Potential British viewers of the 1962 witchcraft film Night of the Eagle were warned by Anglo Amalgamated Film Distributors: “DON’T SEE THIS PICTURE unless you can stand the emotional shock of a lifetime!” The ‘don’t’ warnings had begun!
By 1964, Hammer Film’s psycho drama Fanatic, re-named for US distribution by Columbia as the more startling Die! Die! My Darling!, was being advertised with the tagline: ‘Don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t dare miss it!’ Yes, eight uses of the word “don’t”, just in case you didn’t get it. But this was more of an (overly repetitive) perfunctory movie warning to patrons that they shouldn’t miss out, rather than a genuine foreboding of the horrors contained therein.
In 1972, Poor Albert and Little Annie was advertised by Europix distributors with a huge tagline bigger than the title itself: “Don’t Open That Door!”
This low-rent film subsequently became better known by its 1974 re-release title, I Dismember Mama, but the “Don’t” warning had already been unleashed and would come to be used by many filmmakers and distributors…
The Bride aka The House That Cried Murder, No Way Out and Last House on Massacre Street was a 1972 American psycho thriller directed by Jean Marie Pélissié, and written and produced by John Grissmer, the director of Scalpel (1976) and Blood Rage (1983). When it was initially released by obscure distributor Unisphere, they used the amusing tag line: ‘Don’t throw rice… just scream your head off!’
Meanwhile, (perhaps alluding to the scene where Nurse Beale finds the bloody corpse of Doctor Stephens?), S.F. Brownrigg’s 1972 Texan-shot sanatorium insanity The Forgotten, was retitled Don’t Look in the Basement by Hallmark Releasing Corp and released via American International Pictures, the granddaddies of exploitation.
Hallmark were, of course, the unsubtle and gloriously gore-fiend purveyors of movie mayhem who had promoted Tombs of the Blind Dead and Mark of the Devil with vomit bags! The infamous “To avoid fainting, keep repeating, it’s only a movie…” tag line used for The Last House on the Left and deliberately generic artwork was already being exploited by this point.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is a 1973 TV movie that built up such a cult following it was eventually remade by Guillermo Del Toro in 2011. The film focuses on a young housewife, played by Kim Darby, who unleashes a horde of goblin creatures from within a sealed fireplace in the Victorian mansion that she and her husband are restoring.
Don’t Look Now is Nicolas Roeg’s 1973 beautiful yet tragic story of guilt and the psychic fear of a murderous dwarf. Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie are superb as the grieving parents and the alleyways and canals of Venice have never seemed so daunting.
Don’t Open the Window was an opportunistic, yet pointless, US re-titling of Spanish director Jorge Grau’s 1974 Let Sleeping Corpses Lie aka The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue. The film’s intended American audience would perhaps have been more ‘open’ to a title that suggested a sequel to Night of the Living Dead, from which it was clearly and – agreeably – inspired? Don’t Ride on (Late Night Trains) was a VHS sleeve retitle for a 1974 Italian locomotive-driven rehash of Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left. Aldo Lado’s Night Train Murders is slicker and in some ways even bleaker and nastier than its inspiration, yet it lacks the intensity the former’s low budget brought to the proceedings. And let’s face it, there was only one David Hess!
Although made in 1972, Sisters of Death only received a theatrical outing in 1977 with the tag line ‘Don’t bother to scream.’ Audiences probably had no problem with that warning though the itself film has some minor moments of morbid satisfaction.
Exploitation specialists The Jerry Gross Organization reissued psychological thriller The Mafu Cage (1978) starring Carol Kane and Lee Grant in 1979 with three new titles: Deviation; My Sister, My Love and Don’t Ring the Doorbell.
Don’t Go Near the Park (also known as Curse of the Living Dead, Nightstalker and Sanctuary for Evil) is a 1979 American horror film (released September 1981) directed by Lawrence D. Foldes. The film gained notoriety when it was successfully prosecuted in the UK and placed on the video nasty list. It was the fourth “Don’t” film on the list. It does feature some rubbery cannibalism scenes and has the no-no of scenes showing children in peril but its general air of goofiness perplexed hardcore nasty fans looking for full blooded horror shocks. Apparently it was also trimmed to avoid an ‘X’ rating for its US theatrical release.
Don’t Open the Door was a 1979 re-title of S.F. Brownrigg’s third film – “a murder-mystery that’s a little less stifling than his prior work” – which had also been know as Seasons for Murder, The House of the Seasons, and somewhat ironically, as Don’t Hang Up.
Don’t Go in the House (originally titled The Burning, apparently) is a grim yet intense Psycho-inspired piece that also seems to vaguely question the validity of the 9 to 5 week-in, week-out existence amidst “mother”-influenced pyromania? It’s a thoroughly grubby yet rewarding slow-burner…
Don’t Go in the Woods (or – as on publicity material – Don’t Go in the Woods… Alone!) is a 1980 backwoods Bigfoot-style low-budgeter that revelled in cheap gore, leading it to appear on the British moral panic video nasties list. Cheap but thoroughly entertaining, this is the kind of over-the-top movie that trash fans still watch over and over, whilst the supposed terrors of hyped horrors such as The Blair Witch Project have faded into history.
Simon Wincer’s Aussie horror thriller Snapshot (1979) was released Stateside by Group 1 distributors with the cynical re-titling The Day After Halloween but also as One More Minute. The Group 1 ads went full-pelt with ‘Don’t’ warnings: ‘Don’t open the door… Don’t answer the phone… Don’t look in the attic… It’s there and it wants you!’
In the sleazy Don’t Answer the Phone! Vietnam vet and photographer Kirk Smith (played by Nicholas Worth) is a crazed killer who stalks the streets of Los Angeles, picking up young women and strangling them in lurid fashion whilst taunting Doctor Lindsay Gale (Flo Lawrence), a psychologist on a radio show. He targets Doctor Gale’s patients, commits a murder while on the phone to her show (forcing her to listen to the victim’s cries), and eventually goes after Doctor Gale herself.
The film was shot under the title The Hollywood Strangler but Crown International Pictures obviously wanted to jump on the ‘Don’t’ bandwagon…
Meanwhile, nudity-filled Australian slasher Nightmares (1980) was promoted with the tag line: ‘Don’t dare look behind you! Just feel the skin crawl on the back of your neck’.
Roger Corman-produced The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) was originally titled Don’t Open the Window but this was presumably thought to be too derivative and already in use, thus the Slumber Party franchise was born instead!
Carlo Ausino’s 1982 Italian supernatural shocker La villa delle anime maledette “The Villa of Damned Souls” was retitled Don’t Look in the Attic for it’s Stateside VHS release by Mogul.
Don’t Go to Sleep (1982) is another surprisingly memorable TV movie. A young girl begins seeing the ghost of her sister who died in an accident a year earlier. A good cast headed by Dennis Weaver, Valerie Harper and Ruth Gordon (Rosemary’s Baby) ensures that this creepy film still elicits unease.
Don’t Open Till Christmas is a sleazy British stalk ‘n’ slash entry that took more than a couple of years to complete before its 1984 release to a largely indifferent world: A murderer is running loose through the streets of London, hunting down men dressed as Santa and killing them all in different, and extremely violent, fashions. Inspector Harris has decided to take on the unenviable task of tracking down the psychopath, but he’s going to have his work cut out for him.
A year later, Dick Randall and Steve Minasian returned with another Ray Selfe concoction. Don’t Scream It’s Only a Movie! is a documentary tracing the history of horror films from the silent period to the splatter films of the 1980s. Introduced by genre icon Vincent Price, segments include ‘terror torture’ and naked fear. Naturally, this schlocky effort includes clips from many Randall productions: Crocodile, Pieces, Queen of Black Magic and, of course, Don’t Open Till Christmas.
American slasher whodunit Deadly Intruder (1985) was promoted by Thorn EMI Video with the tag line: ‘Someone out there is watching you… Don’t unlock your door’.
The Outing (1987), also released the previous year in a different version as The Lamp, was a 1987 American movie about an evil genie that was promoted with the tagline ‘Don’t say see you later… say goodbye.”
Don’t Panic is the international title for the 1987 Mexican mayhem written and directed by Ruben Galindo Jr. A bizarre supernatural slasher the film throws in elements from 80s Elm Street hits and the ouija board trend that proliferated at the time. The shameless kitchen sink approach ensures that whilst viewers may be occasionally baffled, they are never bored.
Don’t Go Out at Night was a 1987 British VHS release of Armando de Ossorio’s Night of the Seagulls (1987) by fly-by-night company Kontini Video. Not only was the video sleeve design horrendous to look at and misleading but the film was also censored by the BBFC (they removed 1 minute and 6 seconds), adding insult to injury.
Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven’s seminal post-ironic slasher Scream (1996) was advertised with the suitably self-aware slogans: ‘Don’t answer the phone. Don’t open the door. Don’t try to escape.’
1999 took us on a cinematic trip to Lovers Lane, known as I’m Still Waiting for You in the UK, and its tagline ‘Don’t get hooked.’
Of course, the ultimate acknowledgement of this genre fixture title was Edgar (Shaun of the Dead) Wright’s comic trailer for a non-existent movie titled Don’t, as seen in Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse (2007):
Don’t Look in the Cellar arrived in 2008 with a ‘smiley’ killer murdering teens in an abandoned asylum…
Don’t Look Up (2009) was based on a story by Hideo Nakata (the creator of The Ring) and directed by Fruit Chan. Whilst filming in Transylvania, a crew unearths celluloid images of a woman’s murder and unleashes the wrath of evil spirits. Don’t Look Up is a mish mash of themes and international accents but is easy on the brain at least.
Winning first place at the 2010 Splatterfest Weekend of Mayhem short film competition, Joe Grisaffi’s Don’t Look in the Attic was created in a mere 54 hours. Very much like the 48 Hour Film Project, teams were given a character, a line of dialogue and a murder weapon. Grisaffi commented: “Ours were: A taxi cab driver, “This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship” and a saw”.
In 2010, Vincent D’Onofrio’s Don’t Go in the Woods depicted an American rock band being offed in various ways. In an interview with Edward Douglas of Shocktillyoudrop.net, D’Onofrio spoke of how he had wanted to “make an absurd slasher musical”. Anyone watching this $100,000 oddity will wonder why the director and cast bothered to make anything…
Aforementioned 1973 TV movie Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark was remade in 2011 with a budget of $25 million by Guillermo De Toro and a cast of famous names such as Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce but this special effects laden effort failed to capture the charm of its cheap inspiration and so garnered mixed reviews and audience indifference.
Don’t Move is an intense Evil Dead-influenced 2013 British short directed by Anthony Melton and written by David Scullion. Don’t Move is the 8th slice in Bloody Cuts’ anthology of short horror films, made by a young team of UK film-makers on low budgets.
Don’t Look is a 2014 US production about five friends who leave NYC for a weekend they’ll never forget.
The July 29th release of Blue Underground’s The Complete Blind Dead Saga Box Set includes the tagline: “Don’t move… Don’t breathe… Don’t let them hear your heart beating…”
Coming full circle, Don’t Look in the Basement 2 – also known as Id: Don’t Look in the Basement 2 – is a 2014 American horror film directed by Anthony Brownrigg (Red Victoria), the son of S.F. Brownrigg who directed Don’t Look in the Basement in 1973…
The Hallow (2015) was advertised with the tag line ‘Don’t let them in’.
In 2016, Evil Dead director and co-writer Rodo Sayagues present a home invasion horror movie with teen burglars vs. a blind Iraq war vet simply titled Don’t Breathe.
The Bye Bye Man is a 2016 movie about a supernatural serial killer being advertised with the repeated phrase:
‘Don’t think it. Don’t say it.’
Don’t Knock Twice (2016) is about a mother who is desperate to reconnect with her troubled daughter but becomes embroiled in the urban legend of a demonic witch.
Don’t Hang Up is a 2016 British movie (that looks American) about two teens that spend their time making prank calls that they upload online to receive millions of views. As their online celebrity begins to rise, the boys escalate their pranks to a dangerous level. However, one evening, they receive a prank call of their own…
The Shed (2019) was promoted with the tagline ‘Don’t go there.’
Don’t Run is a 2020 supernatural horror movie about a monster that terrorised a meek teenage boy.
Adrian J Smith, MOVIES and MANIA
N.B. Please let us know of any other uses of Don’t, so we can expand this brief overview…
NB. Don’t Walk in the Park has been cited by some sources as an alternate title for Mario Bava’s Kill Baby, Kill (1966) but we have been unable to verify this. Meanwhile, Don’t Open the Door is listed in John Stanley’s Creature Features book an alternate release title for The Orphan (1977) and Don’t Go in the Bedroom is apparently another title for Jose Larraz’s Scream – and Die! (1974) but at the time of writing we cannot corroborate these release titles.
We are grateful to the many people who have unselfishly posted images for us all to share on the worldwide web but especially Basement of Ghoulish Decadence and Temple of Schlock. Big credit to Silver Fox for the lovely fake Don’t poster designs.
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