Deodato’s The House On The Edge Of The Park, or as it was unintentionally comically billed in its initial poorly-translated trailers, The House On The Park Of The Edge. And I have to say it’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect to get when you take the guy who directed Cannibal Holocaust and turn him loose on the Last House subgenre. In short, it’s a seriously nasty piece of business.

Essentially what Deodato and his cohorts did here was take the socioeconomic themes of poor-hoodlums-taking-out-their-revenge-on-the-upper-class and move them directly into the foreground. Gone are the subtle moral complexities of when is revenge acceptable and how much is too much and in their place stands a straightforward tale of a couple less-than-stellar grease monkeys (David Hess as garage-owner/car-thief Alex and John Morghen (okay, his real name’s Giovanni Lombardo Radice) as his largely brain-dead employee/hopeless follower Ricky) who end up at a party full of rich assholes who get their kicks by lording their wealth and social status as conspicuously as possible over their supposed social inferiors). The games of increasingly-less-subtle humiliation don’t last long, though, before Alex and, by extension, Ricky decide to exert some serious payback in the form of a pound of flesh plus interest.

What follows, after minimal set-up (one of the aforementioned rich assholes has some car trouble, pulls into Alex’s garage, and invites him and Ricky to their little get-together that night for the express purpose of showing them what a couple of losers they are and how much better than them he and his rich pals (both boys and girls, in case you were wondering) are) is nearly 90 minutes of the most utterly depraved rape, torture, humiliation, and degradation you can possibly imagine (unless you’ve got a really sick mind, and even then Deodato is probably a few steps ahead of you). To call Alex and Ricky’s actions thoroughly unpleasant is an exercise in profound understatement, I’ll just leave it at  that.

And yeah, Hess is obviously tearing into the role with aplomb and vigor, but the fact is, he just can’t overcome the material here, despite taking the gloves off and really going for the gusto. He’s still the most dangerous son of a bitch in the movies at this point , no question (think Krug on steroids), but, shocking and repulsive as everything he gets up to is, you can never really escape the feeling that we’ve seen this done so much more effectively before.

All of which is not to say that The House On The Edge Of The Park is in any way a forgettable film. It cuts pretty deep and leaves some indelible scars. Plenty of what happens falls firmly into the category of “okay, I really didn’t need to see that.” You honestly gotta wonder what kind of sick fucks the screenwriters are. But —

There’s just never that much depth to the depravity that’s going on here. It hurts like hell to sit all the way through this flick, but it doesn’t make you think about anything afterwards apart from “what the fuck was that all for?” Everything that happens is brutal, viscous, indefensible, and genuinely horrific — but that word, happens, is the key word here. It all just sort of happens.

If you really must watch The House On The Edge Of The Park, it’s available on DVD from Shriek Show, and the remastered widescreen picture and stereo sound are top-notch. There’s a comprehensive interview with Deodato and that curiously-translated trailer I told you about included, as well as previews for some other Shriek Show titles. It’s worth seeing, I suppose, as an excuse to watch David Hess do what he does best and do it with fangs fully bared, but it’s certainly nothing you need to own, and you’d be served just fine getting it from Netflix or your DVD-rental-service-provider of choice and sending it right back the next very morning. You may even feel like wearing a pair of gloves when you put it back in the return envelope so as not to actually put your hands next to the filth directly.