DVD Review: DON'T GO IN THE HOUSE (Arrowdrome)
Twenty years after Mrs. Bates' incessant badgering and criticizing of a weak willed Norman turned him into a psychotic terror, Joseph Ellison's Don't Go in the House unleashed another unhinged mama's boy in Disco Donny. Arrow Video's budget label, Arrowdrome, brings this nasty little underseen gem to UK DVD uncut for the first time. A blatant riff on Alfred Hitchcock's adaptation of Robert Bloch's Psycho (itself inspired by the gruesome real-life story of Ed Gein), Don't Go in the House exceeds it's predecessor in terms of blood and gore by a country mile, while throwing in bits and pieces of other more contemporary films like Saturday Night Fever. Don't Go in the House is definitely one that every slasher fan should see. It probably won't change anyone's world, but it is among the earliest examples of the genre before it turned into self-parody, and for that alone is worth checking out.
Donny Kohler is a hardworking man who has a difficult time making friends. He lives in a big, mostly empty house with his overbearing mother. He hates her, but she keeps him pretty well in check, even though she can barely move and, within the first fifteen minutes of the film, she's dead. Her death flips the "crazy" switch in Donny's head and before long he's luring nubile young women back to his newly christened bachelor pad for some hot times, literally.
You see, whenever Donny had an impure thought, good old mom would hold his arms over the gas flames of his stove, leaving them grotesquely scarred. These flames have stayed with Donny and he decides that the fire is the only way to cleanse the world of evil, and so in the ever so eloquent words of Don't Go in the House's tagline:
"In a steel room built for revenge they die burning... in chains."Nice.
Donny decides that the only way he can make the world safe is to build a fireproof room in his house, acquire an asbestos suit and a motherfucking flamethrower, and burn the evil bitches alive. It's crazy, it's nightmarish, and it's borderline misogynist, but isn't that what this kind of horror was all about?
Don't Go in the House was something of a staple of the early home video boom but largely disappeared from view in the '90s and early 2000s. Thank heavens for labels like Arrow Video, who can revitalize films like this simply by virtue of stamping their name across the cover. Sure, this film isn't particularly good, but it's an example of the kind of filth that sparked the Video Nasty craze in the first place. In fact, if you really want to get a gorier version of Psycho without all of that pesky technique and skill, I'd probably point you towards 1974's Deranged, instead. However, Don't Go in the House is still a nifty little movie that moves along quickly and delivers all of the horror beats you want in a timely manner. If you haven't seen it, it's worth your time.
Arrowdrome's DVD of Don't Go in the House is good, but not on the level of Arrow Video's main line, with good reason. A film like this doesn't need a lot of context, however, the A/V presentation is pretty decent, and that's really all I cared about. The image is unusually clean, and anamorphic. The audio is very clear and dialogue is easily discernible. Overall a very competent job.
There are no video extras included on the disc, which is a bit of a shame since the US DVD has a ten-minute interview with star Dan Grimaldi, but what a really great booklet is included, featuring a detailed essay from Fangoria editor Tony Timpone, which puts the film in its proper context and delivers lots of great background info. I'll take a well-researched passionate essay over a shoddily produced interview any day. This disc is good and cheap. Buy it.