Don't Go in the House

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 10/15/08 11:24:15

"The obvious 'don't' jokes all apply."
2 stars (Pretty Crappy)

There are certain movies that home video just doesn't do justice, because even the best high-definition transfer and mastering can't quite capture the exquisite photography, or the way a larger-than-life image captures a larger-than-life performance, or how an entire audience finds itself in sync, jumping in fear or laughing at the same time. Then there's this one, which is best seen in a packed theater because it really doesn't get any better than the moment when the killer and a victim are standing outside the door and someone in the audience says "hey, don't go in the house."

The killer is Donny Kohler (Dan Grimaldi); he hears voices and is drawn to fire. His mother would burn him to punish him as a child, he currently works at the city incinerator, and when his mother dies, he decides to make one of their house's rooms into an oven, where he can roast girls with a flamethrower. After a few days of this, his co-worker and would-be buddy Bobby (Robert Osth) starts to wonder why he's not coming into work.

For all that one expects little from this sort of film, it consistently manages to deliver less. Forget wanting anything like good acting or an interesting story; Don't Go in the House is disappointing in terms of simple exploitation trashiness. It peaks much too early, with Donny's first kill; that scene combines nudity, chains, and fire effects that aren't bad for the period and budget at all. It's an effective torture porn moment, a generation before the term would be coined, but filmmaker Joseph Ellison doesn't have anywhere to go from there; Donny's a one-trick pony and mostly does that trick off-screen afterward.

Absent a parade of fire, blood, and skin, we're forced to try and enjoy the movie on the merits of such things as story, acting, and dialog, and that's just a disaster. People in this movie talk in a way that not only fails to stick in one's mind, but makes one worry that it might be realistic, with our own conversation being that bland. The acting has a lot of the same properties, with everybody tying so hard to act like ordinary people that they instead come across as half-hearted imitations.

There is, admittedly, a bit of mean-spirited fun to be had mocking a movie like this, especially when it devotes a long scene to outfitting Donny in now very dated fashions. That might be said to give the movie undue credit, though - this was a bad movie from the start, not one which has turned rotten with time.

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