"I take orders from the Octoboss."

Don’t Go In the House

tn_dontgointhehouseslashersearchYou know what, if you want to enjoy life you’ve got to be spontaneous. Some of us, we get locked into these rigid routines. We get comfortable and stop taking risks or doing new things. You know, you take a certain route to work, you eat at the same places, same foods. If a stranger comes up and tries to talk to you it’s not expected, you try to get away. Maybe you don’t like to go to concerts or to movies alone or you don’t go outside at night. Whatever. You get stuck in your boring, safe ways.

But sometimes you oughta shake things up a little. Do things you normally wouldn’t do, say yes to questions you’d normally say no to. Isn’t there a Jim Carrey movie that addresses this?

Take for example this woman who works at a flower shop in this movie. She’s closing up and this guy who looks kind of like Dustin Hoffman starts knocking on the door saying his mother is sick and can she please sell him some flowers, just real quick, something pre-made is fine. People like that are a pain in the ass (it’s a business with posted hours) and normally she’d probly wave him away. But to be nice she lets him in, and for her trouble ends up just missing her bus. Well, what do you know, there’s the guy driving home, he gives her a ride to make it up to her. But he has to stop home real quick to drop off the flowers and tell his mom he’ll be right back. And then he wants to know if maybe the flower girl will come inside and meet his mother real quick.

Well, normally you’d say no. What’s up with this guy, she needs to get home, and they’re total strangers, what’s she gonna say to the old lady? But then on the other hand, why not? Just say yes this time, what the hell? Meet some old lady. Maybe it’ll be a funny story to tell. Say yes! Go on an adventure!

Well, okay, this is maybe a bad example, because in this specific case the guy is nuts, the mother is a dead body and the shopgirl ends up chained up naked and burned alive. But usually that wouldn’t happen. Usually it would just be an interesting, non-fatal new experience. So seize the day!

That’s one approach to life. Or you could follow the very simple instructions in the title: DON’T GO IN THE HOUSE!

mp_dontgointhehouseLadies and gentlemen, we have a winner. Slasher Search is a success this year, because you guys steered me to a good one I’d never seen. Okay, so there’s no slashing, and it’s more like MANIAC or PSYCHO III where the main character is the killer, he’s not sneaking around stalking people. But this fulfilled my need. I really liked this one alot, this is going on my list of the unsung greats.

First time movie actor Dan Grimaldi plays Donny Kohler, a mentally ill individual who works incinerating trash. In the opening he stands and does nothing when a co-worker catches on fire, then says bizarre shit when his boss yells at him. So we know he’s crazy but the real trouble is when he goes home and discovers his mom dead. First he panics, then he goes into denial, then he decides to take advantage of the situation and turn his disco music up real loud, then jump up and down on an antique chair.

I guess it’s kind of like HOME ALONE or one of those ’80s teen movies where the parents are on vacation so the kids have total freedom. For the first time in his life Donny doesn’t have to worry about his mom stopping him. Unfortunately his response is not to throw a kegger or stay up late eating pizza and watching Cinemax. His vice is the kidnap/murder thing like that whole “flowers for my sick mother” fiasco I mentioned. He wants to “burn the evil out” and he uses a blowtorch. Then he keeps their burnt corpses as companions, but sometimes he thinks they’re laughing at him. This is the first movie I’ve seen so far with a burnt-corpse-in-rocking-chair-after-getting-slapped POV shot.

Now is probly a good time to mention that Donny was abused. His mom burnt him and fed him that “burn the evil out” line of crap. It’s interesting how many puritanical single mothers there are in horror: Carrie White’s mom, Norman Bates’s mom, maybe you could count Pamela Voorhees and if you want to stretch it there’s Mother Superior from SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT. They don’t know it, but they’ve been defeated by science. They think religion is enough, but they happen to be insane, and that’s hereditary. Their kids might get by anyway TheMoreYouKnowbut then they jostle their skulls with all this fire and brimstone. They think they’re trying to stop some evil and have no idea that they’re creating it. Man, if they would’ve just chilled the fuck out and stopped worrying so much about dirty pillows their kids would’ve turned out just fine. Remember that, puritanical horror movie mothers.

Poor Donny is all alone up there in the house. What he needs is a positive influence in his life, somebody to balance out the negative influence of the voices in his head. Surprisingly there’s actually a guy at work, Bobby (Robert Osth), who tries to look out for him. Sort of the Sue Snell of the story. He must just be a nice guy because he goes out of his way to stick up for Donny at work and to call him up to invite him for beers or coffee or something, just checking in, trying to get him to talk about his problems. But Donny never takes him up on his offers, he always has to go straight home after work. Even he oughta follow the request of the title.

Eventually Donny clues in that he’s got a problem here, this tea party of burnt corpses he’s collected. There’s a possibility that that sort of hobby can sometimes be unhealthy, in a way. He goes to Father Gerritty (Ralph D. Bowman) for help. Gerritty never noticed that the kid had been abused, and realizing it now he tries to talk to Donny about it and the nature of evil and all that. Some of it seems to get through to Donny (although he apologizes to his mom’s dead body for talking to the priest, so there are still some issues in my opinion).

Donny makes the right decision, he decides to cut out this kidnapping/blowtorching shit. It’s time to get out of the house and hang out with firends and stuff. He even calls up Bobby to see if he wants to go to a movie. But Bobby wants him to go to a disco with him and two chicks. Donny hesitates, but then what the hell, he says yes. You know, like I was saying before. Like the Jim Carrey movie.

Now Donny makes an effort to fit in with society. He goes to a clothing store where a salesman promises to “make a new man out of you.” Donny doesn’t really know what to look for or ask so he wants to know what shirt the customer who just left looked at, if he liked it, if the salesman likes it. He says odd things like “Nice styling.” I’m sure people in retail are used to dealing with all kinds of odd tics and strange requests. But they probly just figure “that guy’s OCD” or “he might be mildly autistic” and not “he’s trying to break his habit of kidnapping and blowtorching women.”

Anyway, I think that shopping scene is actually my favorite part. It’s one of many parts that reminded me of MANIAC, because both follow this character into total madness and then show them going out into the world where they are able to somewhat pass for normal people. I mean, you usually assume people are not serial killers. It’s funny to see this guy try to figure out how to pick out a shirt.

The disco double date goes pretty good until he flashes back to his mother burning him, freaks out and lights his date’s head on fire with a candle. You know how it is when you’re trying to quit something, you just get real tempted, you want to maybe try just cutting down instead of quitting altogether. You know, I don’t need the blowtorch, but how bout I throw a candle at a girl’s head, that’s not such a big deal is it? As long as I’m doing it only once or twice a day I think it’s progress.

But this time he did it in public so there are consequences, and everything comes tumbling around him.

Grimaldi is great in the movie. It’s so cool to see an actor you’ve never seen before doing such a good job. He’s so confused and vulnerable and odd, very Travis Bickle or Rupert Pupkin.

Director Joseph Ellison’s only other movie is JOEY six years later. It’s not about a killer baby kangaroo, it’s some drama about a father and son relationship.

that thread is too long to search so I can’t figure out who was the first to recommend this, but thanks to all of you who encouraged me to watch it. You were right.


This entry was posted on Thursday, November 5th, 2009 at 1:44 pm and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

37 Responses to “Don’t Go In the House”

  1. This is a great review of a terrible movie, Vern.
    You almost made want to see it a second time,
    but I’m not falling for that trick. I saw this as the
    second half of a double feature (in a theatre, no
    less, not a drive-in — and with my parents, to
    boot) when I was but a youngster. Even then
    I knew better than this pile, naked women
    notwithstanding. Coincidentally, I saw another
    pile, Don’t Go in the Woods, as the second half
    of a double feature, also with my parents,
    around the same era — that time at a drive-in.
    I don’t know if there is any relation between those
    two movies beyond the title, but they are forever
    linked in my mind by the titles, having seen them
    around the same time in my childhood, and their
    suckiness! Keep up the great work, Vern. I
    eagerly await your next print release.

  2. When I was working in a convience store, the absolute number one pain in the ass was people running up right as I was locking the door at midnight. They bodyslam their way in, then walk around the store five or six times, then make themselves a slurpee, spilling it all over the floor, which means we need to mop it again. Man I hate those guys.

  3. I was there the night Quentin Tarantino screened this at the Alamo Drafthouse a few years back. There was a point where he yelled “Best cut in the history of cinema!” and it was indeed a fine moment. You know, the movie shows you the whole long process he does with the first girl, going from offering her a ride to getting her into the house to chaining her up and burning her in that weird metal room. Then shortly thereafter, he meets another girl on the road, and offers to give her a ride. She accepts, and the movie cuts to her naked, charred corpse. It’s a really great moment, and one of the best things about the film (which I remember being one of the better Psycho ripoffs we were shown at the time). Glad you liked the movie.

  4. Wait a minute, is that the same Dan Grimaldi who played Patsy Parisi on THE SOPRANOS?

  5. I’ve been meaning to check this one out. Thanks for the review.

    Grimaldi later became a semi regular on The Sopranos. He always impressed me in his appearance on that show. I’m curious to see him play crazy in this.

  6. Actually, Vern, you may remember the star of Don’t Go In The House as that sort of weaselly guy on The Sopranos who was on the show since the beginning but never had anything to do until the very end when he turned rat all of a sudden and you were like, “Wait a minute, which one was he again?” That’s a fucked up thing to do but I guess you can understand it when you see what kind of upbringing he had.


  8. YES!!! I knew you would love this one Vern, and your review did not let me down. Thanks there bud! Very appropriate after the Psycho reviews, as well.

  9. As far as puritanical mothers go I can’t believe you forgot Jacob Goodnight’s mother from SEE NO EVIL, especially since you are one of a very small group who actually appreciated that films aggressive stupidity and commitment to misanthropic vulgarity.

    Also this film is probably my favourite of all the DON’T films, unless you count LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE (which had the alternate title DON’T OPEN THE WINDOW). Oh, and I liked Edgar Wright’s DON’T trailer for g****house too.

  10. P.S. Vern. For easy searching and crossreferencing in huge chunks of text:


    Will bring up a keyword search thingamajig.

  11. Gotta agree with Steve…great review of a shitty movie. I remember very little about the film except that I didn’t like it at all. And I ain’t being tricked into a rewatch neither.

  12. I remember Joe Bob Briggs briefly talking about the DON’T GO series of titles.

    “what, no DON’T GO TO THE TOILET ?”

  13. That would be another great review of a shitty movie.

  14. Come on guys. Give’r a rewatch. This is a trash classic.

  15. glad you like this one. someone suggested it to me around september and i thought it was a great time. one of those movies where you ask yourself how you’ve never heard of it before.

  16. Don’t Go to the AICN Talkbacks

    Yes, slasher movie with victims stalked by killer….at the Talkbacks.

    Coming soon to DVD along with GHOST TOWN.

  17. I’m surprised you didn’t dwell more on the general unsavoriness, Vern. I confess I haven’t seen it, but I’ve read reviews and have watched the infamous murder scene and was under the impression that this was one of those really sleazy, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, “makes you wanna pour bleach in your DVD player” movies. But maybe not. Or maybe so and that’s what you were looking for.

    (The shirt-buying scene does make it sound more subtle than that. Eric Rohmer’s CHLOE IN THE AFTERNOON has a shirt-buying scene. If I had a theater, I’d program the two films as a double-feature. That’d be fun.)

  18. Also, Vern, I wanna thank you for the valuable life lessons of this review. You made up my mind for me. I’m gonna go ahead with that canoe trip down the Cahulawassee River with my buddies, and then on from there to check out an old silver mine in the desert I recently inherited. What’s the worst that could happen?

  19. I also remember the movie as being a little sleazier than Vern is making it out to be. Taken out of context, though, that pic of the chick hanging out in the discotheque with her head on fire is pretty hilarious.

    Also, I want to see a slasher movie called Slasher Search where the killer has a big question mark on his face and a bloody cardboard sign that has the title written on it hanging around his neck. The poster is already designed so it should be pretty easy to get funding.

  20. All I remember from the time I watched it was that I felt they crossed the line with the first murder. I think it’s the equivalent of watching rape on screen. Just unpleasant.

  21. Most slashers are so damn boring and generic that I appreciate one that gives me a lot of sleaze and depravity.

  22. I think this movie leaves a sleazier impression than its content actually warrants. In another thread someone remembered there being a rape in it. There’s definitely no rape in it. It’s actually pretty tame compared to the type of filth that’s available these days. I think this can be explained by the showpiece scene: the naked chick burned to death by a maniac with a blowtorch in a stainless steel room.

    That sentence reads pretty sleazy, no doubt. But I don’t recall there being another on-screen death in the movie. We see charred corpses, we see another girl’s hair treated to Disco Inferno, but the only on-screen death is the girl from the flower shop. Compare a Friday the 13th installment at the time, which might have about 10. This one scene is eerily well-done for a cheapie from the early 80s. It’s about as good as it gets for burning naked chick special effects at the time. So the scene makes an indelible impression that gives all those later scenes with soon-to-be victims and charred corpses a much more effective punch. And it’s not just the special effects. The whole build-up Vern described in his review plays out with much suspensefulness and Hitchcockery on screen. Like I said I’m glad Vern watched this right after Psycho because it’s a good riff on the material. It has all the sleazy trappings of early 80s horror but it’s thoughtful about its characters and whatnot. And it pulls off the always tricky empathetic-serial-killer-protagonist maneuver. Grimaldi gave a great performance, and I was blown away when I realized he was that Sopranos guy.

    Anyway thanks again Vern. Made my day and possibly my whole damn week with this review.

  23. Okay Gwai Lo, I’ll give it another viewi— hey!

  24. I agree with Gwai Lo. That first death is just way over the line of what you usually see, just because it would be such a horrible way to go. And then the movie coasts on that, knowing you will remember the horribleness (for example the cut that Kyu was talking about, which I also loved, skipping from him picking up a hitchhiker to there already being a dead body).

    It’s definitely unsavory but to me MANIAC is way, way, way sleazier, so to me it came off actually kind of classy.

  25. “Unsavory but…MANIAC is…sleazier” — Vern

    Though by the time it made it to the ad or the DVD cover, it would read:

    “Classy”! — Vern

  26. or:

    “Kind of classy!” – Outlaw Vern

  27. “You will remember the horribleness!”–Outlaw Vern

  28. This movie really disturbed me when I saw it, and it had everything to do with how strong the filmatism was. Gwai Lo hit the nail on the motherfucking head, the first death, it’s definitely upsetting. It really took me out of the more mundane, ride the rollercoaster fun that I get with slasher flicks (of which I’m not a big fan, slashers that is) and put me face to face with the reality of a girl getting strung up and blowtorched. Nasty stuff, really turned my stomach:

    to the point I stopped watching.

    This doesn’t happen often. I can watch a brutal, disturbing movie and get something out of it, maybe not entertainment or even enjoyment, but a bleak picture into the human condition perhaps. Martyrs and Salo immediately come to mind; I can’t say I “enjoyed” them in the way I enjoy old Romero movies or something like Fright Night, but I also think they’re worth checking out if you’re a serious horror fan, or just plain student looking for the how’s and why’s of the degradations people put each other through.

    Maybe I’ll give this one another shot, because like I said, these filmmakers knew what they were doing; it’s no surprise that Tarantino picked this one for his festival. It’s a little thing, but I loved the scenes from the plant early on; the lighting was eerie and gorgeous at the same, time, and the performance was top notch. In fact, I’d argue that part of what made it so disturbing was the quality, including the build up Gwai Lo mentioned. It might have as much to do with me as the film; when I watched Martyrs I knew going in it would be a motherfucker; Don’t Go in the House felt like a simple, low-budget slasher film, and therefore took me by surprise. All in all, it was one of those rare times when I asked myself a question I’d usually hear from ex-girlfriends; “why do you like this shit?” I don’t do it often, but for this movie I did.

    Maybe that’s a point is this film’s favor, I don’t know.

  29. MANIAC is way sleazy. so much so that i may never watch it a second time. this is nowhere near that level of depravity. but that first kill is pretty excruciating.

  30. Agreed Maniac is sleazier. You can practically smell the crack smoke in that one.

  31. So is Slasher Search over, Vern? You declared it a success in the review, and I’d hate to imagine you wearing a flight suit and standing on an aircraft carrier saying that.

  32. Vern seems to have slowed his feverish posting pace.

    I hope he didn’t go in the house.


    Well, Agnes Varda’s CLEO FROM 5 TO 7 (which I’m totally queer for, in that way that when you watch it with your wife and you ask her what she thinks, she says, “I like that you like it,” and you’re like well that’s not much of an answer but you figure she sat through the thing and totally got the the scene with the song rehearsal so you leave it at that) has an excellent hat-buying scene.

    And I think that movie where Captain Picard is a gay Ben Kenobi for the guy from Wings has a cute sweater-buying scene.

    Maybe to celebrate the post-Thanksgiving consumerist orgy, Vern could review a series of films that contain memorable garment-shopping scenes.

    ps–ctrl+f: Best thing to happen to words since Gutenberg.

  34. Steve Gutenberg?

  35. Steve Gutenberg is an award-winning poet. Didn’t you know that?

    PS I think it’s actually “command F.” But yeah, it’s added valuable seconds to my life.

  36. Okay, so, I watched this one. Excellent film. Here, again, I must break from the consensus characterization of this film and MANIAC (1980), both of which are variously referred to as “sleazy” or “seedy” or “trashy,” and, I mean… No. No, they’re not. I feel compelled to parse those words and split those hairs. I think I even lazily used similar words in my hot take comment about MANIAC (1980) that I made yesterday in Vern’s MANIAC (2013) thread. But that’s wrong.

    When I think of words like “sleazy,” “seedy,” or “trashy,” I think of corruption or exploitation or fornication, and not just the presence of such things but a suffusion or reveling or saturated ambiance of such things. 8MM is deliberately quite sleazy (and I loved that film when I last saw it about 18 years ago). BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL DES MOINES — again, a very self-conscious venture into sleaze. These films are shot through with a sleazy context and subtext: they are about vices, lust, prurience. John Waters: outrageously and unapologetically trashy.

    MANIAC (1980) and DGITH are just straight-up horror gems. Either of these films is Criterion Collection-worthy. For me, MANIAC instantly qualifes for AN IMPORTANT FILM status. You could call it “PSYCHO meets TAXI DRIVER,” and you wouldn’t be totally wrong, but you’d be missing so much that is unique about this film. What you’d be missing is pathos and a genuine desire to portray mental illness, despair, inner conflict, anguish, cycles of abuse, fear, terror, exploitation, degradation, self-deception, denial, madness and to do so in creative and weird visual and sonic ways.

    As I said one too many times in the MANIAC (2013) thread, these are truly poignant, heartbreaking, and profoundly disturbing films. And for all the wink-winkiness of Vern’s review here, this film takes it self completely seriously, as does MANIAC (1980). Each film is hard watch, not because it revels in rubbing your nose in the shit for a sadistic laugh, not because degradation and trashiness are fuckin’ awesome. You’re supposed to be uncomfortable, on the edge of your seat, and your heart is supposed to break for these guys and their victims alike. These guys are portrayed as diseased, each carrying a destructive, violent anguish and mental illness that they cannot contain or quench. Fractured, self-loathing, sadistic patient zeros full of inner conflict, carrying pestilence as they try to find and re-enact twisted Oedipal shit over and over again until they can get that mommy shit right, except they lack the tools and can’t get it right. Won’t ever get it right. Like those stories of animal kids, raised in the wild who never learned to talk and now can’t ever learn to talk, because those parts of the brain are done baking, and it’s too late to bake the language stuff in. It’s too late to bake love, mutuality, empathy, resilience, hope, empathy into these guys. Abused, forsaken, and abandoned, they roam the streets transmitting their pain to other innocent people, like patient zeros — forces of pestilence.

    Another thing is, for all the barbarism and psychosexual sadism and male gaze shit: I feel deep in my bones that these films care a lot about the women who suffer so badly. The women in these films are humanized (admittedly, less so the final two in DGITH house, but definitely the first couple). The films don’t revel in watching these women suffer. You are supposed to be horrified for them, invested in them, and terrified about the hell they’re in.

    MANIAC is the artier of the two, and DGITH is a bit more workmanlike. But in their ideas, their pathos, their efforts to portray madness and humanize both victim and villain, it’s really an insult to dismiss them as sleaze or exploitation films. MANIAC is for me an instant horror masterpiece. DGITH is an important and serious work of horror. I’m sure there are all kinds of layers of commentary from the perspective of cinematic history and American history generally, and maybe I’ll have something to add to that conversation later, but for now I’m just struck by what strong films these are, and how both of them take their material and craft with utter seriousness and care but without being up their own asses about it.

  37. Continuing my journey through 1980s slasher-type films, I re-watched PROWLER. By no means a great film, but a solid watch. There will be SPOILERS.

    -Weird WWII-era stateside period prologue
    -Great conceit for a slasher – a masked WWII infantryman whose weapons of choice are a hunting knife and that most storied of military weapons, the pitchfork?
    -Soft-lit gauzy-dreamy cinematography, especially in the c. 1940s pro-logue, but carrying over into the 1980s. This is an interesting choice that gives they film a wispy, ethereal quality.
    -Some truly fantastic and strange kills that I won’t spoil. Nothing remarkably elaborate or high-concept, but very inspired and brutal riffs on what are now pretty familiar kills. Being a military man, the Prowler’s hunting knife kills are efficient, stalk-and-slash jobs, bookeneded by these great knife-unsheating and knife-cleaning scenes. When he’s not taking the stealth ambush approach, he pivots in the other direction, using the pitchfork for brutally personal and grisly kills, like he’s alternating between controlled clinical precision and crime of passion
    -Film makes the most of limited set of locations, anchoring in this glorious (I don’t know house styles or periods) grand old house cum dorm building with this great wrap-around porch and gazebo, along with another grand old house owned by this creepy guy who figures into the mythology a bit
    -Farley Granger of STRANGERS ON A TRAIN fame, just killing it here,
    -A gloriously weird and abrupt ending that gives Tom Savini a nice flex
    -Some other fun, goofy elements, like the killer’s calling card of leaving a rose on the body of any woman he kills
    -Some nice claustrophic, slow-pursuit scenes in and around the dorm room and a deliciously weird encounter between our final girl and the enigmatic Major Chatham

    -Thinly drawn, generic characters and competent-enough but forgettable performances.
    -Weird pacing that is generally sluggish (with a front-loaded body count), but occasionally abrupt, most noticeably at the climax
    -Film plays at incorporating a whodunit element, but telegraphs the who pretty hard. More to the point, who cares (?), as the motivation for the killings is pretty weak. For a movie that makes some genuinely inspired slasher design choices in terms of look, modus operandi, and WWII-era origin, they completely whiff when it comes to biographical and psychological motives and origin story. In essence, we are asked to accept that a killer would lie dormant for 35 years, then once more don the WWII regalia to go on an unhinged killing spree, all because they’re having a homecoming dance that reminds him of how his sweetheart dumped him back in his early 20s? I guess that’s a little better than “didn’t get that second interview for the shift supervisor position at Food Mart,” but sheesh, give me something to work with here. The ending seems to want to offer us the crude approximation of a Scooby-doo-style unmasking identity reveal, but the killer’s identity is so tangential and under-developed to the plot, and his backstory is so threadbare, that the reaction is not a gasp but a shrug or a confused, “now, who was that guy supposed to be again?” But hat tip to Tom Savini for wrapping things up with gusto.

    Verdict – Not an important film or even a particularly good one, but well-worth a watch and then a periodic re-watch. Cool-looking slasher, inspired kills, and enough under-developed and loosely connected oddball elements to occupy a distinctive space in the pantheon.

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