Don't Go in the House (1980)

Don’t Go in the House (1980)

4 Beers

Donald “Donny” Kohler (Dan Grimaldi) might be a bit touched in the head, but he has a fantastic collection of life-sized adult dolls.  They are nude, attractive, and, much like a fine brisket, a bit crispy on the outer skin.  Blackened to perfection by the flamethrower he’s swiped from work, this collection is bound to get him in a whole lot of trouble.  The most disturbing thing about them, though, is that he knows each and every one of them in some capacity and most of them were brought to his mother’s house against their will. 

Socially awkward and full of inappropriate responses to fire, flames, and anything explosive, Kohler is all about pleasing his mother.  Unfortunately, on the day Don’t Go In The House (aka The Burning) opens, he comes home from a work accident only to discover that his dear, sweet, and psychotic mother has passed away.  As a response to the tragedy, something inside – way down deep inside of him – suddenly snaps.  He might think he’s finally free from his repressive mother, but he’s dead wrong.

And that’s how the killing begins in this fiery horror flick. 

Buried by time and unfairly censored when it was finally released in 1987, Scorpion Releasing presents the rarely seen uncut version of Don’t Go In The House with a new 2K scan of the original camera negatives on blu-ray for the very first time.  The memorable horror flick was written and directed by Joseph Ellison, but its obvious inspiration – Hitchcock’s Psycho – has made it easily dismissible by far too many critics.

Don’t Go In The House is far more disturbing than Hitchcock’s film.  It’s trashier and easily more flawed, but all that’s to be expected.  It is also a bit more frightening and surreal than one might suppose.  All of which, when dealing with childhood abuse that suddenly becomes a person’s modus operandi, can be very unsettling.  We get flashbacks of his mother’s continued abuse when he was a child, but none of that tames our sickened response to the ladies he decides to burn alive. 

You see, Donald remains haunted by his mother.  He doesn’t bother to bury her, letting her rot in her upstairs bedroom, and cons the women he meets into coming in to his house – hence the title of the movie – before introducing them to his mother, tying them up, and then burning them alive.  He then dresses them like dolls and places their charred remains in the room with his mother so that they might entertain her.  It doesn’t help that Donny hears voices telling him that he is the “master of the flame” now and, yes, he believes it.

But is his mother entertained?  The voices Donald keeps hearing and the figures he keeps seeing in the house suggest otherwise.

To be truthful, Ellison’s movie is completely fucked up.  It’s also effective at creating the sort of tense atmosphere that suggests a world where damn near anything is possible as Donald goes about his business.  His first kill is seriously twisted and graphic, making even the strongest Horror Hound out there likely to flinch and (maybe) bat an eye.  I’m not even sure how the effect of burning that poor girl alive was pulled off; it’s that realistic.

Don’t Go In The House is now available on blu-ray.  In spite of its title, you’ll be hard pressed not to enter that open door once you crack its case and peer at the reversible sleeve art.  A steel room perfect for revenge housing all the ghosts that keep dragging him down into the earth…

…but how far down you go with him is entirely up to your viewing habits just Don’t Go In The House.

Blu-ray Specifications:

Presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the restoration of Don’t Go In The House is expressive and rippling with details.  Colors swing back and forth from cool blues to warm reds.  There is a noticeable upgrade from what has been seen before on DVD. Black levels are deep and respected for their differing shades. The color, while not bright (by design), is naturally saturated and expressive. A new layer of clarity equally illustrates the location and its corners; shadows are livelier.  The 2.0 DTS-HD MA sound mix handles the audio well enough. 

Commentary:

The commentary from actor Dan Grimaldi is interesting as it details his recollections of the shoot and the film’s initial reception and ultimate censoring.

Special Features:

We get a peek at the title card sequence that restores the title and forgoes “The Burning” and two new interviews from the cast and crew of the feature.  There’s an additional scene and looks at the locations used in the movie – especially the house, which has been everything from a building for the super rich to living dwellings for the super poor.  Scorpion Releasing provides a lot of interesting supplemental material on this release.

Dan Grimaldi Interview (11 min)

Robert Osth Interview (25 min)

"Don't Go in the House…Again" (11 min)

"Ghost Hunting in the Strauss Mansion" (8 min)

Alternate Title Card (2 min)

Additional Scene (1 min)

T.V. Spot

Theatrical Trailer 

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