Don't Go In The House
Starring: Dan Grimaldi, Charles Bonet and Bill Ricci
Director: Joseph Ellison
From the depths of the cult classic archives comes this forgotten gem, only recently re-discovered and re-released as a DVD for the masses to remember just why it got labelled as a violent 'nasty' at the time. And considering that this would have first found an audience back in '79, I concede they may well have a point; taking strong influences from 'Psycho,' in particular the mad man with mother issues, hearing voices and acting out as a result, letting poor innocent women get caught in the crossfire. But Donny isn't your usual knife wielding psycho, his torture as a child was always being burnt, and with her out of the way it's his turn to be the master of the flame, burning away the sins of others. Conveniently, it just so happens that he specialises in incineration as a career choice and it isn't long before he succeeds in creating his own flame-proof torture room and flamethrower with which to exact his unique brand of punishment.
There are, sadly, a few frustrating flaws inherent within the film. Short of the final scene, the big climax occurs maybe half an hour in, when we're treated to a slow build-up knowing exactly what's to happen to this young woman he's managed to manipulate into his home but not the details of how he's going to convince her to get naked and tie herself up, or what the inside of this room he's created for himself looks like. It's this gradual build-up in morbid anticipation for her demise that sees no parallel in the rest of the film yet to come, just a large number of scenes with flames in the background and only occasionally coming back into the fore so as to progress the story and try to maintain the momentum. Neither does the madness ever seem to get any the more fleshed out than a singular incident – though certainly I suspect the implication is that she burned him on multiple occasions – and the use of flames over more traditional knives never really gets the attention it deserves; never do we get the sense of beauty combined with danger as we watch the flames gradually rise, and neither do we really ever get into the mindset of our protagonist.
Despite all this, it's fundamentally quite hard to knock. It's built on a small budget with a cast of unknowns, and whilst you won't be seeing any knock out performances they all do as required of them. It never gets bogged down with being campy or cheesy, and as such never really succumbs to making a joke of the situation either through 'so bad it's good' syndrome or the use of black comedy. It's focussed on it's intention of pushing the boundaries of good taste in showing graphic depictions of flames – I suspect actually setting alight a good number of the cast for filming purposes – and the charred corpses of those that remained. It does more than bombard us with graphic imagery but delves deeper into the psyche of our disturbed protagonist. It knows precisely what it wanted to do and what needed to be done to achieve that, and ultimately they accomplished exactly what they set out to do.