Don’t Go in the House is a 1979 horror film that, like Severin’s previous release Delirium, also found itself quickly hitting the video nasty list because of a fairly early sequence involving a woman, a flamethrower, and extra crispiness. While the film certainly has a sleazy, intentionally off-putting atmosphere, here again we see the censorship applied to a movie that truly doesn’t deserve this level of ire and criticism – director Joseph Ellison’s thematic intentions hew towards discussing childhood abuse, trauma, even suppression of homosexual urges. And like with most censorship, Don’t Go in the House‘s nasty status helped propel it forward as a cult phenomenon – everyone wants to see what shouldn’t be seen.
For those pulled in by the shock value, some may be surprised at the relative tameness of the film throughout. Besides Ellison’s most iconic flamethrower scene – which is certainly chilling in its explicitness – Don’t Go in the House is less focused on violence than an overall seedy air. We follow its main character Donny (Dan Grimaldi) as he deals with the death of his abusive mother, who taught him at an early age that evil quite literally needed to be burned out of a person (hence the alternate title The Burning). Don’t Go in the House has a decidedly Psycho-esque influence, though Ellison strays from showing the more endearing qualities of his protagonist-antagonist as Hitchcock did in favor of documenting the ways in which his traumatic experiences shaped him.
And Don’t Go in the House is a lot grittier than Psycho as well. Its overall plot simply exists to show Donny’s various escapades capturing women, luring them to his house, and then giving them a nice char. The film’s most unsettling moments come from Donny’s dialogues with the dead women, who are stashed in a sitting room for safekeeping with his dead mother as their flesh cools. Great makeup effects aid this approach, put to effective use during Donny’s psychotic breaks where he imagines the women rising from the dead to haunt him.
Don’t Go in the House won’t be a film for everyone – it’s too demented to appeal to some, and perhaps less sickening than some would hope from its video nasty status – but its themes about abuse, suppression, and religious quackery make for an interesting viewing experience, an eerie trip through a man’s psychosis happening in real time. It’s also surprising that someone felt this movie would be good to air on TV, albeit with cuts – it’s often an intentionally miserable experience, not a fun Saturday movie night. Whatever the case, you probably won’t trot this one out for a party, but if you’re looking for a grimy time, Don’t Go in the House is a perfect fit.
Severin Films has brought Don’t Go in the House to Blu-ray with a new 2K scan from the original camera negative, which is a joint release with Arrow Video in the UK. This film recently got a Blu-ray release from Scorpion Releasing in 2016; while I don’t have that Blu-ray, I have looked at screenshots and determined it had a rather strong transfer. Here, Severin’s transfer is fairly consistent with Scorpion’s although occasionally a bit noticeably softer; it also features a slightly different framing and color timing. It’s still in 1.78:1 aspect ratio which differs from the OAR of 1.85:1. Ultimately, most viewers will probably not notice too many prominent issues with Severin’s release (except for quite a bit of wobble during Donny’s discussion with a priest), but it is definitely a bit less sharp than Scorpion’s.
Severin includes both the theatrical cut of the feature film as well as the extended (here called the “integral”) cut of the film which combines the theatrical and TV cuts for a viewing experience that gets the best of both worlds. The Scorpion release had edited TV cut dialogue on the extended cut, but here Severin reinstates the unedited dialogue on its DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track. Ultimately, the integral cut doesn’t add a lot to the overall plot of the film but I still recommend it for the most complete viewing experience. While Severin doesn’t specify the source of the integral cut and its transfer, it looks nearly identical. The TV cut itself – with edited dialogue and violence – is also offered as an additional extra.
The aforementioned 2.0 mono track sounds relatively flawless with strong dialogue volume levels and good presentation of the score. Subtitles are also included on both cuts.
Extras are spread across both discs. On the theatrical cut, Severin offers a new audio commentary with Joe Ellison and producer Ellen Hammill. Also included is an archival commentary with Dan Grimaldi. On the integral cut, Stephen Thrower contributes a new commentary.
New interviews also provide the bulk of the special features, including crew members Matthew Malinson, Joseph R. Masefield, and Joseph Ellison himself. An archival interview with Dan Grimaldi gives an actor’s perspective on the film. Stephen Thrower provides a critical look at Don’t Go in the House in his interview, and a video essay by David Flint dives into the psychological themes. There’s a locations featurette visiting various settings in the film, and finally interviews with various grindhouse directors, including Ellison, gives a look at other cinematic offerings of the time.
Finally, Severin collects the open matte flamethrower scene where everything is bared, along with a trailer reel of various Don’t-titled films urging you not to do the things characters in the films ill-fatedly do. There’s a trailer gallery for Don’t Go in the House, as well as an image gallery to round it all out.
This also comes with reversible cover artwork.
- NEW 2K scan from the original negative
- Theatrical Cut & Integral Cut
- THE BURNING — Alternate TV Cut
- NEW Audio Commentary With Director Joe Ellison And Producer Ellen Hammill (theatrical cut)
- Archival Commentary With Actor Dan Grimaldi (theatrical cut)
- NEW ‘House’ Keeping — Interviews With Co-Producer Matthew Mallinson and Co-Writer Joseph R. Masefield (HD; 20:55)
- NEW We Went In The House! — The Locations Of DON’T GO IN THE HOUSE (HD; 19:23)
- Playing With Fire — Archival Interview With Actor Dan Grimaldi (unrestored HD; 9:44)
- DON’T GO IN THE HOUSE Trailer Gallery
- UK theatrical (HD; 1:34)
- UK teaser (unrestored HD; 0:41)
- German theatrical (unrestored HD; 1:53)
- US theatrical (HD; 1:56)
- US TV spots (unrestored HD; 1:46)
- Image Gallery (chapter breaks; 1:09)
- NEW Audio Commentary With Stephen Thrower, Author Of Nightmare USA (integral cut)
- NEW Minds On Fire — Video Essay By The Reprobate David Flint (HD; 14:56)
- NEW Burn Baby Burn — Interview With Director Joseph Ellison (HD; 28:29)
- Grindhouse All-Stars — Interviews With Filmmakers Matt Cimber, Joseph Ellison, Roy Frumkes And Jeff Lieberman (HD; 34:24)
- Open Matte Flamethrower Scene (HD; 3:50)
- DON’T Trailer Reel (various qualities of unrestored HD; 13:21)
Don’t Go in the House is a solid video nasty with an oppressively bleak atmosphere. Severin Films has presented a good Blu-ray with a host of extra features that is sure to appeal to those that don’t already own the Scorpion Releasing version.