Film Reviews

Don’t Go In The House (1979) – Blu-ray Review

There are certain things that we’ve come to expect from slasher movies over the years: masked or costumed killers, the final girl, elaborate kills, chase sequences, and teens being punished for breaking the rules. But before some of the bigger hits in the genre, particularly Friday the 13th in 1980, which was a massive financial success and changed slasher films forever, things were done a bit differently. Don’t Go In The House is a prime example.

The film doesn’t follow a victim. It doesn’t have a final girl. Instead, we begin with Donny Kohler (Dan Grimaldi), a man in his mid thirties who works at the local incinerator facility, burning trash. Straight away we see that Donny’s isn’t your typical guy; when an accident results in a coworker being engulfed in fire Donny watches on, mesmerised rather than helping.

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When he returns home from work that night to help take care of his sick mother, whom he shares a large run down house with, he finds that she has died whilst he was away. At first this devastates him, but his pain soon turns into a revelation; without his overbearing mother around he can do whatever he wants. Donny begins to enjoy his new freedom, playing his music loud and jumping on the furniture, but the disembodied voice of his mother begins to haunt him, trying to punish him for his happiness.

This voice stirs up trauma in Donny, of the times where his mother would punish him as a child by burning the evil out of him. Sure that he can overcome the voices in his head and break away from his mother’s ghost with fire, Donny converts one of the rooms into a fireproof chamber, and starts looking for victims that he can burn alive.

I’d heard of Don’t Go In The House due to it being one of the 72 banned ‘video nasties’ in the UK, and was expecting a gory slasher style movie of Donny going around in his fire-proof suit killing poor unsuspecting women. Instead, I was surprised to find the film that this has most in common with is actually Psycho .

The victims don’t really matter in this film, and whilst we spend a good portion of time seeing Donny select his first victim, and working himself up to perform the act of kidnapping and killing her, the later victims get very little screen time, and I don’t think any but the first is named. Instead, it’s Donny that is the focus, his journey from abused son to fire-obsessed killer. The most obvious comparisons to Psycho would be the relationship between Donny and his mother, and how he keeps hearing her voice after she dies, and how her past actions are driving him to now harm young women. Thankfully the film doesn’t go into the disgusting trope of the cross-dressing villain, and because of that I think it actually makes a lot more sense than Psycho, and works better.

The house of the title also stirs up images of the Hitchcock movie, thanks to it being a large Gothic building standing alone on a hill. It might not be as imposing as the Bates home, but it’s more interesting due to the fact that it’s not a fake, but is actually a real house. The house is itself as much a character as Donny, and the well kept rooms at the entrance to the house that put forward an image of normality, soon give way to a decaying and ill-kept building, reflecting how Donny’s normal appearance is only surface level.

It being not just a killer running around hunting victims, but an actual study of a person’s descent into evil actions, particularly with the themes of how abuse can beget abuse, make this film an interesting watch. It’s hard to see why the film was ever banned, as it is clearly more than some gore-filled horror cash grab like many slasher films of the era.

The new Blu-ray release offers audiences a few different ways of watching the movie. It comes with a 2K restoration of the film from the original negative as either the Theatrical Cut, or the Television Version of the movie, as well as a new cut that combines the two versions together into a longer Extended Cut. There are commentaries for each of the versions of the film, with cast, crew, and film authors offering their insight and expertise to expand the viewing experience. There’s also a Cinema Mode, which presents the film as it would have appeared in theatres in 1979, complete with trailers for other horror films, and cinema adverts; it even has an ad for a local Indian restaurant, and is a good bit of silly fun.

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In addition to all these versions of the film there are a number of extras including interviews with cast and crew members, trailers, featurettes about the house where it was filmed, archival interviews, video essays, and documentaries about the film and its place in horror cinema.

Don’t Go In The House is a horror film that was banned in the UK for decades, that received a harsh reputation because of this, and could be thought of as nothing more than gross, slasher gore; but is actually a lot more interesting than that. And this new release offers horror fans the ultimate way to experience this piece of cinematic history.

Don’t Go In The House is out on Blu-ray on 7th February from Arrow Video.

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