Video Nasty: House on the Edge of the Park
Ruggero Deodato directed Cannibal Holocaust. That is an important piece of information to keep in mind as you continue to read ahead. If you aren’t familiar, Cannibal Holocaust is an early “found footage” horror film about a group of film makers that go into the jungle, torture the locals and end up being eaten by cannibals. Like The House on the Edge of the Park (which we are here to discuss) is was labelled as a VIDEO NASTY and banned. In fact, it was so nasty that Deodato was charged with murder. Prosecutors believed that the film was real and that he had killed his actors. He had to defend himself in court. Now, I told you all of that so that I could tell you this:
When he first read the script for House on the Edge of the Park, he didn’t want to make it. Deodato thought that it was too violent. It was too violent for the man who had been charged with murder because his ultra-violent Cannibal Holocaust was believed to be an actual snuff film.
The success of Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left lead to a wave of copycats and knockoffs. House on the Edge of the Park was Deodato’s take on it.
The film opens with Alex (David Hess, best known for Last House on the Left, funnily enough) Alex follows a young woman to the park. He rapes her then kills her, taking her locket as a trophy. Later we see Alex and his friend Ricky at work at a garage. They are closing up for the day when a fancy looking couple in a Cadillac pull in asking for help. Ricky fixes the car and the couple invite the two of them to a party that they are on their way to. Alex retrieves a straight razor from his locker before they leave the garage. They arrive at a mansion where they are greeted by the owner, Gloria, and her friends Glenda and Howard.
Alex tries to flirt with Lisa, who invites him into her shower, but then spurns his advances. When Alex returns downstairs he sees that their hosts are cheating at cards. Alex brandishes his razor and begins to fight with Howard, whom he beats badly. At this point the hosts become hostages.
Alex and Ricky torture, rape and terrorize the partygoers for what seems like a very long time until Tom produces a gun and takes control.
It is at this point that we learn that the unturned tables have turned or are re-turned or something. It seems that the woman Alex raped and murdered in the park was Tom's sister, and Tom wanted revenge. He and Lisa lured them to Gloria's house so they could kill them and make it look like self-defense. After explain the plan, Tom shoots the wounded Alex in the groin, making him fall into the swimming pool. Tom and Lisa take turns shooting Alex, who thrashes weakly in the water before a final bullet to the head by Howard end his misery.
If your friend came to with help with his plot to get revenge for the rape and murder of his sister, you might be reticent when he explained that his plan involved you or your other friends being beaten, slashed, bound, raped, etc and possibly killed. I might have suggested merely luring Alex to the house and putting a few bullets in him as soon as the door closed. But then, I’m not a pretty young rich person. So what do I know?
Dumb plan aside, the film is very effective. The violence is visceral and gory. We get a very Italian style of nastiness that fans of Fulci, Bava, and Argento will admire.
Its inspiration, Last House on the Left, Gives us one big explosion of horror, then plays out the catharsis in the revenge. We sight as the credits roll. House on the Edge of the Park doles out the horror, the cruelty, in small bits. By letting us know up front that Alex is a monster, it creates a sense of building dread. Since we don’t know that the events are part of a revenge plot, we have no release valve.
The reveal of the revenge itself seems almost an afterthought. Unlike LHotL’s unrelenting, Straw Dogs-esque climax, here we just get a reveal, a quick finish, and are shown the door. That somehow makes it worse.
House on the Edge of the Park deserves its place on the list of Video Nasties. At least this time Deodato didn’t get charged with murder for it!