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Old 01-23-2006, 05:58 AM
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Default Don't Go in the House



Reviewer: Rhett
Review Date: January 22, 2006

Released by: Shriek Show
Release date: 11/29/2005
MSRP: $19.95
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes



inline ImageI’d love to meet the marketers of Don’t Go in the House. The title is a piece of marketing brilliance in the way that it implies both the haunted house aspects of the previous years’ biggest horror film, The Amityville Horror and the mad slasher aspects of Halloween. It builds from both titles at a time when neither film had yet been tarnished by legions of poor imitators. The only problem is, when it comes down to it, Don’t Go in the House really isn’t very much like either film. Psycho would be a more accurate comparison if Norman Bates was a homophobic guy from Brooklyn who liked to light women on fire. That’s a matter of semantics though. After retaining a lengthy following on video as one of the many “Video Nasties”, and then later on as one of the most barebones DVDs in history, it finally gets the special edition treatment. Shriek Show did well earlier with another lost slasher, Just Before Dawn, is this House as sturdy?


The Story

Donald Kohler (Dan Grimaldi) comes off as your average blue collar Joe. He works a factory job, and keeps to himself. Then one day one of his co-workers gets lit on fire in an explosive accident. Instead of helping him, Donald merely watches, as if in comatose from the sight of fire. His boss scorns him, calls him a “faggot”, to which Donald vehemently denies. “He’s the faggot, not me!” Donald says, his eyes a tableau of emotion. It is clear Donald has mental stability issues, and when he sees his mother you know why.


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Shriek Show
DVD Ltd.


As a child his mother used to burn him for having impure thoughts. Raised with Catholic guilt, thoughts of vice, be it homosexuality or sexuality in general, were repressed resulting in a man afraid to even think. Standing there as his co-worker burns, it is as if Donald is afraid to react to anything out of fear of punishment. The punishment, of course, would be fire, the clenches of hell, as his mother would call it. Donald continues to live by his mother’s mindset, even though she is now rotting in his attic. Her voice haunts him, and seeing the fire once again as his co-worker was burned instills him with some sort of higher purpose. He will kidnap women and burn the vice out of them.


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Shriek Show
DVD Ltd.


Donald takes a leave of absence from work, and fumblingly lures women into his big, old house. A florist, a couple of drunk college kids, and various others, there seems to be no rhyme nor reason for his actions, other than the fact that they are all of the opposite sex. The girls aren’t unlawful, promiscuous, or narcotic users, they just exist, and that alone is bad enough for Donald to deal with. They elicit excitement in him, and that is something he has been taught to repress. Without his mother there, he’ll burn the images of lust from his brain…literally.


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Shriek Show
DVD Ltd.


There are two kinds of slasher films. There are those that follow liberal teenagers who are eventually punished by an unseen killer for their extroverted behavior. On the flip side, there are those that follow conservative zealots who punish themselves through punishing others. The first type tends to be lighter stalk and slash, like Friday the 13th, The Burning, and Prom Night. The second is much more introspective and depressing, from the New York streets of Maniac and The Driller Killer to the titular residence in Don’t Go in the House. This second tough is no doubt tougher to watch, but it leaves you with more. Instead of focusing on victims that are killed and forgotten, it lingers with a deranged mind throughout, and often does not offer a concrete resolve. It stays subjectively with the killer, and that is where its power lies.


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Shriek Show
DVD Ltd.


Don’t Go in the House is a surprisingly solid portrait of insanity on the same lines of Psycho. Dan Grimaldi speaks with the stilted delivery of an amateur, but for this film that is suiting. Donald Kohler is a character who never quite seems consciously aware, he’s aloof and Grimaldi brings that out with a daring and original performance. He suits up in an asbestos suit while burning his victims, but the fire is always there in his eyes.


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Shriek Show
DVD Ltd.


The fire chamber scenes strike with a powerful rawness, although never come off as overly mean-spirited or exploitive. The fire has a duality that is interestingly explored throughout the film, in that it provides Donald with release, yet it surrounds him with a hellish dread. He cannot escape the fire like he cannot escape his mother, since his religious guilt lives on long after her death. All this combines for the all-encompassing image from the movie, a shot in a church of a cross constructed out of burning candles. His devotion to his mother and her religious extremism has lead him to a destructive end.


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Shriek Show
DVD Ltd.


While the film never gets as gross, grimy and depressing as the same year’s Maniac, it still manages to create a portrait of a deranged man with a similar emotional resonance. As the film concludes the cycle of repression comes full circle with flashbacks of Donald’s childhood. Killers are never born in the moment, they are a product of their past, and as the film burns to its conclusion, you get an understanding of Donald’s abuse, and how tragic it really is. The amazingly out of place disco finale, which would have been more at place in Prom Night, somewhat dilutes the power of the final images, but Don’t Go in the House remains an effective little exploitation picture.

Image Quality

When you are up against one of the worst looking DVDs in history, you’re bound to look good by comparison. That said, this new transfer from Shriek Show looks very good on it’s own terms too. In comparing it with the original DVD Ltd. disc, one will notice a much sharper picture. The DVD Ltd. transfer was very soft and blurry, and was severly lacking detail. This new release improves on it significantly, although edge detail on this new transfer could still use some work, especially in the darker scenes. Saturation is much more realistic the second time around, with the orange haze of the original replaced with realistic skin tones. The colors look much more vibrant on this new release as well, as evident in the blues in the first flame thrower shot. The new release also exhibits some solid black levels, like in the church shot included here. Both releases do suffer some print damage still, though much of the dirt has been removed for this new Shriek Show release.


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Shriek Show
DVD Ltd.


The biggest difference between the two releases, picture quality aside, is the aspect ratio. The original DVD (and previous VHS tapes of the film) were full frame 1.33:1. As per the wishes of the cinematographer, this new release is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and it is easy to see why. Compositions look much better in the wider ratio, as this was clearly a film composed for widescreen and not open matte. Of course, for some that means less nudity on the tops and bottoms of the frame, but all you horn dogs can go to sleep happy after a trip to the supplements section. With the proper ratio and a nicely polished restoration, this is another eye opener from Shriek Show.

Sound

The sound mix here is decidedly less fantastic, as it is presented in a muted English mono mix. It sounds shrill at time, especially when the synth kicks up when mommy jumps into frame, and much of the dialogue sounds flat. This is a problem of both releases, so none is really much better than the other. Everything is audible, but it’s never really pleasing to the ear.

Supplemental Material

inline ImageThe original release did not even have a menu, so when a menu popped up for the Shriek Show release I knew I was in good shape. There are a fair bit of extras here though, and some come as a nice surprise. The main extra is a commentary with Dan Grimaldi, which starts off with a very brief view introduction. Gramaldi speaks with the same sort of stuttered and indecisive delivery that he did as Donald in the film, and while initially it can be frustrating to listen to, his enthusiasm for the film makes it worthwhile. While Gramaldi doesn’t ever offer a whole lot of insight, he looks back on the film fondly, and recalls the film with a lot of energy. He tells of some deleted scenes, and how it was like reacting with various actors. It isn’t a great commentary, but its heart is in the right place.

inline ImageGramaldi does much better when he’s edited, and his interview in the 11-minute “Playing with Fire” he basically summarizes his commentary in tighter paced manner. He talks of how it was his first role and how he prepared for it by visiting mental institutions. He also talks about his initial dislike for horror, and how it was tough to come back to the genre that scared him as a child. He talks about the incineration sequences, and a few other on-set anecdotes, and on the whole is just a pleasure to listen to.

inline ImageAn unadvertised extra is the “Hidden Behind the Matte” feature. The supplement has two sequences from the film presented in open matte. The first sequence is the first incineration sequence, and naturally the removal of the black bars provides much more nudity. The next scene is the bar fire scene near the end, and I honestly don’t know why it was included. There doesn’t seem to be anything extra in the top and bottom in this scene. No matter, this kind of stuff has its appreciators (adolescent boys) and you can’t fault Shriek Show for thinking about their target audience.

The disc is rounded out with a number of trailers. Two trailers for Don’t Go in the House are included, despite not being advertised on the back. They are delightfully hyperbolic in the same vein as the Roger Corman trailers were in the sixties. Additional Shriek Show trailers are also included for Anthropophagus, One Dark Night, Devil Dog and The Being. Lastly, there is a small easter egg to be found on the supplement page. Not entirely worth the effort, but still. Overall, a nice batch of extras that complement the film rather well.


Final Thoughts

Don’t Go in the House is a film that is better than its shoddy reputation. Psycho with a flame thrower, it is a moody and at times brutal evocation of repression and Catholic guilt, held together with a strong performance from Dan Grimaldi. The picture quality is eye opening in comparison to previous releases of the film and is a job well done by Shriek Show. The sound is a weak mono. The supplements though, are a nice listen thanks to Dan Grimaldi’s affectionate recollections of the film and its production. With this release Shriek Show has made up for all the neglect the film has unfairly received over the years. Fans of the film, and fans of Psycho or Maniac should fire it up. Just wear your asbestos suit first.

Rating

Movie - B+
Image Quality - B+
Sound - C+
Supplements - B+


Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running time - 1 hour 22 minutes
  • Not Rated
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • English Mono

Supplements
  • "Playing with Fire" featurette
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Shriek Show trailers

Other Pictures

 

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Old 01-25-2006, 04:05 AM
HackMaster
Great review. However, is this DVD out yet? Cannot find it anywhere and even Amazon was not offering it last time I checked.
 
 
Old 01-26-2006, 03:22 AM
Deep Discount Dvd has it in stock.
 
 
Old 01-26-2006, 10:35 AM
They stay the same age...
"No matter, this kind of stuff has its appreciators (adolescent boys) and you can’t fault Shriek Show for thinking about their target audience."

And the picture to boot. That's quality work right there.
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Old 01-27-2006, 05:38 AM
Weekender
It should've been given a red carpet release by Criterion not Shriek Show!
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Old 02-21-2006, 11:23 AM
Great review, I just added this flick to my Netflix queue. For some reason I was thinking this movie was very unpleasent and disturbing , although it's been years since I've seen it and my memory may be playing tricks on me. Looking forward to checking it out again.
 
 
Old 12-10-2006, 10:40 PM
This was a pretty good movie!! I thought Manic was a bit better, but this was almost as good. And how about that first burning scene? Breathtaking effect!
 
 
Old 06-20-2009, 03:01 AM
I remember seeing this as a kid, I'd more then Welcome another viewing. I own maniac Blue Underground edition and its a stellar film, I'd say if my memory is right they have a few things in common.

Just the idea of some1 loosing it to the point of designing a stainless steel covered insulated room to toast people is just plain gnarly. I can't comment on effects although i remember it being a mean-spirited film.
 
 

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