Late 70’s slasher ‘Don’t Go In The House‘ is a pull-no-punches grind-house horror film that’s got just enough originality to keep genre fans entertained and enough violence to become one of the infamous ‘Video Nasties‘ banned in the UK on home video. Director and co-writer Joseph Ellison puts a pyromaniac in place of an axe-wielding psycho and amps the creep factor up to eleven as we follow the fractured Donny as he spirals into madness after the death of his mother, and while it’s not exactly a classic, the film’s a unique entry into the tail-end of Horror’s 1st great independent era and one of the harder to find ‘Video Nasties’, making it a worthwhile watch for true genre aficionados.
“Don’t Go in the House” came out at a time when the horror genre was under attack on grounds of it being misogynistic, and Ellison’s film, along with William Lustig’s “Maniac” made the same year, was called “lurid trash” and “sickening” amongst other things. TV guide gave it “zero stars” calling it a “worthless, repugnant film”. Some critics even went as far to suggest that both the audience and the creators of this film were sick, deranged people. Ellison himself recalled that when he went to a double feature of “Friday the 13th” and “Don’t Go in the House” in New York, the audience screamed and cheered for Jason…they were having a good time. However, when “Don’t Go in the House” was played the audience sat still, not moving. This experience soured Ellison on directing for nearly a decade, and he retired from filmmaking not long after a forgotten second feature some years later. However, Ellison’s strange, seedy little film lives on, having found a new audience in fans like Quintin Tarantino… and of course freaks like you and me.
Donnie (Dan Grimaldi), our main character, was abused emotionally and physically as a boy by his cruel, straight-out-of-Psycho mother, often holding his arms over a gas stove to “burn the evil out”. Due to these traumatic events Donnie’s turned out to be a real weirdo, skulking through life with no friends, a shitty job, and an unfortunate obsession with fire. After a one two punch of a workplace accident and his Mother’s sudden death, Donnie’s left with a “burning” hatred due to the cruelty she inflicted upon him. Strange Voices command him to be free…and to have his revenge. He keeps her death secret and builds a flameproof steel-panelled crematorium in one of the bedrooms, hangs a hook on the ceiling with chains hanging from it, buys a flamethrower and then it’s party time.
Part of what makes “Don’t Go in the House” worth watching it’s the sad, sleazy atmosphere that hangs over the whole thing. There is no cool anti-hero factor to Donnie, he’s actually so pathetic, uncharismatic and awkward that he only manages to pick up his victims out of blind luck. Director of Photography Oliver Wood washes the world of “Don’t Go in the House” is a pallid, blue lights, casting a cold atmosphere in the house and when we follow Donnie on the street, with his murderous pyrotechnics our only warmth. The score from composer Richard Einhorn (who also brought us scores for ‘The Prowler’ and ‘Blood Rage’) brings the eerie, late 70’s synth sounds we crave in our slasher cinema, and while not outstanding, is more than serviceable. However, the same sleazy, exploitation atmosphere often results in poor pacing, atrocious audio and some ham-fisted acting from a anonymous cast that drag this one back from being pretty great to merely pretty good.
“Don’t Go in the House” is definitely not for the casual horror fan, it’s a grim and nihilistic film from the end of the slasher / exploration era that offers a unique take on a very Norman Bates inspired character. However if you’re a genre fan who’s looking for something different, or you want to dive into the world of Video Nasties that you may have missed, this is well worth a watch. Check the trailer below and catch this one on Amazon Prime.
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