Director: Joseph Ellison
Starring: Dan Grimaldi, Charles Bonet, Bill Ricci, Robert Osth, Dennis M. Hunter
If you do… then don’t say we didn’t warn you
Donald Kohler is an isolated thirty-something male that lives alone with his mother in his childhood home. He is very much attached to his mother at an adult age, even though she gave him a terrible upbringing, using fire to punish Donald if he did anything she disapproved of.
The only social activity he gets is when he is at his job. One day at work, an accident happens that leaves one of his co-workers badly burned, and the very same night he finds his mother has died while he’s been at work. Although he is now free from his mother, he cannot put the past behind him and instead of starting to live a normal life, he craves innocent women to abuse and burn.
Don’t Go in The House is one of several serial killer films that was released between 1978 and 1982. Not that there wasn’t plenty of them after that aswell, but they did tend to become more supernatural based after the killers became more heroes than the victims (for example, Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees and of course when Freddy Krueger was introduced then nothing would stay the same with the genre).
This one tries to be Psycho, just set in the modern day at the time of production. The “blame” of why Donald became the way he did is blamed on his mother, a theme that would also be used in several other serial killer movies and is correct when it comes to a lot of real life killers aswell. I think that everything done in this film is done superbly in another film released around the same time called Maniac, but even though it is done borderline cheesy here it still is effective and makes the viewer a bit uneasy.
What works in the film is that the violent scenes are quite nasty even if they doesn’t show too much blood or gore. Those scenes are just very well made and especially the first burning scene is particularly disturbing. When the film doesn’t try to be nasty, it tries to put the viewer inside the head of Donald Kohler. Although Dan Grimaldi doesn’t give a performance like Anthony Perkins in Psycho or Joe Spinell in Maniac, he does do a good job in carrying the film and make the character interesting. The rest of the cast is just there to help move the Donald character further, but it is interesting that pretty much every character has some flaw or does something they shouldn’t in this film.
If you are out to find a good film that puts you inside the head of a serial killer, set in a sleazy setting, then I would recommend Maniac with the brilliant Joe Spinell. If you like that one however and are after anything else that are done in the same vein, then Don’t Go in the House might just be the film for you. It is not perfect, but I have a soft spot for it and think it’s great.