Don't Go In The House (1979)
By: Stuart Giesel on March 6, 2013 | Comments
Arrow Films | Region 2, PAL | 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 2.0 | 80 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Don't Go In The House Cover Art
Credits
Director: Joseph Ellison
Starring: Dan Grimaldi, Charles Bonet, Bill Ricci, Robert Osth
Screenplay: Joseph Ellison, Ellen Hammill, Joseph R. Masefield
Country: USA
External Links
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This underappreciated slasher gem, overlooked in favour of flashier fare like Friday the 13th, is a must-see for fans of nasty stuff, even though the film has a few flaws that prevent it from becoming a true genre classic.

Donny Kohler (Dan Grimaldi) is a loner, living with his mother in a grand yet creepy mansion. He works at a steel mill and keeps to himself, despite the persistence of a co-worker who wants to be friends. One day Donny comes home to find his mother has passed away, but instead of calling the hospital or getting the body removed he celebrates, as you do, by constructing an indoor furnace/torture chamber. He then proceeds to lure unsuspecting young girls over to his place and roast them alive. We learn that Donny was severely abused by his ultra-religious mother growing up - as punishment she would hold his arms over the cooktop, burning him severely. Now in his adult years Donny suffers from terrible voices in his head telling him to kill and do all sorts of things, so that's what he does. And that's about it as far as story goes.

Think of Don't Go In The House as a modern-day take on Psycho, and replace knives with flamethrowers and you've got the idea. In fact, it shares more with Psycho than a lot of the gorier slasher films from the era like The Prowler and My Bloody Valentine in that much of the film is more a psychological study of a severely disturbed individual irredeemably harmed by his mother, and that the film doesn't really wallow in the explicit gore that other slasher films like Maniac did at the time.

That's not to say Don't Go In The House isn't unsettling or disturbing - it most certainly is, most notably in the film's most infamous scene where Donny roasts his first victim in his self-made crematorium. The scene is chillingly clinical in its coldness, and the effects are surprisingly - and nauseously - well executed. This scene, by far the strongest in the film, happens fairly early on and unfortunately the film (and presumably the audience) never quite recovers. And although House ends satisfactorily, it tags on a sort-of-epilogue which bears hardly any relation to the events which preceded it, ending the film on a bit of a dud note. However the chilling and believable performance by Dan Grimaldi and the matter-of-fact attitude taken by writer/director Joseph Ellison makes this a more interesting horror film than your standard "insert name of public holiday or festival here" slasher.

Don't Go In The House presents something of a black and white situation - you'll either appreciate the film for its clinical, almost un-cinematic approach and nasty vibe, or think it's a dull load of cheap trash with precious few inventive kills. For those who want bucketloads of gore, stick with Jason or Freddy. For others who don't mind being challenged, and can handle something unapologetically grim, give it a try.
The Disc
Arrow is probably the best distributor of horror and exploitation films for the home market right now. Unfortunately their release of Don't Go In The House isn't as laden with extras as some of their other releases.

Video and audio is as expected for a low budget release - not great, but not terrible either. Picture quality isn't anything to get worked up about but the anamorphic presentation is functional with acceptable levels of detail and what I presume to be the graininess of the source material intact. The mono audio track is effective at times - though this is due to those "shock" sound effects that filmmakers like to use for cheap thrills - and the dialogue and music comes through as strongly as one would hope.

Features are extremely light, but then again this is a hugely overlooked low budget horror film from the end of the 70's we're talking about, not a huge Hollywood production. There's a Teaser and Trailer for Don't Go In The House and Trailers for other Arrowdrome releases. The DVD also comes with some liner notes and, in typical Arrow fashion, a reversible cover. It is also, as the sleeve proclaims, presented here totally uncut.

Personally I would have liked to see the discussion on Don't Go In The House from the excellent documentary Video Nasties - The Definitive Guide, which looks at film censorship in Britain during the Thatcher years and the creation of the notorious "Video Nasties" list. However I appreciate that there would have been licencing and/or financial implications in doing so.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Don't Go In The House is true horror, like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and, to a lesser extent, the original Maniac - a disturbing, nasty piece of cinematic work that chronicles the sordid life of a grubby, morally broken and reprehensible person who you'd normally take great pains to distance yourself from in real life. Don't go in this house expecting any splatter, but do expect a movie you won't soon forget.

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