Retrospective: Don’t Go in the House (1980) - Ignore the Warning and Go In - Dread Central
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Retrospective: Don’t Go in the House (1980) – Ignore the Warning and Go In

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The terribly titled Don’t Go in the House had the working title of The Burning Man and was then retitled to The Burning until the producers found out another horror production happening simultaneously was using the same title. Unfortunately, that very fine slasher was released about a year after this one. Both films actually ended up on the DDP’s infamous list of banned video nasties in the UK.

I do not know why the producers just did not go back to using The Burning Man, as it is a more suitably effective title than the uninspired one they stuck on it. Because of this, the film was lumped in with “Don’t” titled American slashers of poor quality released around the same period – the utter dreck of Don’t Go Near the Park (1979), Don’t Answer the Phone! (1980) and Don’t Go in the Woods (1981). The mainstream critics venomously spat on it and while this is no surprise considering the slasher cycle was the victim of a witch-hunt led by the typical pomposity of the late Roger Ebert and the late Gene Siskel, it is truly a shame, as this is quality filmmaking deserving more recognition. It certainly does not deserve its pitiful 5.6 IMDb rating.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lttrIPDFplU]

Dan Grimaldi (later best known for his dual role as twins Philly and Patsy Parisi in “The Sopranos”) plays Donald Kohler (called Donny by his co-workers at an incinerator). He is a lonely soul, a deeply disturbed young man who was abused emotionally and physically as a boy by his cruel single mother. She would punish him by burning his arms by holding them over a lit gas stove to “burn the evil out”. Due to these traumatic experiences, he has developed an obsession with fire and human combustion. One day while working at the incinerator, Donny sees a co-worker have an accident catching on fire. Instead of rushing over to help him like his other co-workers, Donny just stands there staring mesmerized.

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When returning home that evening Donny finds that his mother has passed away. Although he is now free of her wickedness, he does not know what to do, as his life with her was the only life he ever knew. Left with a “burning” hatred due to the cruelty she inflicted upon him and now she has left him alone in the world he sees this as an opportunity for revenge on her. He keeps her death secret and builds a flameproof steel-panelled crematorium in one of the bedrooms, hangs a hook on the ceiling with chains hanging from it, buys a flamethrower and abducts young women who bear a resemblance to his abusive late mother. He pours gasoline all over them and “In a steel room built for revenge they die burning… in chains.” As the provocative tagline says.

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Yes, this is yet another troubled mummy’s boy horror movie obviously inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1960 masterpiece Psycho. Like Norman Bates in that, Donny keeps the corpse of his mother in one of the bedrooms of the house. He burns her body first though and then places her charred carcass in a chair. Even the setting of the house here resembles the Bates’ Gothic house and both are built on a hill. This was also not the only film released in 1980 featuring psychos with mummy issues as William Lustig’s more famous genre milestone Maniac was released later in the year. There is a couple of striking similarities between both. Donny much like Frank Zito in Maniac keeps the bodies of his victims in a room like a collection of hunting trophies but Donny places them on chairs. This is the same room where he keeps his mother’s corpse and he dresses them all in her clothes. The climax here is very reminiscent to the ending of Maniac. Although this debuted just a full six months before so both productions more likely occurred around the same time.

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This is where the similarities between both movies end though. This is a far more restrained affair than Maniac. William Lustig opted for potent stomach churning graphic sequences one after the other. Here during the first act, director and co-writer Joseph Ellison expertly crafts a skilful emphasis on the build up to a single grand horrifying set-piece that explicitly depicts the brutal burning of a naked woman and it is sublimely executed in its shocking realism. The camera does not shy away from showing us everything as the flames consume her and she screams and withers in agony. His other victims are seen only in the aftermath of their demise as smoking burnt to a crisp corpses as we have already seen it once and do not need to see it again; we know what happens and the imagery produces such a powerful and harrowing effect it stays with us long after. That was all that was needed. Ellison knew just to show enough.

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There is more startling grisly imagery as Donny sees the burnt corpses of his mother and his victims coming back to life to haunt him including a terrifying dream sequence. Whether this is all in his mind or is supernatural is left up to interpretation. There are several moments he hears creepy female voices – “We can help you. You’re free now. You can do anything you want to do!” He also hears his dead mother’s voice still telling him how bad he is and this and his memories of her cruelty is what sets him off. Seemingly, it is as if he is hearing the voices in his head but the final scene points to something possibly supernatural that Donny has experienced.

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Director of Photography Oliver Wood employs a blue lighting technique to generate a cold atmosphere that encapsulates these horrid proceedings; a contrast of ice and fire then. This aesthetic complements the melancholic and sombre mood. Wood is now one of the most sought after DPs in Hollywood having provided the cinematography for such movies as Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990), Face/Off (1997), the original Bourne Trilogy (2002 – 2007) etc. Richard Einhorn’s excellent electronic synth score is eerily effective heightening the atmosphere. Einhorn’s other great compositions in the horror genre are for Shock Waves (1977), Eyes of a Stranger (1981) and The Prowler (1981).

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbM1WgfvHOo]

This is very sad stuff indeed, as Donny never had a chance at a normal life. He is also a victim here as his portrayal is sympathetic… at first. He is a complete failure in life and we cannot help but pity the poor fucker until he commits these atrocities. We felt sorry for him before but we cannot condone his evil actions later as there is no way we can identify with him killing innocent women. There is no cool anti-hero factor to him because he is so uncharismatic and awkward and the bumbling fool only manages to pick up his victims out of blind luck. This is a complex, thoughtful and responsible treatment of a serial killer character challenging us what to feel for him. Grimaldi is solid as Donny, his conviction is why his character successfully draws our sympathies and he is just as convincing as we witness Donny’s decent into homicidal madness. Most of the supporting cast turn in performances ranging from average to just above. Robert Osth is the stand out here as Donny’s co-worker Ben who offers Donny human connection with friendship.

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Don’t Go in the House is a dark, chilling, grim and gruesome depiction of the tragic repercussions of child abuse. It is a great little film; a nasty little gem so underappreciated and is deserving of your time and a loftier placing in horror history. Ignore the warning and go in.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHgFxtFLDfA]

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AfterShock Comics Announces First Anthology Collection Titled Shock

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AfterShock Comics continues to push boundaries by presenting Shock, its very first anthology collection featuring a slew of today’s top writers and artists. It arrives in March of next year, and we have a look at the cover plus a few interior pages for you along with quotes from several of the creators.

Presented in the “European Album” format (same as the recent Animosity: the Rise hardcover for LCSD), this handsome hardcover features the creative talents of Bill Willingham, Marguerite Bennett, Mike Carey, Jim Starlin, Michael Zulli, Charles Vess, Michael Gaydos, Andy Clarke, Andrew Robinson, Sarah Delaine, Phil Hester, Paul Jenkins, Neil Gaiman, Dalibor Talajic, Travis Moore, Brian Azzarello, Francesco Francavilla, Cullen Bunn, Marc Guggenheim, Frank Tieri, Brian Stelfreeze, and more.  The cover art is by John Cassaday.

Shock hails from Joe Pruett, the multiple Eisner and Harvey Award-nominated editor of the classic Negative Burn anthology series.

CREATOR QUOTES:

CULLEN BUNN: My story, “Blooderflies,” is a horror/dark fantasy yarn that tells a complete story in just 8 pages, but it should keep readers thinking about the setting and “what happens next” for some time to come. To me, that’s part of what makes AfterShock’s catalog so thrilling. These stories, short or long, really fire the imagination. I couldn’t be happier to be included alongside these amazing creators.

MARC GUGGENHEIM: “Metroclash” is an idea that’s been burning a hole in my notebook for years: What if cities could fight like people? It’s the kind of huge, visually-driven idea that could only be done in comics. My story centers on a clash between New York City and Chicago, and I couldn’t be more excited about getting this crazy, bombastic concept out into the world.

MIKE CAREY: My story in the anthology is an autobiographical piece about growing up in Liverpool in the middle of the last century, a time that in some ways feels as distant as the late Jurassic. I’m trying to make sense of the disconnect between the world I knew as a kid and the world I live in now. It’s also a story about the way memories work and the way we constantly try to build a coherent narrative out of the incoherent facts of our lives. I’ve slipped biographical details into stories before, but I’ve never written a fully autobiographical story. I’m excited to see how it comes out, not least because Szymon Kudranski is doing the art, and I can’t wait to see how my life looks in his gorgeous black and white palette.

FRANK TIERI: My story is called “Little Red Hood,” and you can think of it as basically “Little Red Riding Hood” as if it was a Quentin Tarantino movie. The familiar fairy tale is instead set up as a big drug deal gone horribly wrong. So in our case, Red is a drug courier delivering a package to the biggest drug dealer in town– that of course being Grandma– and then rival drug dealer “The Wolf” arrives, and everything hits the fan. It’s over-the-top, ultra-violent, and very much not the beloved Brothers Grimm yarn we all grew up with. So yeah, this ain’t a beddy bye story you’ll be reading to your kids anytime soon. Or at least it sure as hell shouldn’t be!

MARGUERITE BENNETT: AfterShock has given me the most creative freedom I’ve had in my entire career–I’m always delighted to submit these twisted pitches and hear back that this is the one place those strangest stories can find a home. For my own part, my story is a family revenge drama set in a Border town in the 1970s–a ghastly little tale about the gifts that give and the gifts that take. I’m thrilled to be a part of such a splendid anthology.

PHIL HESTER: I feel privileged to work with one of my all-time comics heroes in Jim Starlin. Our short story “Berserker” is a prime example of Jim’s unique ability to marry very personal narratives with cosmic action and timeless imponderables. I hope I can do it justice.

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Here’s Episode One of Dan Yadin’s Stop-Motion Animated Comedy I Want to Kill

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Brooklyn-based writer/director/filmmaker Dan Yadin’s new dark and twisted animated comedy “i want to kill” has premiered and you can watch the utter madness below.

The episode stars comedians James Adomian (@midnight, Children’s Hospital, Comedy Bang! Bang!), Amber Nelson (Guy Code, Netflix’s ‘Characters’) and Clark Jones (HBO’s ‘Crashing’, Brooklyn’s 50 Funniest People).

“i want to kill” is made from cardboard sets and low-rent stop motion and it is pretty damn strange if you ask me. But if that’s your thing then I think you’ll enjoy the animated series.

Check it out below and then make sure to hit us up and let us know what you think!

Synopsis:

Astronaut Robert Holeman is fed up with Suburbia, after years of desires going unrealized and confronting his privilege, boredom, and mortality he’s been nudged into a sort of suicidal/genocidal nihilism stoked by a steady diet of drugs. The violent fantasies, anger, and fear don’t belong to just Robert, but also to his neglected girlfriend and son. “i want to kill” is about catharsis and release. Anger unchecked leads to emptiness, but boy is it funny.

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Go Christmas Caroling with The Killing of a Sacred Deer

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Given that I personally have gone Christmas caroling with various lunatics hopped up on eggnog, what the hell… why not go Christmas caroling with The Killing of a Sacred Deer? Dig on this latest clip!

Look for the flick starring Colin Farrell (Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, In Bruges, 2009) and co-starring Oscar winner Nicole Kidman (Best Actress, The Hours, 2003) to hit Blu-ray, DVD, and digital on January 23rd. Yorgos Lanthimos directs.

Special features include “An Impossible Conundrum” featurette, and the package will be priced at $24.99 and $19.98, respectively.

Synopsis:
Dr. Steven Murphy (Farrell) is a renowned cardiovascular surgeon presiding over a spotless household with his ophthalmologist wife, Anna (Kidman), and their two exemplary children, 12-year-old Bob (Sunny Suljic) and 14-year-old Kim (Raffey Cassidy). Lurking at the margins of Steven’s idyllic suburban existence is Martin (Barry Keoghan), a fatherless teen he has covertly taken under his wing.

As Martin begins insinuating himself into the family’s life in ever-more unsettling displays, the full scope of his intent becomes menacingly clear when he confronts Steven with a long-forgotten transgression that will shatter the Murphy family’s domestic bliss.

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