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  House on the Edge of the Park, The Hess Pit
Year: 1980
Director: Ruggero Deodato
Stars: David Hess, Annie Belle, Christian Borromeo, John Morghen, Marie Claude Joseph, Gabriele Di Giulio, Brigitte Petronio, Karoline Mardeck, Lorraine De Selle
Genre: Horror, Thriller, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 2 votes)
Review: Last night Alex (David Hess) committed a crime. He nearly ran a woman driver off the road near the park, and lunged out of his car to enter hers, then raped and murdered her. But he is a psychopath so feels no remorse, indeed tonight his mood is positively bouyant and he prepares to leave his job as a mechanic for the evening and hit the dancefloor. However, just as he and his slightly simple best friend Ricky (John Morghen) are about to get going, a car pulls up and a rich couple get out. The man, Tom (Christian Borromeo) asks him to fix it, placing Alex in a quandary...

The House on the Edge of the Park was fairly obviously inspired by Wes Craven's groundbreaking horror movie Last House on the Left, as were a number of exploitation flicks where a group of characters were subjected to all sorts of indignities which were excused by the way the script contrived to ensure the evildoers were soundly punished before the end credits rolled. Star of that film David Hess, previously a singer and songwriter who could claim the Pat Boone hit You'd Better Come Home Speedy Gonzales among his efforts, saw his career take a turn into essaying the scuzziest villains films could conjure up thanks to his sterling work.

Although in real life Hess was an absolute gentleman, he had one of those faces which lent itself to screen villainy, and he was happy to play to the gallery who were keen to watch him indulge in all sorts of wicked depravity, something he did here with gusto for trash director Ruggero Deodato. Yet where Craven had a social conscience just visible behind the violence, Deodato's ambitions in that area were farcically poorly developed, as we were supposed to consider the rich characters as hopelessly decadent, and even inviting their torture at the hands of Alex and Ricky (well, mostly Alex) by dint of their moneyed lifestyle.

If you could take all this Marxist hyocrisy, that Alex turned out to be the one with integrity in spite of him behaving little better than an animal for the duration of the movie, then you might get on with the film in the spirit it was intended. But there was another intention here, which made it even more disreputable, and that was to titillate the audience: every actress here had to take off her clothes (though so did Hess!), and that made Deodato's morals suspect to say the least. The fact that he was less interested in blood and guts and more in sexual humiliation made for trouble with the censors, especially the British ones, who back in the eighties placed this on the so-called Video Nasties list of banned films.

All of which might to some eyes lend this an outlaw glamour, but really once you've seen how much padding the filmmakers employed to drag this out to feature length, boredom might be the overriding feeling it elicited. What happens is that Alex and Ricky invite themselves back to Tom's swanky house (at the edge of the park) where they meet with his friends and begin to pass the time with them in the hope they will get lucky with one or more of the women there. Mixed messages serve to make Alex in particular very unfriendly and before long he is holding the partygoers in the house and threatening them, which leads to them victimising them, and the expected violence erupts. The twist to this arrives too late to make any impact other than to render what we have seen in the run up to it appear completely ridiculous - would you agree to have your head repeatedly smashed into a table if it meant you could get back at somebody? - but then the whole set-up here, be it political or sexual, was idiotic at best. Music by Riz Ortolani, including the wimpiest horror movie theme ever.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Ruggero Deodato  (1939 - )

Italian director best known his ultra-violent horror work, but whose filmography takes in many genres over a 40-year career. Worked as an assistant director on a variety of films during the sixties, and made his first credited directing debut in 1968 with the superhero yarn Phenomenal and the Treasure of Tutankamen. Throughout the following decade Deodato made erotic dramas (Gungalar, Waves of Lust), musical comdies (Man Only Cries for Love), and comic book romps (Zenabel).

It was Ruggero's horror films that gained him an international reputation however. The trashy Last Cannibal World was followed by 1980's notorious Cannibal Holocaust, and the likes of House on the Edge of the Park, Cut and Run and Bodycount were popular amongst video audiences during the eighties. Other films during this period include the action fantasy The Barbarians and bizarre thriller Dial Help, while Deodato's work during the nineties was largely confined to Italian TV.

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