We have spoken a lot on this website about censorship, and nigh on 100% of the time you will find our rabid rage driven reviewers come done on the side of the movie, defending the director and deriding the censors.
However, one side of censorship that is rarely discussed is the affect of reverse advertising, a factor where banning or cutting a film gives masses of attention to what is ultimately a pretty terrible movie.
During the video nasties scandal (so brilliantly discussed in Jake West’s documentary) many great films where banned and unseen by the public purely because of moral panic. Ironically one of the major effects of the banning of these films was to amp up the audience interest.
Movies on the banned list became like rare collectors items and people desperately deliberately sought them out to see what all the fuss was about, uncaring about the quality of the film both in its content or the grainy copied VHS format most of them saw it in.
The effect this had at the time was to elevate certain completely undeserving films to a supreme sick status as must see movies a trend still taking place today and a major reason why censorship in many cases benefits a movie rather than hindering it (stand up Human Centipede 2, if you can you multi legged freak you!)
The House on the Edge of the Park is such a film; a pointless, plotless, gratuitous mess of a movie who’s biggest failing is that it’s ultimately not any good.
David Hess plays Alex a psychopath who we see raping and murdering an innocent girl in the opening titles of the movie just so we know the tone of the movie from the outset. When Alex and his best friend an inane simpleton named Ricky (Giovanni Lombardo Radice from City of the Living Dead) are invited to a swanky party by a couple way above their social standing they jump at the chance and head off with on what will be a night none of them will ever forget.
Once at the party, taking place at the titular plush and secluded house on the edge of the park, Alex realizes that his hosts only invited the pair to mock and ridicule them. Whipping out his switchblade knife he takes over turning the festivities into fear as he forces his prisoners to act out his every perverted whim and desire from sex games to vicious torture.
Initially rejected by the BBFC in 1981 The House on the Edge of the Park was put onto the fabled video nasties list when it transpired that uncut versions where easily available in the UK this prompting every teenage terror and hardcore horror fan to seek it out and see what all the fuss was about.
Let’s be honest here though The House on the Edge of the Park is a crappy exploitation movie that lucked out by gaining notoriety through being banned and what makes it even worse is it is directed by Ruggero Deodato the man behind one of the greatest, most gruesome, intellectually and morally challenging banned movers of all time Cannibal Holocaust except on every level where Cannibal Holocaust succeeded The House on the Edge of the Park fails.
Like Cannibal Holocaust and much later movies such as Funny Games and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer it seems Deodato wants to challenge the audience and there expectations testing the limits of the viewers repulsion at the scenes they are forced to see.
By filling the film with hateful characters Deodato obviously wants Alex to become the hero, twisting the watcher’s will by forcing them to root for this psychopath in the same way Stanley Kubrick, a decade earlier in A Clockwork Orange, transformed his central character (also named Alex) from a villain to a victim and back again.
Sadly Deodato and the film fail to do any of this as The House on the Edge of the Park has no depth whatsoever leaving the audience watching a series of rapes, chases, fights and torture which seem to be on a never ending loop until the film abruptly ends with one of the most unbelievable and ridiculous twist conclusions ever running any reality the movie hoped to have created.
Hess (better known for Last House on the Left and Smash Cut) dressed like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, can’t seem to decide whether to play Alex for real or for laughs and crafts a character devoid of any likability.
The other cast are just as bad with Radice’s portrayal of someone with mental health issues bordering on the offensive and the rest of the high class clichés might as well be made of cardboard.
Added to the awful action, boring and unbelievable situations and nonexistent character development is the fact that the transfer itself is pretty shoddy with unsynched sound and a low quality image making the viewing experience feel even more dirty and unpleasant or more like the original banned VHS whichever way you want to look at it.
A pointless film and a giant disappointment from Deodato it’s only merit is perhaps as a forefather to torture porn The House on the Edge of the Park is only worth watching if you are pursuing a Pokemon like quest to watch all the films from the banned list (and if you are then I salute you!)
For anyone else who sees this movie by accident they may wish it had stayed banned altogether.