A strong and consistent character drives this inverted slasher as we journey the exploits of a fiery serial killer and his warped mind.
Donny was tortured with fire as a boy and now shares his pain with unsuspecting women. Let’s dig into 1980’s DON’T GO IN THE HOUSE, directed by Joseph Ellison!
As I See It
The movie, like many horror movies, relies on the lowered guard of trusting individuals. For the most part, unless our altruistic instincts have been empirically altered, we have an intrinsic desire to trust people are good.
It’s an odd film that is hard to label a slasher even though it has all the mechanisms. Maybe a proto-slasher would be more appropriate.
The protagonist isn’t someone we’re hoping to survive but rather a serial killer that we’re watching spiral into madness and murder. There are attempts to get you to sympathize with Donny, who was deeply abused as a young boy. He doesn’t have the mean streak of say a Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer, but it’s rather impossible to be on his side.
Donny is a creep. His social impotence makes him seem harmless which allows him to continually barbecue his victims.
There is a surprising amount of jump scares and a hint of supernatural horror thanks to Donny’s mental instability and visions of his Mother as some crispy demon. There are strong parallels to Hitchcock’s Oedipal masterpiece Psycho, but Donny’s collection of stiffs ends up being more substantial and haunting. Some morbid interior decorating.
This may be the first cover I recall with evil eyes looming over a creepy house. Waxwork records released a vinyl soundtrack with some brilliant new artwork by Marc Schoenbach of Sadist Art Designs.
Dan Grimaldi (Donny) played twins Patty and Philly Parisi in The Sopranos.
Of Gratuitous Nature
Of course, Donny has to chain his victims up naked in a metal burn box. The kill box truly made me feel uneasy.
I expected the house to be the star of the film. It still exists and is unique enough to have Amityville level recognition. But at the end of the day, it’s the burnt corpses that made the film for me. That and Dan Grimaldi’s stage seasoned mannerisms.
Ripe for a Remake
I would love to see Edgar Wright fulfill his trailer and make a cautionary tale.
Along with every other “Don’t…” film of the seventies and eighties, it inspired Edgar Wright’s fake trailer for Don’t, which was featured in between the double feature Grindhouse for Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror and Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof.
Where to Watch
Arrow Films put a lot of work into a Blu-Ray release in 2022. Tons of extras and a mix of new and old artwork. Severin Films also released a packed Blu-Ray. You can stream it on Tubi, Amazon’s Freevee, The Roku Channel, and Pluto TV.