As the genre film world goes, art imitates art. This was no more apparent than in the world of grindhouse cinema. If it worked in one market, it was going to get 6 different version made in 6 other parts of the world. Though this mostly lead to 90 minutes of shitty film, there was the occasional highlight that proved to be a winning reflection of what came before it. One of those films was so effective at this, it became a Video Nasty: House On The Edge Of The Park.
We meet mechanics Alex and Ricky (played by genre cult icons David Hess and Giovanni Lombardo Radice) after Alex commits a vicious rape in a nearby park. Being the scumbags that they are, the boys are planning for a night out on the town when they end up helping with a last minute fix for a very wealthy couple. The couple are headed to a party and bring Ricky and Alex along. The party-goers are looking for laughs at the expense of the 2 mechanics, not realizing that they’re amongst a couple of very dangerous sociopaths.
At first, the game-playing and verbal tension is mostly trite, but as the stakes are raised the brutality becomes real. While the audience is already privy to Alex and Ricky’s potential danger, we learn just how dangerous the party attendees are as well. Their danger is in the form of mockery. Tom flaunts his wealth literally by waving his money about, showing exactly how he sees himself a step above the mechanics. Lisa taunts Alex with a steamy shower show as if to say “I am this and you can never me”. It’s a modern day take on the king’s court using the peasants for their own amusement. This tension spirals into a chaotic explosion of humiliation, rape, and death.
The tug o’ war between the two factions represented was a strong statement on class divisions. As exploitation films go, both sides of the social spectrum are inflated to their most despicable. However, digging deeper finds this film really doing an effective job of explaining (what is still) the plight of the blue-collar worker. Alex and Ricky’s actions seem to be a response to being trampled under the hoof of the upper class for an entire lifetime. Their violence can be seen as a metaphor for a part of the population that perpetually fights uphill battles. This isn’t a compliance with their behaviors, but it does raise the question; what if the have-nots really did get fed up with the fight?
House on the Edge of the Park is one of those films people discover after. By that, I mean they end up seeing this after having seen other features the cast and director were involved in. House is a veritable all-star team of the horror and exploitation world. In addition to the aforementioned Hess, Radice, and Deodato (who are repeat offenders on the notorious list), the cast is rounded out by some other well known players. Annie Belle (Of Emanuelle fame) plays the sensual Lisa, who has a most memorable scene with David Hess. Not unlike another famous flick, their sex scene has a little “did they or didn’t they?” urban legend attached to it (spoiler: Hess says they did!). Christian Borromeo who plays the back-handed Tom was not only in Tenebrae and Fulci’s Murder Rock, but also can be seen in Fellini’s Intervista. But perhaps the other most recognizable face belongs to Miss Lorraine De Selle, one of the stars of Cannibal Ferox aka Make Them Die Slowly.
When pitted against a majority of the films on this list, it’s puzzling to try and figure out exactly why it was a Video Nasty. Aesthetically, there’s nothing out of the ordinary in terms of sex or violence. Rape is always an abrasive subject matter but had been the driving force behind several plotlines from that era. One has to wonder if the films wasn’t simply guilty by association? Considering the director, cast, and subject matter it would come as no surprise if that was a motivating factor in this decision. There are no zombies, cannibals, or experimental Nazi prison camps. There are merely repugnant people who all eventually get their just desserts. Regardless, in seeing this movie you get all the typical trappings of the era headed up by fantastic performances. Over time, this film has become more widely acknowledged by the filmmaker, actors, and fans alike as a fine piece of Deodato’s work. In fact, word has it that he’s going back to the well and hoping to release a sequel in 2012. How well it will play out and be received only time can tell. But for now, we have the original as a smarter-than-average sign of those times.
Tags: brutality, Cannibal Ferox, Cannibal Holocaust, cannibals, David Hess, Emmanulle, exploitaiton, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Grindhouse, Horror, House on the Edge of the Park, Make Them Die Slowly, murder, Nazi, Ruggero Deodato, Tenebrae, Violence, Zombies