The House On The Edge of The Park/Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
It seems that I've always been drawn to home invasion films solely on the basis that they seem dangerous. Their box art promises the twisted delight of violence, torture, mania, and revenge. Sometimes, that's all I need for an exciting night in front of the TV screen, and 42nd Street classics like Fight For Your Life and Rolling Thunder (although not considered a shocksploitation feature) pack that powerful punch exploitation buffs live for. Unfortunately, home invaders occupy an inconsistent sub-genre, boasting more disappointment and broken promises than aggressive shocks with massive payoffs.
With Jungle Holocaust and Cannibal Holocaust already under his belt, renegade filmmaker Ruggero Deodato seems like the ideal candidate for a shamelessly graphic and aberrant crime flick brimming with sexuality and never shying away from explicitness. Well, despite several viewings and the benefit of the doubt, The House On The Edge of The Park is simply not that dream Deodato feature. Although it boasts a few moments of stomach-churning sadism and genuinely uncomfortable behavior, it mostly coasts by on the weight of David Hess' mesmerizing performance and packs what might be the most ridiculous plot twist in film history.
After seeing an attractive young lady drive by, hairy New York City car mechanic Alex decides to follow her so as to introduce himself. Although he seems friendly initially, Alex really isn't one for jovial conversation, instead, he runs her car off the road, viciously rapes her, and leaves her for dead. This aggressive opening really sticks it to you early, basically foreshadowing upcoming brutality. Effectively startling the viewer, the rape scene utilizes quick cuts to black, heightening the tension and showing the reckless abandon of Alex's unwavering insanity.
The opening moments also showcase the top-notch cinematography of Sergio D'Offizi, which beautifully depicts NYC nightlife with nice local color and great visions of the famous skyline. Underwater footage shown at the conclusion of the film also looks quite professional, giving the film an expensive look on a tight budget.
Riz Ortolani's theme song adds much atmosphere to these well-framed visuals, matching the serenity of his brilliant Cannibal Holocaust theme. Although it's not as powerful as that film's striking music, it is effective, masterfully juxtaposing the vile images shown on screen with attractive female vocals and swirling string compositions.
As for the plotline, Alex and his pal, Ricky (a patsy played like only Giovanni Lombardo Radice can) get invited to a swank gathering in the New Jersey countryside after helping some well-to-do travelers fix their ride. When Ricky starts to dance for the haughty crowd, they ridicule him, bringing his friend Alex's temper to a boiling point. It's not until they start dealing from the bottom of the deck in a card game that Alex takes action. He tosses a guest in the pool, smashes a party-goer's head into the card table, and gives Ricky his pick of what female partier he wants to rape first. Needless to say, these "bluebloods" should have been better hosts, 'cause they might not make it out of this social hour alive.
Bucking genre conventions, House On The Edge... initially makes the wealthy homeowners seem like the antagonists, since they wronged their guests, and understandably forced them into violent action. Equally unconventional is the sex scene between Ricky and a red dress-wearing partier. Upon feeling bad for the mild-mannered Ricky and sensing his low self-esteem, she suffers from a touch of "Stockholm Syndrome" and sympathetically sleeps with the emotional party crasher.
Albeit a well-known reputation for its intensity, this flick is really quite mild in both its sexuality and violence. As for "T&A," some shower soaping and much below-the-belt action is on display, but is sadly tarnished by a considerable amount of clothes-free time for the paunchy and decidedly unerotic David Hess. As for grue, two scenes stand out; Alex's brutal face-mashing of a male guest and a very explicit chest-slashing sequence featuring a straight razor and a virginal teen girl. The latter scene may be the one that forces this feature into infamy, but I expected much more from Deodato, especially after the endless barrage of visceral imagery in Cannibal Holocaust.
Yet, the straw that broke the camel's back is the twist ending. I won't reveal anything, in hopes of maintaining some level of secrecy, but let's just say that it indefensibly destroys any of the plotting that preceded it. A watchable, but overall disappointing effort from a usually reliable filmmaker.
Reviewed by Mdeapo