11 July 2016



Now, if there's one thing that really gives me the heebie-jeebies when it comes to horror films, it's men who don't have the manners and good taste to bury their mothers when they die. Norman Bates from Alfred Hitchcock's horror masterpiece PSYCHO (1960) was one such head-the-ball, as we say here in Ireland. (Pssst. It means nut-job.) Donald 'Donny' Kohler from DON'T GO IN THE HOUSE (1980) is most certainly another.

Donny's story makes for spectacularly grisly viewing. I wasn't expecting much from the film before I watched it, to tell you the truth, probably because of the corny name, but things got real ugly real quick. By the time the film was less than halfway through, my mouth was hanging open with shock. Not a pretty sight, I can tell you.

Donny lives with his old ma in a house that is pretty much the identical twin of the Bates Motel. I love it, love it, love it. It's big and creepy and old-fashioned and I wouldn't set foot in it if my life depended on it because horror cinema has kept us well-informed about the kind of things that go on in places like that.

Gruesome murders, obviously, but also domineering mothers who drive their poor downtrodden, emasculated sons so crazy with their nonsense that one day the sons rise up in protest, kill the bossy old biddies and then go around killing other people dressed in their mothers' clobber. You know, stuff like that and stuff. Weird stuff.

Donny, a man whom it is obvious from the outset is a socially-inept outsider, comes home from work one day to find his dear old Mumsie dead in the armchair in her bedroom. At first, he's inclined to freak out about it. Well, you would, wouldn't you? Death of a parent is usually a big deal. 

But then the voices in his head- I did mention that he's a big weirdo, didn't I?- tell Donny that he's free now. Free from his wicked old meanie of a mother and the appalling psychological and physical abuse which she inflicted upon him when he was a nipper.

In a series of disturbing flashbacks, we find out that Donny's mother had a nasty habit of holding his arms over a gas flame when he was younger in order to burn the 'evil' out of him. Okaaaay, well, I think we've discovered the reason why poor old Donny is cuckoo-bananas.

Now, Donny sees the sense in what the voices in his head are telling him. He decides there and then to go forth and do all the things he was never able to do when Mumsie was alive, badgering and bullying the bejeesus out of him all the livelong day. He leaves Mommie Dearest exactly where she is, in the armchair in her bedroom.

That's probably the thing that disturbs me most about the film, just like I was disturbed by the same kind of scenario in the aforementioned PSYCHO. As a mother myself, I have a great horror of being left to sit on the couch for all eternity after I die, like some kind of macabre Halloween decoration. With that in mind, I've given strict instructions that I'm to be cremated the second I snuff it. And speaking of which...

While his mother sits literally rotting in her armchair, Donny turns his music up nice and high as a metaphorical f**k-you to the old lady and goes down to the basement to build a nice, steel-panelled crematorium. Excuse me, a whaaaat...? Baby, you don't know the half of it. Bear with me a sec and all will be revealed. Well, maybe not entirely all.

Under the falsest of false pretences, Donny brings a pretty young florist home to the Bates Motel, I mean, his gaff, one dark night. It should be noted that she looks exactly like a younger version of his mother. He knocks her unconscious when her back is turned. When she regains consciousness...

Well, this is where the nightmare really starts, and also, incidentally, where my jaw began to hit the floor. I kid you not, this is probably the most extreme scene I've come across in a horror film to
date. It's certainly one of them, anyway.

Little Miss Florist- without being too salacious about it- is starkers and suspended from the ceiling of the flame-proof room by steel chains. There is no escape. The door to the flame-proof room opens slowly. A figure enters. A figure garbed from head to foot in a flame-retardant suit. He has a flame-thrower in his hands. Do I need to spell it out for you...?

Well, I will spell it out, but only because I'm a reviewer and it's my job. I'll do it quickly, though, to get it over with. Hesetsheronfireandputshercharredcorpseinanupstairsbedroom. There, that wasn't so bad, was it...? Well, okay. I know it's gross.

Donny commits this same atrocity with two more unsuspecting females who would have been a darn sight better off if they hadn't bloody well gone in the house. Geddit...? The film's called DON'T GO IN THE HOUSE and I said that they'd have been better off if... Oh, forget it.

Anyway, all three of these girlies bear a distinct resemblance to the late, not-so-great Ma Kohler, so I think we're safe enough in assuming that when Donny kills them, he's really killing dear old Mumsie over and over again and revenging himself upon her for all the years of abuse she inflicted on him when he was a child.

He even gives Mumsie her turn on the receiving end of the flame-thrower, which is just creepy and weird beyond words, and afterwards he makes her bunk in with the other three ladies for company. Aw, how sweet. They can have sleepovers and pillow-fights in their underwear and all the other activities that men fondly imagine women doing whenever they get together.

It is the four smokin' corpses who ultimately bring about the downfall of the 'Master of The Flame.' That's what the voices in his head call him, by the way. Yep. Cuckoo...! Donny's plan to burn two young women together falls apart when the women are rescued by the local priest and Donny's work colleague Bobby, who both have reason to believe that Donny is in trouble. No s**t, Sherlock.

Donny tries to hide in his mother's bedroom but the corpses he is storing there come to life- in his diseased mind only, one imagines- and berate him for his uselessness. Well, if you will store corpses in your mother's bedroom, what do you expect?

You'd be better off going to your nearest IKEA and shelling out for one of their indispensable 'cadaver secure-storage units.' They're pricey but so worth it. I'd like to see 'em get out of one of those, those pesky corpses. I can just imagine the ad, can't you?

'Do you have trouble with your stored corpses coming to life at inopportune moments? Buy one of our cadaver secure-storage units, fully refrigerated for maximum freshness, and you'll never have that problem again...!'

After a shocking climax, the film ends with a different young boy being treated harshly by his mother. The whispering voices in the boy's head tell him that they are here to 'help' him. We can only imagine, therefore, that the deadly cycle of revenge and punishment, punishment and revenge, will continue into the next generation at least.

Dan Grimaldi turns in a terrific performance as the messed-up Mummy's Boy. You'll never guess, by the way, whom he grew up to be. Remember Patsy Parisi from hit Mafia HBO serial THE SOPRANOS? He was one of Tony's men. 

I especially remember the time Patsy had to warn off Gloria Trillo, just one in a long line of mistresses for mob boss Tony Soprano. If she didn't stay away from the dangerously sexy and charismatic Tony from now on, Patsy told her quietly, training a gun on her while they test-drove the new Mercedes, 'She'd be scraping her nipples off those nice leather seats.' Charming. What a nice guy.

This superb cult film, banned in some places on its release for being a 'video nasty,' is as grim and gruesome as all-get-out, but it's a cinematic gem as well. It's the kind of raw, gritty, down 'n' dirty horror film they made in the late 'Seventies and early 'Eighties that make some of the films of today hang their heads in shame by comparison.

The parallels with PSYCHO had me hooked- albeit terrified as well- from the start, and in the scenes in the flame-proof room I was shown something I literally had never seen before.

Call me a sheltered little princess if you will, but the whole 'setting defenseless women on fire' business was a new one on me. The concept, to me at least, was original and shocking and it made me lose sleep, and I love my sleep. It's true. Ask anyone who knows me.

Watch this film first chance you get, horror fans, but for the love of puppies, keep a fire extinguisher handy, just in case DON'T GO IN THE HOUSE proves to be a mite too hot to handle...


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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