In my review of Don’t Go In The Woods I asked, In a roundabout kind of way, how any conservative MP in their right mind could take such a film so seriously as to ban it. Don’t Go In the House, which was also on the Video Nasties list, is surely more the film they were thinking of.
A young man, whose mother burnt him as a child, lures women back to his place, hangs them up in his custom made steel, fireproof room and torches them with a flamethrower. Yey, fun. Unlike Don’t Go In The Woods with its crazy music and comedy bead-wearing killer, Don’t Go In The House is an incredibly bleak and sober movie. There are few laughs to be had as we follow Donny the Incinerator around in his mad, sad life. However, despite the grim subject matter, this film, once more, is not a piece of a shlock needing to be removed from public viewing but a clear homage to Psycho with its own, albeit limited, merits.
The Psycho influences are everywhere. Donny lives in a large, spooky house with his dead mother, although she is kept upstairs in the bedroom rather than the fruit cellar. Expanding on the mother/son relationship, we have flashbacks to Donny being tortured with naked flames as a child which have lead him to his psychotic state of mind now. There are weird old trinkets throughout the property. Donny himself is clearly a schizophrenic with his dead mother talking to him, but instead of dressing like her he has a handy fireproof outfit that he picked up from a clearly deeply irresponsible gun shop.
Where things differ from Psycho is that instead of following the (semi) innocent character of Marion Crane into murderous Norman Bates’s sick world, here we follow Donny as the main character. Considering how pathetic his life is, it makes you question do we want to know about Donny’s tragic existence? And in truth we probably don’t. It’s not like you can watch Don’t Go In The House and start rooting for Donny: “go on my son! Get another victim and cook her!” is, hopefully, not your response. If it is please seek immediate psychiatric help. No, mostly you just want someone to intervene and have him locked up before someone else is hurt.
This is probably what lead the film to end up in the Video Nasties list: the tone of relentless bleakness. It probably didn’t help itself by having been made in the seventies. Donny has a job, at an incinerating plant obviously, which has that gritty working man/blue collar feel to it that movies such as Rocky and, well, Blue Collar did. Life was hard for the working man and it would be just as easy to spend your spare time punching meat and people as it would losing your mind and killing women. However despite all the grimness, Don’t Go In The House is not a particularly violent film. The first woman is fairly graphically burnt in front of us, however the analogue fire effects probably were not particularly realistic then let alone now, so we rely on the terrible IDEA of what is happening rather than the execution of it. After her death the murders are cleverly shown after the fact, so the bodies build up but we aren’t subjected to the brutality of their demises.
If Don’t Go In The House is like any movie then it is William Lustig’s ultra sleazy Maniac. It shares the same madman’s perspective approach to the story. So much so that it has similar scenes of the crazy person talking to his victims and dressing up their corpses. It even has the same ending. Don’t Go In The House was made a year before Maniac but I don’t know if Lusting ripped it off so much as it was just a sign of the times. Maniac is the much better film though.
What this does have over Lustig’s film, however, is a lot of disco. The twist, if you could call it such a thing, is that about two thirds of the way through the movie, director Joseph Ellison clearly had had enough of all this misery and decided to liven things up. Donny has a John Travolta style makeover and ends up down the local discotheque. Things seem like it could work out for a little while but then Donny, instead of boogying with all the pretty girls all night long, blows it by setting fire to one of them instead. At least disco makes a triumphant, and deeply inappropriate, return over the end credits.
Don’t Go In The House is a weak made but odd, creepy and somewhat disturbing variation on the Psycho story. It isn’t a particularly comfortable watch but it does have something to say about child abuse and the damage it can cause in adulthood, which may, or may not, be something you want to see. Even if it’s not, don’t ban the thing.