Review: 'Don't Go in the House' Sets Fire to Expectations

by Sam Cohen

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday January 27, 2022

Review: 'Don't Go in the House' Sets Fire to Expectations

Take a look at the full list of films that have earned the DPP 39 condemnation in the UK and you'll find some disgusting, deplorable works that are best known for transgression. But look beyond the shock value and you'll frequently find films that push the boundaries of good taste to offer psychological horror you'll never forget. Joseph Ellison's "Don't Go in the House" may be the most successful of those Video Nasties, both in narrative execution and shock value. And although it may be famous for the "body burning" sequence, Ellison imbues it with a bleakness and internal life that's rarely matched by other exploitation films.

Severin Films brings "Don't Go in the House" to Blu-ray with a two-disc edition that's packed with special features and supplements. Severin has compiled all three cuts — Theatrical, Alternate TV, and Integral — in this release, which is sure to please explo fans across the globe. The Theatrical Cut is the real stunner here, with a new 2K scan from the original negative used for the presentation. The film has never looked better than it does here, offering much more visual detail and better color timing than previous releases by Scorpion Releasing and Subkultur Entertainment. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 English mono track included also improves upon the audio quality from previous releases.

"Don't Go in the House" follows loner Donny Kohler (Dan Grimaldi) in his thirties as he spirals into madness caused by the child abuse from his mother. Once he finds his now-elderly mother dead in his dilapidated Victorian home, he initially feels freed from her abuse. But soon, her voice haunts him and drives him to go deeper into his pyromania. Any woman who resembles his mother becomes a target, and he's now prepared a fireproof room to carry out murder.

Escapism has no place in "Don't Go in the House." It's a rather depressing horror film that's indicative of the era in which it was released. Here's a film that discards the pomp and circumstance of other horror films popularized during the 1970s and delivers shocks steeped in psychological horror. Ellison shoots the film terrifically, with a close attention to Grimaldi's tortured performance. Although many of the performances here have the same unpolished feel as other exploitation films, the character study at the center of it all helps them to transcend the usual explo shortcomings. These may be the best-case scenario of when an exploitation film meets the psychological.

Severin Films has been on a winning streak lately with their releases of Video Nasties, but their new two-disc edition of "Don't Go in the House" really takes the cake. There're hours of special features to dig into here, including a breathless and honest interview with Ellison about his experience with the film. "Don't Go in the House" from Severin gets my highest recommendation.

Other special features include:

Disc 1 (Theatrical Cut)

• Audio commentary with director Joe Ellison and producer Ellen Hammill

• Archival commentary with actor Dan Grimaldi

• "House Keeping" -- Interviews with co-producer Matthew Mallinson and co-writer Joseph R. Masefield

• "We Went In The House!" -- The locations of "Don't Go in the House"

• "Playing with Fire" -- Archival interview with actor Dan Grimaldi

• Trailer gallery

• Image gallery

Disc 2 (Integral Cut)

• Audio commentary with Stephen Thrower, author of "Nightmare USA"

• "Minds On Fire:" -- Video essay by David Flint

• "Grindhouse All-Stars" -- Interviews with filmmakers Matt Cimber, Joseph Ellison, Roy Frumkes and Jeff Lieberman

"Don't Go in the House" is now available on Blu-ray from Severin Films.