BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Dec 17th, 2002 •

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I’ve heard this described as the ultimate ‘guilty pleasure’. Filled with copious nudity, overlaid with queasy violence, clearly exploitative rather than ‘artistic’ (like, say, STRAW DOGS), it is nonetheless sufficiently well made and visually compelling to lure most horror viewers into its clutches. Starring David Hess, still in the genre collective consciousness for his brutal debut performance in Wes Craven’s LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (reviewed above), the actor sort of reprises the virulent soul of that film’s “Krug”, though under Ruggero Deodato’s direction, he’s too mannered for the characterization. In general there’s too much silly dialogue and acting. Hess admits it himself in a supplementary interview, identifying the film’s problem as the Italian propensity for acting over the top.

Two sociopathic types somehow insinuate themselves into the car of a pair of upper class partygoers, entertain the odd ‘beautiful people’ at the party for a while with their lower class antics, then proceed to rape and mutilate them. The psychodrama is upsetting but hypnotic, its turns often unexpected, and a wispy blonde who arrives late in the film only to be preyed upon is a memorable, vulnerable waif. The ‘reveal’ at the end, designed to be clever, is too farfetched to swallow. But the film’s imagery and savagery will not be forgotten. I first saw it twenty years ago, and it has stayed with me ever since. Watching this version, supposedly complete (there’s been endless talk of a missing ‘tampon’ scene, but the filmmakers deny it), I discovered the flaws to be the same as I remembered, and the horrors, too. I recommend it; just be aware of what you’re getting into.

The mastering has rendered colors rich, and sound effectively grating. The supplements are particularly good. Hess’s interview is the best of the three. The interviewer is as incompetent as they come, offending Hess early on by asking if the actor’s wife was the woman he rapes in a car in the beginning, something Hess had apparently asked him not to touch upon. The genuine displeasure in Hess’s demeanor is unsettling (he never answers the question, though his wife does later on, as does director Deodato in a separate interview), and we never lose that sense of cosmetically unaltered reality which transcends the safety of a normal interview session. The interview is a long one, changing locations four times, and Hess proves intelligent and revealing. Whether you like him or not, you like him for giving it his best, always searching for the right explanations, and often, colorfully, letting his ego be his guide. The actor is also a fine composer, though none of his music was used in the film. However, if you can discover the ‘easter egg’, you can hear him play a duet with his son.

Also interviewed is Giovanni Lombardo Radice, who has appeared before in Italian horror, notably CANNIBAL FERROX, for which he appeared on a particularly memorable commentary track, lambasting the film while the director, recorded at another time, praises it. Here we see him, many years later, now a screenwriter, bald, dressed in black, and framed so that he appears to have only one arm. Eventually, to our relief, the other arm makes an appearance. He says he studied John Travolta’s physicality to get into his role in HOUSE AT THE EDGE OF THE PARK. It’s an animated interview and fun to watch.

Least appealing, and shortest, is director Deodato’s interview. He has and had misgivings about the film, though admits that having seen it again after a long hiatus, he feels that its virtues hold up whereas others of his films have dated. He remembers Hess as being greedy, but worked with him more than once. He seems a rather reserved individual to have hatched this piece of work (not uncommon in the industry – eg. Hitchcock, Romero, Craven), however HOUSE AT THE EDGE OF THE PARK actually pales compared with his most successful film, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, which is a kind of docu-horror flick, convincingly made, kicking the exploitation genre up to yet another level of unnerving believability. Not out yet in the USA on DVD, this will be a release that will surely test the limits to which lovers of guilty pleasures are able to go.

Directed by Ruggero Deodato.
Music by Riz Ortolani.
Written by Gianfranco Clerici and Vincenzo Mannini.
Director of Photography Sergio d’Offizi.

David Hess, Ann Bell, Christian Borromeo, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Marie Claude Joseph.

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