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Don’t Go In The House (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • Don’t Go In The House (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: February 8th, 2022.
    Director: Joseph Ellison
    Cast: Dan Grimaldi, Robert Osth, Ruth Dardick, Charles Bonet, Bill Ricci
    Year: 1979
    Purchase From Amazon

    Don’t Go In The House – Movie Review:

    The notorious 1979 exploitation/horror hybrid Don't Go In The House stars Dan Grimaldi as Donny, a strange man who makes his living working at an incinerator plant. When we first meet him, he's at work and one of the men he works with has the unfortunate luck of finding his clothes catching on fire. Rather than help him, Danny stands there. Because of his inaction, the guys that Danny works with begin to scorn him. Why didn't he help the guy? He was standing right there and he certainly could have made things much easier on the poor man had he done something about the accident. As such, Danny is more or less alone at work, save for Bobby (Robert Osth), the only one at the plant who seems to understand Danny a bit. At the end of the day, Bobby tries to talk Danny into going out for a beer after work but Danny declines, he doesn't go out much and besides he needs to go home and look after his mother who is quite ill.

    Danny heads home and back to his familiar routine. He arrives, gets his mother a cup of tea like he does every day and brings it upstairs to her. But his mother is dead. At first conflicted by his feelings, it doesn't take Danny long to realize that he's now free to live his life the way he wants to, without having to worry about tending to his mother's every need. He cranks up the stereo, and dances around the house like a kid. After his initial glee is over and done with, however, Danny starts to flashback to his childhood memories. Here we witness his recollections of the punishment that his mother would dole out to him should he do something to displease her – she'd hold his small hands over the open flame of the stove and burn him!

    With Danny's feeble mind flip flopping all over the place, it doesn't take long before he basically snaps. He heads into the basement and builds a room with metal walls. From there he sets out into his sad New Jersey town to take out his pent up aggression towards his dearly departed and completely overbearing abusive mother on the women of the area. Danny prowls around picking up women and bringing them back to his house where he attacks them with a flame thrower to, as his mother would put it, 'burn out the evil.' He acquires quite the collection of corpses in a pretty short amount of time, but while all of this is going on his friend Bobby is still trying to get him out of the house once in a while.

    Bobby is finally able to convince Danny to head out with him one night. When they agree to meet up with a couple of girls that Bobby knows at a local disco, Danny drives on over to the local tailor to get himself a fancy suit for the evening. It looks like Danny just might be starting to come out of his shell, get a social life, and maybe leave his psychotic tendencies behind him. That is, until he finally arrives and one thing leads to another, provoking Danny to once again burn out the evil... this time for good!

    Don't Go In The House is one of those rare films that works really well despite the fact that rips off better known movies and really isn't all that graphic in its portrayal of Danny's attacks. A lot of what he does is inferred rather than shown in full on graphic detail (the first attack not withstanding – that one is graphic), but we see just enough of the after effects to know full well what it is that Danny is doing. The whole 'mother complex' is obviously borrowed from Hitchcock's Psycho but director Joseph Ellison pushes the abuse that the central character suffers a few steps further. This ensures that the viewer has no question in his or her mind as to just why Danny is as nutty as he is – it even serves to explain the rationale behind why he acted the way that he did that day at the incinerator plant. Danny's character also shares more than a few similarities to Robert DeNiro's Travis Bickle from Martin Scorcese's Taxi Driver. We see this with his anti-social behavior and tendency to (more often than not) hide from the outside world before deciding to clean things up in the most horrible way possible.

    Performance wise, Dan Grimaldi (who has recently popped up in a few episodes of The Soprano's) does do a very good job in the lead. The movie is low budget and the film was Grimaldi's first feature role, so it's understandable that a couple of times he goes pretty far over the top. But he brings an understated sense of menace to his performance that makes the movie really work, even if it probably shouldn't when you consider just how degrading parts of it are and how heavily it borrows from the aforementioned films. The rest of the performers don't fare as well, and many of them are a bit amateurish (Nikki Collins as Farrah, the disco girl, stands out), but seeing as the bulk of the movie is really all about Danny this doesn't hurt things all that much.

    As much a star of the movie as Grimaldi himself is the actual house where Danny's carnage is carried out. It's a massive old run down abode that looks as creepy as the man who lives and kills within its walls. It's a completely eerie location and the perfect setting for a horror movie of this type. Also worth noting are the special effects, particularly the dried out and burnt up corpses that Danny is so keen on. For a low budget movie, they certainly look realistic enough, adding to the weird, dingy, sleazy atmosphere that makes the movie as effective as it is.

    Don’t Go In The House – Blu-ray Review:

    Severin Films offers up Don’t Go In The House in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation taken from a new 2k scan of the original 35mm negative. Taking up 22.3GBs of space on the disc and framed at 1.78.1 widescreen, it looks quite strong. There’s nice detail noticeable throughout, though some scenes have always looked a bit softer than others and that remains the case here as well, while we get nice, strong black levels. Colors are fairly cool looking here and some of the darker scenes are very dark, but the movie has always had that quality to it, and given that much of it is shot inside a dimly lit house in the middle of the night, that makes perfect sense. Skin tones look nice and lifelike, and the image always looks appropriately filmic, showing natural grain but very little in the way of actual print damage.

    The disc contains a 24-bit English language LPCM Mono audio option with removable subtitles provided in English only. The track on the disc sounds fine. It’s properly balanced, clean and quite clear. The dialogue is easy to understand and there are no audible issues with any hiss or distortion to note. The disco music used in the movie has some really strong bass to it and it sounds just as tight and bouncy as you’d hope it would.

    Extras on the first disc include an audio commentary with Director Joe Ellison and Producer Ellen Hammill, moderated by David Gregory. They discuss how the film was originally titled The Burning Man and how and why that changed over time, who did what in terms of the script, opting to shoot the film in Panavision because they were given a ridiculous deal despite having only four grand for cameras and lights, the expensive involved in shooting on 35mm film and the influence of films like Dr. Caligari in terms of the movie's look, the importance of cinematographer Oliver Wood's contributions and what the house itself was like to shoot in (it was freezing cold). They also cover working with firearms on the set, shooting the main set piece in the metal room and why they shot it first, how they did the fire effects in that scene, their thoughts on Grimaldi's performance, the influence of Hitchcock and Psycho specifically, using ballet dancers to work as the creatures in the pit, different locations that were used for the shoot, details of the infamous disco scene, the film's distribution history and whether or not the film has an intentional social message in it or not.

    Up next is the archival commentary track with lead actor Don Grimaldi. He speaks quite candidly about his work on the movie, how it happened so early in his career and how many of the people involved in the production didn't really have a lot of prior movie making experience. He fills us in as best he can on some of the other performers seen in the movie and details quite a bit of the behind the scenes action that happened on set. He doesn't shy away about some of the nastier tones that the movie carries and acknowledges how sleazy parts of it are, but also manages to keep the entire track informative and interesting. He also goes into detail about how things affected him personally as he was working on the film, his appreciation of the people who handled the technical side of the production, the music in the film and quite a bit more.

    Also included on disc one is the alternate television cut of the film under The Burning title. This version runs 1:29:37 versus the theatrical cut at 1:22:33. It is also presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition with the transfer using 15.7GBs of space on the disc. Audio chores are handled by a 24-bit LPCM Mono track in English with optional English subtitles and the quality is pretty close to the theatrical cut in terms of detail and color reproduction. Understandably, the metal room scene is MUCH shorter here, we see the girl strapped up, doused and the flamethrower blast but we don’t see any of the nudity or her body on fire. There's also some alternate dialogue here, mostly removing some curse worse and slurs that wouldn't have been allowed on TV back in the day. However, this version does run seven minutes longer. There's quite a bit more footage here of Donny going about his business, meaning stronger character development, but we also get a really strong scene where he has a mental breakdown in the house, a lengthy and genuinely eerie scenes with Donny interacting with some burnt bodies, a considerably longer sequence involving Donny and the Catholic priest and some noticeable extensions to the finale on the staircase.

    'House' Keeping interviews Co-Producer Matthew Mallinson and Co-Writer Joseph R. Masefield for twenty-one minutes. It covers the inspiration for the story and the genesis of the first version of the script, working with August Films who were 'the East Coast version of New World Pictures,' problems that occured with the editing of the film and the need to cut roughly fifteen minutes out of the finished version, wanting to take full advantage of the atmosphere that the house provided, how some of the effects were done in camera during the shoot, locations that were used in the shoot, Grimaldi's performance and the pressure he was under during the production, how Dennis Stephenson became an associate producer on the film without doing anything except giving money to producer Ellen Hammill, how the film was received after being distributed and how they feel about the movie all these years later. Watch this one all the way through the end credits for an amusing story that we won’t spoil here.

    We Went In The House! The Locations Of Don't Go In The House is a nineteen minute piece hosted by Mike Gingold that shows off the waste transfer facility in Brooklyn that was once the incinerator featured in the movie before then showing off the church and rectory featured in the film found upstate, the clothing store in New Rochelle that is now a CVS Pharmacy, the clothing store that was once the Palace Disco featured in the picture and a few other notable spots before then checking out the house itself, located in the Atlantic Highlands in New Jersey. We get a very cool tour of the inside as well as a quick history lesson on the building itself and a quick interview with a member of the Atlantic Highlands Historical Society.

    Grimaldi also shows up for a ten minute on camera interview called Playing With Fire in which he speaks quite honestly about his film premiere in this picture. He talks about how he got the part after working on a play, how he wasn’t a fan of horror films when he took the part, research that he did to help flesh out the character he plays in the film and quite a bit more. He provides a few amusing anecdotes about the movie and the people who made it and while he covers some of the same ground here that he does in the commentary, it's always neat to see a performer on camera and compare him in real life to the role he or she plays in the feature.

    Finishing up disc one are UK, US and German theatrical trailers, a UK teaser, four US TV spots and a still gallery.

    Disc two features the Integral Cut of the film. This version runs 1:32:09 with the feature using up just over 27GBs of space and using 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono English language audio with optional English subtitles and an optional descriptive audio track. It uses ‘The Burning’ as its title card, this essentially combines all of the footage from the theatrical version and the TV version with the curse words and slurs put back in where they should be. Quality wise, the presentation pretty much mirrors the material found on disc one.

    Extras on disc two start off with an audio commentary with Stephen Thrower, Author Of Nightmare USA who starts off by talking about how he got to meet and/or talking to various participants for the making of the film when he was writing his book. He draws on these interviews throughout the track but also goes into a lot of detail about the themes, the locations and the history and reception of the film. He talks about why the film title was changed, the popularity of 'Don't' titles, the film's production history and stories about what it was like on set, how and why Grimaldi got the lead in the film, how the film 'sticks its neck out' by showing an adult abusing a child, how the popularity of Halloween in 1978 set off a tidal wave of low budget horror films in the United States, how the first appearance of Donny in his flame proof suit rivals the first appearance of Leatherface in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the emphasis on suffering in the metal room scene, the importance of the house itself in the film, differences between the theatrical and TV versions and how this extended version gives us everything including the creepy scene where Donny kisses his mother's corpse, how critics responded to the movie and lots more.

    Minds On Fire: The Dying Embers Of 1970s Psychological Horror is a new video essay by ‘The Reprobate’ David Flint that runs fifteen minutes. This piece explores the change in tone that horror films experienced in the seventies and how as the decade ended the tide started to turn with the popularity of slasher movies, the social context of the rise of the slasher film and how a lot of horror films got lumped in with slasher films that didn't really belong there - Don't Go In The House being a prime example. Flint also notes how many real life serial killers had damaged relationships with their mothers just as Donny does in this picture, how the marketing behind the film's release didn't do it any favors, different versions and cuts of the films that have existed over the years, how it was subject to police action when released in the UK, thoughts on Donny's character and more.

    Burn Baby Burn is an interview with Director Joseph Ellison that runs for twenty-eight minutes. He speaks here about how the movie is 'so fucking heavy' and how he'd initially hoped to have more humor in it, the importance of the atmosphere in the film, how he started losing his sense of self-assuredness as he was making the film knowing that it wasn't going to be a fun, roller coaster of a horror film, working with Grimaldi and his performance in the movie, thoughts on what makes Donny's character as interesting as he is, research that was done to get the character right, when and where he wanted the film to pay off, Paramount's reaction to seeing the film when they were shopping it around, audience reactions to the film's theatrical run, financial issues that arose with the film, how poor the reviews were for the picture, what it was like directing his first feature with this movie, the realities of low budget filmmaking and how that ties into expectations, details on the specifics of shooting some of the film's key scenes, how he feels about the movie these many years later and his thoughts on his second feature, Joey.

    Grindhouse All-Stars: Notes From The Sleaze Cinema Underground is a selection of interviews with filmmakers Matt Cimber, Joseph Ellison, Roy Frumkes and Jeff Lieberman that lasts for thirty-four minutes. They speak here, recorded individually, about the term 'grindhouse,' how the film's had special personalities that the bigger budgeted pictures didn't have, shooting these films with theatrical distribution in mind, having reputations of going outside the norm when making these movies, the difficulties of getting some of these movies financed, how successful some of these films could be with big city audiences and drive-in audiences and lots more.

    Also included on disc two is an open matte version of the metal room/flamethrower scene, which runs just under four minutes and which is a bit more revealing in what it shows.

    The 'DON'T Trailer Reel' features trailers for Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark, Don't Look In The Basement, Don't Open The Window (better known on home video these days as Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue), Don't Answer The Phone, Don't Go In The House, Don't Go Near The Park, Don't Open The Door, Don't Go In The Woods and Don't Open Till Christmas - all films well worth seeing!

    Don’t Go In The House - The Final Word:

    Don't Go In The House isn't for everyone – it's a bitter, ugly, and nasty little horror movie that doesn't pull any punches and is just as seedy today as it was when it was made. It's a really effective picture in that it gets under your skin despite its low budget origins and obvious flaws. Severin’s two-disc set is an excellent release, presenting three cuts of the film in great shape and with a load of extras both old and new. Highly recommended!
    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Don’t Go In The House Blu-ray screen caps!

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    • Matt H.
      Matt H.
      Senior Member
      Matt H. commented
      Editing a comment
      Has the damaged audio found on the Scorpion disc been corrected here?
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