Don’t Go in the House (1979)

Well, this is more like it. Don’t Go in the House is another of the famed Video Nasties, but this one deserves the title far more than Visiting Hours. Don’t Go in the House is a Psycho-wannabe, but with the murderer as the lead (though not to the point of Maniac. We hear his hallucinations but never see through his eyes). Dan Grimaldi plays Donny Kohler, who was physically abused by his mother as a child and has grown into a socially awkward man suffering from a mental illness which takes hold upon him returning home and discovering his mother has passed away. As his means of revenging the wrongs of his mother, he begins kidnapping women and murdering them, though he’s never completely comfortable with what he has done. But it is hard to feel sympathy for Donny, more so than Norman Bates in Psycho, because Donny was tortured with fire and now uses it as his chosen tool for revenge.

Yep, Donny chains up women in a specially modified room and takes a flamethrower to them. And then he dresses the charred corpses like his mother and leaves them upstairs, where they play tricks on his mind.

You ever see something in a movie and mumble to yourself, “Oh, that’s not right”? Because the first time Donny kills, it builds steadily to the horrible conclusion; his victim standing naked and exposed, screaming at the top of her lungs, while he dumps gasoline on her and then kicks up the fire. Dread and disgust build through the film. Donny sinks into his madness, tries to escape, and then inevitably falls, all while haunted by the ghosts of the women he killed and his mother. Or at least that’s what he thinks, as his hallucinations take hold of his addled mind.

It’s an effective piece with some brutal imagery. There’s a dream sequence about midway through where Donny imagines the corpses of his victims pulling him into a shallow grave. Accompanied by a piercing score that drills into your brain, it makes both a terrible jump scare and a brilliantly crafted shock sequence. Scenes like this are littered throughout the film. Unfortunately so are scenes where Donny tries to recover, talks to his friend and his priest, and buys a suit. These scenes drag on too long and show us just how he will never fit in with normal society, no matter how he tries. And I really didn’t like the Father Gerritty character. The actor just missed the mark for me.

But then there is disco. In a dance club with red lighting, Donny sets fire to the red hair of a woman in a red dress and brings about his ultimate downfall. Donny can’t be saved and ultimately loses. But somewhere else, another boy is beaten by his mother, and he begins to hear voices.  The cycle of abuse continues; our next Donny is born.

If Psycho were seedier, sleazier, more nihilistic, and wanted the world bathed in flames, it would be Don’t Go in the House.  Check it out if you didn’t feel shocked enough by Hitchcock’s classic.

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