Plot: Donny (Dan Grimaldi) is still haunted by the memories of his horrific childhood, under his cruel mother’s care. The worst of her abuses was her favorite punishment, in which she would use the stove to burn her own son. Now an adult, Donny is scarred by the events and struggles to find a place in the world. When he discovers his mother has died in her sleep, he is relieved, but also begins to hear strange voices. At first he just jumps on the furniture and plays his music loud, the things he was never allowed to do. But now he is drawn to commit darker, more sadistic acts. He offers a ride home to a flower shop cashier, instead taking her home to his house and knocking her out. She wakes up nude and shackled in a strange room, then Donny burns her alive with a flamethrower. But he isn’t done after just one victim, not even close. Will someone or something stop Donny or will he immolate every woman he sees?
Entertainment Value: I want to note that for this review, I watched the uncut version of Don’t Go in the House. This isn’t the kind of horror movie that piles up bodies or pours buckets of blood, instead it delves into the sick mind of the main character. I think the focus on the killer’s development is what makes this such a powerful movie. We see how he was twisted into this maniac, we watch him resist the inner voices, then finally we witness his complete breakdown. Dan Grimaldi is excellent here as the killer and adds so much to the experience. Without a strong lead this picture would have sank, but Grimaldi is more than capable. The narrative is good and lays down all the framework for the events in the film, making sure we understand the killer’s mind even if we don’t want to. Even the house the film features seems ominous and dreadful, this is just a dark ass movie. But it is also skillfully crafted and for anyone who appreciates psychological horror, Don’t Go in the House is a must see.
The film doesn’t have much nudity, but we do get to see one woman totally nude just before she is torched. She reveals the full monty, including full frontal, then she gets doused in gasoline. Kind of gives the phrase fire crotch a new spin. On the blood side, there’s not really any gore from an arterial perspective. The film trades in blood for fire, giving us ample heat in exchange. The scene where the killer roasts the nude woman is just insane and looks incredible even decades later. We also see some of the charred corpses afterwards and they look quite good, thanks to some terrific special effects. Now, good enough to have a conversation with though, I don’t know. The killer also lights a woman’s head on fire in a disco, which is just awesome. No real hokey dialogue, as the film is well written and performed. A man burns women alive and talks to the corpses, so that’s a bit of crazy right there. But Don’t Go in the House isn’t a gonzo horror slasher, it is a more focused, tightly crafted picture. I wouldn’t call it sane by any means, but remains grounded when it needs to be.
Overall Insanity: 5/10
The Disc: Severin Films has rolled out the red carpet for this video nasty, with a new two disc edition that will have fans burning with excitement. A new 2k scan from the original negative starts us off, a new visual treatment that looks rock solid throughout. A little softness at times, but good detail in most scenes and looks consistently impressive. The contrast is accurate and the print looks quite clean, so this is a more than solid visual presentation. In addition to the uncut version of the movie, this release also houses the alternate TV cut of Don’t Go in the House (90 minutes) and the integral version (92 minutes), so you can choose between all three options here. A trio of audio commentaries are up next, with director Joseph Ellison and producer Ellen Hammill discussing the theatrical cut and a second archival track for that version, with actor Dan Grimaldi. Author Stephen Thrower provides his research in a track on the integral cut as well, so a lot of insights to be found in these three tracks. A half hour interview with Ellison is also included, as well as a location tour, interviews with Grimaldi, producer Matthew Mallinson, writer Joseph R. Masefield, and a host of grindhouse filmmakers, with a video essay from David Flint, the open matte flamethrower scene, and a host of trailers rounding out the disc.