Hey, kids, have you ever seen a movie that started out strong, but then fell apart half way through? You have? So have I. In fact, I saw a movie just like that this past Saturday night. It was called “The House on the Edge of the Park.” I knew nothing about it going in (save that I had heard the title before) and didn’t know what to expect. What I found was sheer exploitative goodness: Two psychopaths hold a group of New Wave yuppie types hostage at an upscale home that, as the title suggests, is on the edge of a park (though that fact was never mentioned or alluded to in the movie itself. Then again, no one ever said, “Boy, howdy, this sure was a Texas chainsaw massacre here”).
The movie opens with some ugly dude with Brill-O pad hair forcing a female motorist off the road, then raping and murdering her (another review I read used the term “strangle-fuck.” I elect to think of it as a “choke-‘n’-poke). Sometime later, Brill-O pad (his name is Alex) and his friend Ricky (who is “special”) are closing up their Manhattan garage for the night when a car pulls. There’s a meme making the rounds on Facebook lately of Mulder and Scully, from the X-Files, face-swapped, the caption saying something about how they look like a sick synth pop band. Yeah. That’s what steps out of the car: A dude named Tom and a chick named Lisa. They’re having car trouble and can’t be late. There’s a party in Jersey.
Tom and Lisa
Ricky fixes the car, and Alex invites him and his buddy along.
The party is at the home of this Steve Stiffler looking motherfucker named Howard. It’s him, his girlfriend G-L-O-R-I-A Glorrrria, and a bald, heavily-made up black woman named Glenda (avant-garde, baby). When Alex and the other losers arrive, Ricky makes himself right at home, treating Howard’s living room like it’s Studio 54 or something. Alex goes upside his head and tells him to stop making an ass of himself (and suggesting that the “rich assholes” are making fun of him), but gets distracted by Lisa, who seems DTF, if ya know what I mean. She invites him to take a shower with her, but ditches him halfway through.
Already mad, Alex comes downstairs to find the yuppies taking Ricky for all he’s worth in a rigged card game. Having had enough, Alex whips out a straight razor and forces everyone to let Ricky laughingly “win” and take their money. Something-something-something, Alex beats the shit out of Howard while Ricky attempts to rape Gloria. The fact that she “looks scared” turns him off, and he seems to come to his senses…as much as he is able.
Meanwhile, Alex ties Howard up, cuts Glenda’s dress so that her tig ole biddies plop out, and generally makes a bigger ass of himself than Ricky ever had. Eventually, the lights go out (how I can’t remember) and Lisa dashes upstairs, because that’s where you go when a killer’s after you. Alex corners her, rapes her, and then mocks Tom about it, calling him a “faggot” and all kinds of other shit. Being weak and effete, Tom just stands there and takes it.
Around this time, another party guest shows up, a young girl named Cindi. Alex takes her hostage but Gloria manages to slip out the front door and makes a break for it. Ricky gives chase, eventually finding her hiding in some bushes, or under a lattice, I don’t know, it was dark. He tells her that he doesn’t want to hurt her, and the next thing you know, they’re giving each other the bidness in what one can only assume was Gloria’s way of buttering Ricky up so he’d let her go. He doesn’t, though he promises to talk to Alex.
Back inside, Alex strips Cindi nude and eventually begins cutting her supple young body with the razor. Ricky attempts to stop him, but gets slashed for his trouble. While Alex is busy attending to his friend, whom he genuinely seems to care for, Tom goes for a gun and shoots Alex through a sliding glass door overlooking the patio. Tommy Boy then reveals that the girl Alex killed in the beginning was his (Tom’s) sister and that everything was a “set up.” Tom figured he’d get Alex in the house, let him run wild, then shoot him in self-defense.
Alex takes a bullet to the balls and flops into the pool, where Lisa and Howard both take turns taking potshots at him. When he’s dead, Howard goes for Ricky, but Gloria stops him. Guess there was more to that grindage under the stars than I thought.
The movie ends on Alex floating face-down in the pool.
The first act of this movie was…it was amazing. Simply amazing. The basic set-up, two balls-to-the-wall sociopaths holding a group of people captive really intrigued me. It’s not original, but madness, crime, and human depravity have always fascinated me, and David Hess played Alex fucking beautifully. I could write myself in circles about why I liked the first half of The House on the Edge of the Park so much, but I’d wind up saying nothing and sounding stupid doing it, so I’ll leave it at that. I liked it.
But the final stretch just didn’t do it for me. First of all, Gloria jumping Ricky’s boner seemed inappropriate. Not “dirty” just not right. I assumed she was vying for her life, but if it was all a set-up, then there was no need. Everything was going according to plan (more or less…pretty sure Tom didn’t expect to get his face slammed repeatedly into a table). I think that scene may be where this movie began to stumble.
Then the twist…oh God. It’s not terrible. I mean, I guess it’s something that makes a movie, you know, like Norman Bates being his mother and Soylent Green being people, but I felt it was a little far out. And not in a good way. I guess I was hoping for a simple, straight forward movie: Two crazy pieces of shit take a bunch of people hostage, and the people must fight for their survival. I was expecting Tom to snap and have a moment…you know, where he overcomes being weak, gets all manly (like the dude in The Hills Have Eyes) and beats the fuck out of Alex. The whole set-up thing was a curve, and not one I was expecting or wanted. It raises a lot of questions. Howard and Gloria were in on it, right? They seem to have been. What about Cindi? I don’t think she was, but she was explicitly invited. That suggests to me that those assholes wanted her to get roughed up…or at least didn’t care if she did. Maybe Tom thought he’d have it all squared away by then (he mentions that the gun, which was in a drawer, was “harder to get to” than he anticipated). Still, they took a huge gamble, and it wound up getting a girl cut multiple times and probably traumatized.
And then…why do it at all? Why not track Alex down and blow his head off in a dark alley? Or why not have the gun on you? Why take this suicidal gamble that hinges on you maybe being able to get to a gun in a drawer?
I don’t know. I do know that even before the twist, the wheels were starting to come off this train. What could have saved it? I don’t know. I’ve asked myself that a thousand times since Saturday night, and I’ve yet to come up with an answer. Everything I think of feels just as flat and lame as the ending I actually got. I do think focusing on Tom finding his balls would have ultimately made a better climax. The way I see it is this: While Alex is bent over Ricky, Tom attacks. He and Alex scuffle. Everyone (or maybe only one or two) flee into the night for help. Alex gets the upper hand, but Tom takes it from him and takes off on his ass, beating, pounding, breaking teeth, nasal cavities, just going to work. Then, when Alex is a bloody, bruised, and swollen (and possibly dead) mess, Tom rolls off, breaks down, and cries. The final scene is the camera panning away from the house as sirens rise in the night.
If I were remaking this movie, that’s what I’d consider. It might not be what I’d ultimately end up doing, but it’s a start, you know?
And speaking of remakes…I’m available, Hollywood. Call me.
That awkward moment when you take a .45 slug to the nuts.