DON’T GO IN THE HOUSE (1980)
(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)
Finally caught up to this low budget horror. I remember friends seeing it in 1980 when it came out and not being overly impressed. Not sure why I didn’t join them at the time, but finally having seen it after over three decades, I must say I’m not overly impressed either. I know this film is held in much better regard by some, but I personally thought it was pretty dull.
The film tells the story of demented Donny Kohler (Sopranos’ Dan Grimaldi) who lives with his mother and works at a trash incinerator. Poor Donny was burned by his mom as a form of punishment as a child…so, not sure why he chose a profession that involves fire…and it has left him mentally unhinged with a lot of inner turmoil. He even hear’s voices. When mom passes away, his fear of her is lifted and the anger at her for her actions bubbles to the surface urged on by the whispers in his head. Now Donny gets back at his abusive mother by taking his anger out on innocent young women who he lures to his large spooky house and then sets them on fire with a flame thrower. Can this maniac be stopped? Will Donny keep finding ways of getting pretty young girls to enter his home despite his obviously creepy demeanor?
I thought that this flick was pretty dull. Director and co-writer Joseph Ellison (with Joe Masefield and Ellen Hammill) has a decent eye for his shots, but otherwise brings this film very little in terms of suspense, tension or atmosphere. There is some definite late 70s, early 80s nostalgia, especially with the addition of some disco songs on the soundtrack and a lengthy segment set at one such disco, but the film only gets creepy in the last five minutes or so and that’s it. There is also a hint at one point that the voices Donny hears may be something more demonic then his own twisted mind, but that comes too little, too late. One of the film’s problems is that Donny is the focus of the film and telling the story from his point of view needed a far better written character and a far better actor. As a result he isn’t very interesting and by having no clear protagonist, we have no one to care or root for. His victims are all met moments before their demise and despite his burning them alive being a gruesome way to go and those scenes, especially the first, are effective, the victims are all just generic flamethrower fodder. Donny, despite being a weirdo and loner, has a friend at work, Bobby (Robert Osth) who for some reason wants to bond with him, but that’s it. And that’s another thing, Donny is such a strange guy and seems to outwardly make people so uncomfortable, that it’s hard to believe he gets these women to come back to his house so easily, or that Bobby is so intent on being friends. I would think inner alarms would be going off about this guy soon after meeting him. There are some unintentionally funny bits such as Donny talking with his burnt corpse victims or a lengthy scene of him buying clothes to go to the disco, that seems pointless but oddly amusing. And the disco scene itself, that ends with him setting a pretty woman’s hair on fire, is chuckle inducing as well. There is some entertainment value here but not enough, as overall it’s dull and derivative of better flicks.
As the only main character, Dan Grimaldi is pretty wooden as Donny. He seems to be taking the role seriously, but gives the demented man very little personality to make him interesting. He is just as creepy when talking with his potential victims as he is with his corpses and again, it makes it hard to believe any woman would come back to his house. Had he played Donny more as a normal, charming young man outside and secretly a maniac behind closed doors, it would have made him more interesting and scarier as we would know who he really was, but his victims would remain unaware till too late. But he acts like a creep all the time and it’s befuddling only his boss at work seems to notice. This may also be the fault of director and script, but Grimaldi’s wooden performance doesn’t help. The rest of the cast, including Robert Osth, are fairly flat and most are just there for the small body count. There is a priest character that comes in late (Ralph D. Bowman), but he really doesn’t get to do much till the final act and ultimately served little purpose.
There is not much to recommend about this flick. Some people give this film high marks, I don’t see it. The lead was wooden and the character was such a creep, it seemed ludicrous he gets any of his victims to go home with him. There are some effective kills and some legitimately creepy moments here and there, but unless you count some unintentionally funny scenes, like the one at the disco, the film is overall kind of dull and we’ve seen the nut talking to his dead mom thing before. There is hint at a demonic presence, but it is only a hint and is never utilized or expanded on till the final scene, then the credits roll. I can see why my horror movie loving friends weren’t impressed back in 1980 and I, even with the nostalgia, wasn’t very impressed either. All I can say is that if you are a fan of flicks of this era and since it has good regard from others, you may have to check this one out to make up your own mind about it. As for me, what little did work was far overshadowed by the rest that didn’t.
2 flame thrower wielding psychos.