Don’t Go in the House is a 1979 [28 March 1980 release] horror film emulating Psycho (1960) in a more forthright manner. The film focuses on the main character Donny’s abuse-driven psychoticism and schizophrenic hallucinations, mostly unnoticed to those around him. It gained notoriety as a British ‘video nasty’, and remains banned in some countries. The shooting title was The Burning and in some territories this was the release title.
Donald “Donny” Kohler is deeply disturbed individual who was emotionally and physically scarred by burns inflicted on him by his mother. As a child, whenever he did something she saw as “wicked”, she would hold his bare arms over a gas stove in an effort to “burn the evil out of him”. Due to this he developed a secret obsession with fire and human combustion.
During his job at an incinerator, Donny observes a co-worker, Billy, catch on fire. Instead of going for help, he stares, mesmerized. When he returns home he finds his mother has died. While he is free from her possessiveness, the only life he has ever known is gone, and with it his chance for revenge against her.
Donny sets out to avenge himself on every woman who bears a resemblance to his hateful parent with the aid of makeshift steel chains, a home-made flamethrower and a steel-panelled bedroom crematorium.
Starring Dan Grimaldi, who went on to have mainstream success as Philly and Patsy Parisi in TV’s Sopranos, Don’t Go in the House is unremittingly grim fare. Despite some respectable critical notices, the film attracted controversy almost immediately because of its graphic depiction of the death of Kohler’s first naked victim, and the touchy central theme of childhood abuse.
The film was cut by almost three minutes when it was released in Britain in the winter of 1980, but an uncut version was released on video by the Arcade label in 1982 – knowingly or not, they advertised the release as “a true ‘nasty’ from Arcade”, and it quickly wound up on the authorities’ list of banned titles. The pre-cut British cinema version was released on video by the Apex VHS label in April 1987.
Ian Jane of DVD Talk said, “Don’t Go in the House isn’t for everyone – it’s a bitter, ugly, and nasty little horror movie that doesn’t pull any punches and is just as seedy today as it was when it was made. It’s effective in that it gets under your skin despite its low budget origins and obvious flaws.”
David Johnson from DVD Verdict wrote, “Don’t Go in the House is a well-acted, disturbing film, featuring one of the few horror scenes to really get to me.”
Considering the subject matter and the gloomy tone throughout, it’s somewhat surprising that the film has since become available on DVD in the UK in uncut form, on Arrow’s Arrowdrome imprint. Director, Joseph Ellison, discusses the film at length in Stephen Thrower’s excellent Nightmare USA book.
Daz Lawrence, Horrorpedia