Don't Go in the House (1979)

If you do... then don't say we didn't warn you.
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Don't Go in the House - If you do... then don't say we didn't warn you.

Video Nasties taught us a lot of things to "don't" do but some couldn't resist looking in the basement, riding on the late night trains and some were tempted to open the window despite not really knowing which window they were supposed to be wary of. In 1979 the temptation to do what shouldn’t be done arose again with Don't Go in the House, a fairly traditional slasher utilising fire as the mechanism of human disposal. The film is executed with a serious and sinister frame of mind despite a number of scenes seeming laughable by today's standards. This doesn't deviate from the terrors depicted and in a way makes them more disturbing and more plausible.

The movie is quite blatant with it's inspirations and simply tickles your ear with originality rather than delivering a full kick to the crotch. The issues that made our antagonist what he is today and his obsession with his live-in dead mother have been seen before. The dinginess is the same dinginess portrayed by many of the slashers on the nasty list. The choice of victims is what gives Don't Go in the House it's morbidity, there is not even the slightest notion that the victims deserve their fate. This makes the misogyny so much more vicious. The usual slasher bait is loose cannons with loose baby cannons but Donny Kholer is more indiscriminate with his choice of sufferer. The stalk is non-existent; the women are just in the wrong place at the wrong time and suitably gullible.

The story is fairly shallow and simple. The details revolve around the broken mind of Donny Kholer, nobody else is around long enough for their character to develop. Donny's brain is obviously a strange place from the first scene so even this doesn't have many more places to go. A brief start and a rapid ending allows the movie to dedicate it's time to the kills interspersed throughout the secluded periods of Donny's insanity. There are brief meanderings into the dream world and areas where the dream and the reality blend, while these scenes don't detract from the real reason this movie was once banned they do seem a bit forced. Having said that the ending would be more difficult to digest without these scenes, an ending extremely reminiscent of Maniac but without the subtle build up that Lustig managed to achieve.

Some of the aspects of Don’t Go in the House that are considered flaws are the qualities that give it the edge over other films that try to terrorise. An example is Donny's childish behaviour. This attitude makes his whim to build a steel room to incinerate random ladies more disturbing than some evil genius murderer with complex motivations would. The lack of depth of the majority of characters also plays a role in the achievement of the horror; this disconnection instills a peculiar feeling in the viewer and eliminates any rooting for the villain. Not knowing these people takes away our ability to judge them before death so we are simply watching people suffering for our own sadistic pleasures.

This slasher is one of the movies more worthy of the video nasty list despite the low body count and the lack of gore. It is the bleakness and lack of hope or salvation depicted that gives a slightly unsanitary feeling during the watching process. It is also conceivable that this dirtiness was unintentional yet the film has aged in this manner, accumulating grime as fashions change. Some aspects of Don't Go in the House make it seem like it could have merely been an attempt to cash in on the popularity of slashers in the late seventies, it has all of the elements of a bandwagon jumper but manages to be something quite cruel and merciless above and beyond many movies of a similar ilk. On the outside this is just another psychopathic killer suffering from a childhood trauma that inspires the flamethrower as the weapon of choice. Innocent women die and the killer loses the plot at the end. The religious element and the killer's tormentors seem significant only to make an enticing trailer and the final scene seems to have been appended to the end because that is what the slasher rule book says. On the inside this is a valiant attempt at horror with sufficient disco and despondency to inspire jumping on a chair and murder.
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