03rd Feb2017

‘Don’t Go In The House’ Blu-ray Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Dan Grimaldi, Charles Bonet, Bill Ricci, Ruth Dardick | Written by Joseph Ellison, Ellen Hammill, Joe Masefield | Directed by Joseph Ellison

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One of the many films that was tangled up in the video nasty debacle of the early 80s, Don’t Go In The House tells the story of Donny, a somewhat disturbed man who lives under the thumb of his overbearing and sadistic (in the sense that she likes to burn his arms on the stove) mother. That is until his mother passes away and Donny’s already disturbed psyche finally cracks. Living only with the voices in his head, Donny seeks out female companionship, only his idea of bringing a girl home to meet mother entails tying them up in his steel-walled burning chamber!

Don’t Go In the House is a film clearly inspired by Psycho, yet it shares very familiar traits with William Lustig’s Maniac and De Niro’s Taxi Driver and is just as sleazy. I originally saw the film as a teenager back in the late 80s in a cut form on the old Apex video label and distinctly remember being completely underwhelmed by it, however finally seeing the film in its uncut form, a few years ago, was somewhat of a revelation: the use of fire and the VERY graphic burning scenes makes for a much more extreme and disturbing film. In its cut form it wasnt much more than a cheesy 70s disco flick!

Dan Grimaldi, as the disturbed Donny, strikes the perfect balance of immaturity and plain ol’ crazy and its Grimaldi’s performance that holds your interest in between the gory set pieces which, despite their age, still remain very powerful, both in terms of how graphic they are and in their metaphorical nature… Of course Donnys deep-seated psychological issues stem from his mothers treatment of him; and it’s here where you can see just how much Don’t Go In the House was inspired by Psycho – well that and the fact Donny likes to have charred corpses sitting around in chairs much like Norman Bates and his mum!

At first glance you’d think Don’t Go In the House was very much like its video nasty brethren, in that time had lessened its impact, however coming at the film with fresh eyes, and with this fantastic new HD transfer, I can appreciate the film much more. The plot has an emotional resonance and the graphic nature of the murders only heightens the sleazy atmosphere which in turns feeds the story, making it feel much stronger than in the censored version I grew up with. However I do take issue with the films cheesy epilogue which sees another abused child hear voices. This ending (which is very much like the twist/jump endings found in the slasher movies of the period) makes it seem like the voices in Donny’s head were the source of his murderous behaviour and not his cracked psyche, which belies everything that has gone before it.

It did take me a while to decide whether to upgrade my old Arrowdrome DVD of Don’t Go In The House to this new Blu-ray, after all 70s sleaze should look as grimey as it feels right? However it was the extras on this Blu-ray, and the fact I’ve pretty much become a Blu-ray snob when it comes to genre flicks (if there’s a Blu-ray I want that rather than a DVD) that finally made me take the plunge…

This release features an audio commentary AND interview with star Dan Grimaldi; all-new interview with actor Robert Osth; not one but two featurettes: “Don’t Go in the House Again – a tour of the Strauss Mansion” and “Ghost Hunting the Strauss Mansion with Greg Caggiano”; plus there’s the alternative title card and a short additional scene running just less than a minute.

Don’t Go In The House is available now from RoninFlix (US) or DiabolikDVD (International)

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