Blu-ray Review: Don’t Go in the House (1979)

January 22, 2022

Written by DanXIII

Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, director, producer, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

After a work place accident in which he just stood idly by as a man went up in flames, delusional psycho/flame enthusiast Donny Kohler (The Soprano‘s Dan Grimaldi) returns home to find his beloved (not to mention horribly abusive) mother dead.

It’s at this point the voices in his head take over and tell him he can both enjoy loud disco music (hey, I said he was a psycho) and should really consider making a flame proof room where he can burn women alive… as one does.

Donny takes to that advice like a mother fucker, and begins piling up the BBQ… which he dresses and arranges in a room… but hey, he kept his Mom’s corpse too, so it’s kinda his thing…

Speaking of dear ol’ mama, her voice soon begins a competition with the other voices in Donny’s deranged dome, and it isn’t long before our “hero” begins seeing visions of the walking dead!

While definitely knowing which side it’s beastly bread was buttered on, Don’t Go in the House still attempts to offer some visual panache among all of the immolation, with special attention given to presenting the confines of the home in which Donny dwells for maximum claustrophobia… the effect is highlighted through some groovy Dutch angles, and utilization of the janky angles of the house itself.

Speaking of that doom-filled domicile, the once grand, now slipped into disrepair nature of the environment give this fright flick an air of the Gothic (as does the winter-swept northeastern seaside location where said house sits)… not to mention the family secrets, seemingly supernatural events brought on by crushing guilt, and torture chamber… it provides a great sense of atmosphere to the whole affair.

Also of note the film seems to have more on it’s mind than simple exploitation, with elements of religion, mental illness, child abuse and homosexuality all touched upon to varying degrees in the narrative… heady stuff for a flick that wanted to put asses in seats based on the notion of watching women burn alive like Salem witches.

Solidifying the piece is the acting on display from Grimaldi who can run the gamut from innocent and almost childlike to completely batshit with impressive skill, and the supporting cast is excellent as well with everyone from Robert Carnegie (who seems to be having the time of his life playing Donny’s friend Bobby) to the stunningly beautiful victims (and credit to Tom Brumberger’s special effects wizardry for making them look decidedly less so… not to mention the creative opticals utilized to represent the burning) all well and truly up to the task at hand.

Adding to the enjoyment you horror hounds can experience with this Blu-ray release from Severin are a host of bonus features which kick off with a duo of audio commentaries; one a new chat with director Joe Ellison And Producer Ellen Hammill which takes us through an upbeat examination of the film’s production, and the other an archival commentary with Grimaldi, which offers more first hand recollections of the film’s creation.

Following that comes the TV cut of the film (which includes material not scene in the theatrical cut), interviews with co-producer Matthew Mallinson and co-writer Joseph R. Masefield (as well as an archival chat with Grimaldi), an examination of the film’s locations as they appear today, a trailer gallery (of the US, UK, and German varieties), and an image gallery… and that brings us to disc two!

Included here are the “Integral” cut of the film that mingles together the theatrical and TV cuts to create a sinister smoothie concocted of the best of both worlds (and which features it’s own audio commentary from the ever-classy, super-informative Stephen Thrower).

Along with that we are treated to a video essay examining Don’t Go in the House‘s place in grindhouse history courtesy of publisher David Flint, an interview with Ellison (followed by a collection of interviews with his peers Matt Cimber, Roy Frumkes And Jeff Lieberman in conversation about the grindhouse genre… not for nothing Ellison appears here as well), an open matte flamethrower sequence (I have no idea what this is even after having watched it), and a trailer reel featuring grindhouse flicks with the word “don’t” in the title (and you can bet your ass there’s a good deal of them).

If you dig on the likes of Lustig’s Maniac (or Hitchcock’s Psycho if your trying to be all fancy about it… but the type of fancy where you can be sleazy and demure as the situation dictates) you’ll dig the ever lovin’ shit out of Don’t Go in the House; it’s a disco-drenched fever dream filled with Gothic ambience, social consciousness, and jaw-dropping torture and deserves a place on the highest of shelves of grindhouse revoltin’ royalty!

 

 

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