DVD Review – The House on the Edge of the Park (1980)

The House on the Edge of the Park (Italian: La casa sperduta nel parco), 1980.

Directed by Ruggero Deodato.
Starring David Hess, Annie Belle, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Marie Claude Joseph, Gabriele Di Giulio, Christian Borromeo, Brigitte Petronio and Lorraine De Selle.


SYNOPSIS:

Two lowlifes invite themselves to an upscale house party; ridiculed by their snobbish hosts, they decide to subject the partygoers to a night of violence and torment.


Looking to capitalise on the success of Wes Craven’s cult rape-revenge shocker The Last House on the Left (1972), controversial Italian filmmaker Ruggero Deodato chose to follow up the hugely controversial Cannibal Holocaust (1980) by delivering his own take on the subgenre – The House on the Edge of the Park. The familiarities don’t end with the title, with Ruggero securing the services of TLHOTL’s sadistic antagonist Krug (the recently deceased David A. Hess) and basically taking the character and placing him in a house full of snobbish rich kids before delivering the kind of sordid, cheap sleaze that you’d expect from a no-budget Italian nasty.

Ruggero immediately sets his stall with the film’s opening sequence, during which the psychotic Alex (Hess) cuts off a young woman’s car before entering the vehicle and strangling her unconscious as he rapes her. Later, back at the garage where he works, Alex and his mentally-challenged friend Ricky (Giovanni Lombardo Radice) are getting ready to ‘boogie’ when a young couple, Tom (Cristian Borromeo) and Lisa (Annie Belle), turn up with engine trouble on their way to a get together with friends. Alex and Ricky secure an invitation to the party but it soon becomes clear that the hosts see them as the evening’s entertainment when they make fun of Ricky’s dancing. Alex finally snaps after Lisa teases him in the shower and Ricky is hussled in a rigged game of cards. He attacks Tom and his male friend using a cut-throat razor before taking the partygoers hostage and subjecting the women to his depraved sexual games during a night of psychological torment.

Ruggero is surprisingly restrained in terms of gore, but the director still pushes the boundaries of decency with several prolonged sexual assaults that make for uncomfortable viewing, particularly Alex’s tormenting of the virgin Cindy (Brigitte Petronio). Despite flexing their muscles recently by refusing classifications to The Human Centipede 2 and The Bunny Game, the British Board of Film Classification have finally started to loosen up over some the so-called ‘video nasties’ of the 1980s and that’s certainly the case with this latest release from Shameless Screen Entertainment. Over 11 minutes of cuts have been restored from the previous release by Vipco in 2002, which essentially reinstates all of the sexual violence barring shots of Alex using a razor blade on Cindy’s (Brigitte Petronio) breasts.

As with the latest edit of Cannibal Holocaust, this is must surely be the most complete version of the that the BBFC are going to allow in the foreseeable future. Still, that doesn’t mean it’s a particularly good film and barring some decent work from David Hess and Giovanni Lombardo Radice as the deranged thugs, there isn’t really much on offer apart from a cheap cash-in designed purely to shock. However, the release itself is certainly an appealing package for fans and even those who own an uncut version will still want to take a look at the exclusive special features, which includes interviews with Hess and Deodato and a throughly interesting 50-minute debate on censorship featuring input from the BBFC, Deodato and film academic Professor Martin Barker.

Gary Collinson (follow me on Twitter)