Don’t Go in the House (1980)

Don't Go in the House (1980) movie poster

director Joseph Ellison
 viewed: 06/25/2016

Okay, Don’t Go in the House, but do go and find this movie!

The film opens with a match lighting a burner on an old gas stove, framed so that the title appears to the right.  From this first image, the pyromania of Donny Kohler (Dan Grimaldi) flickers onscreen.  When we first see Donny, a maintenance man in an incineration facility, he’s staring at burning coals and just as quick, watches helplessly as a co-worker catches on fire from a blast.

Donny’s dark secrets are soon released when he finds his elderly mother dead at home, he snaps, reflecting on childhood abuse, builds himself a home incinerator, and starts abducting beautiful young women to douse with gasoline and shoot with a flame thrower.  There is more than a little bit of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) about this momma’s boy, his big dark house, and his impulse to kill.  Only filter it through 1970’s New Jersey, pepper with disco, and send it up in flames.

An independently produced horror film, Joseph Ellison’s Don’t Go in the House has earned notoriety as a British “video nasty”, but unlike a lot of its nasty brethren, this film features excellent low-budget cinematography, some nice location shooting that captures the era of its time, and some shockingly effective FX.  When Kathy (the very beautiful Johanna Brushay) becomes Donny’s first victim, the first shot of her going up in flames is really freaky and realistic.  A second shot back, it’s easy to see how it was done (super-imposition, in part) but it’s powerful and effective.  I also give credit to the grisly blackened corpses, too, excellent make-up work.

I was genuinely surprised how good this film was.

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