Don't Go in the House

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Don't Go in the House
Don't Go in the House FilmPoster.jpeg
Film poster
Directed by Joseph Ellison
Produced by Ellen Hammill
Screenplay by Ellen Hammill
Joe Masefield
Joseph Ellison
Story by Joe Masefield
Starring Dan Grimaldi
Music by Richard Einhorn
Cinematography Oliver Wood
Edited by Jane Kurson
Turbine Films Inc.
Distributed by Film Ventures International
Release dates
  • March 28, 1980 (1980-03-28)
Running time 82 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $250,000

Don't Go in the House is a 1980 horror film written and directed by Joseph Ellison, and co-written by Ellen Hammill and Joe Masefield. It gained notoriety as a video nasty, and remains banned in some countries.


Donald "Donny" Kohler is deeply disturbed individual who was emotionally and physically scarred by burns inflicted on him by his mother. As a child, whenever Donny did something she saw as "wicked", she would hold his bare arms over a gas stove in an effort to "burn the evil out of him". Due to this, Donny developed an obsession with fire, and human combustion.

While doing his job at an incinerator, Donny observes a co-worker catch on fire when an unnoticed aerosol can inside a burner explodes. Instead of going for help, Donny stares, mesmerized. When Donny returns home that evening, he finds his mother dead. While Donny is free from her possessiveness, the only life he has ever known is gone, and with it his chance for revenge against her. He sets out to avenge himself on every woman who bears a resemblance to his hateful mother with the aid of steel chains, a flamethrower, and a steel-paneled bedroom crematorium that he builds.

Donny's first victim is florist Kathy Jordan (Johanna Brushay). Befriending the harmless-looking man, Kathy escorts Donny back to his mother's house, where he knocks her unconscious, strips her naked, and chains her arms and legs to the ceiling and floor of the steel room. Ignoring Kathy's screaming pleas for mercy, he burns her to death with his flamethrower. Over the next few days, Donny murders two other women by immolating them. Donny also burns his mother's corpse, and dresses it up in her bedroom along with the other three dead women.

As this occurs, Donny hears voices in his mind, which call him "the master of the flame" and urge him to punish "evil". Donny's only friend is Bobby Tuttle (Robert Osth) a co-worker who phones the house one day asking why Donny has been absent from work for nearly a week. Donny lies and claims that his mother is sick and needs attention. When Donny attempts to pick up another woman, he cannot go through with it, and begins to feel remorse for his actions. Donny goes to a church, where he tells Father Gerritty (Ralph D. Bowman) about the abuse his mother inflicted upon him, and about his urges to kill. Father Gerritty persuades Donny to try to move on with his life, and put the past to rest.

Feeling lonely and attempting to break away from the urge to kill, Donny decides to accept an invitation by Bobby to accompany him on a double-date to a disco club, despite Donny's lack of social skills. After traveling to a men's clothing store and purchasing a new outfit, Donny shows up at the disco as expected, but is shy and awkward with his date. When the woman attempts to take Donny to the dance floor and inadvertently holds his arm over a table's lighted candle, the memories of the childhood abuse come back, and Donny snaps.

Fleeing from the disco after setting the woman's hair ablaze, Donny runs into two drunken girls on the street, and he invites them back to his house. Bobby attempts to find Donny, and runs into Father Gerritty on his way to Donny's house. When no one answers the front door, Bobby and Father Gerrity break it down and rescue the two women. Donny dons his incinerator outfit and sets Father Gerrity ablaze with his flamethrower, but Bobby manages to smother the flames and rescue the priest.

Donny takes refuge inside his mother's bedroom with the burned corpses. The voices in his head express their disappointment with him. Donny hallucinates and watches in horror as the charred corpses come to life. He tries to fight them with the flamethrower, but sets the house on fire, killing himself.

In the final scene, a young boy is being terrorized and beaten by his abusive mother. The boy hears the same whispering voices that Donny did, and they tell him that they are here to "help" him.


  • Dan Grimaldi as Donald 'Donny' Kohler
  • Colin Mclnness as Young Donald Kohler
  • Charlie Bonet as Ben
  • Bill Ricci as Vito
  • Robert Osth as Bobby Tuttle
  • Ruth Dardick as Mrs. Kohler
  • Ralph D. Bowman as Father Gerritty

DVD release[edit]

Released on a low budget on DVD at a time when home DVD players were first coming to the market and people were building libraries from the few films available, this title reached audiences that might otherwise have passed it up for more mainstream options, much like Lana Clarkson's Barbarian Queen and David Carradine's Death Race 2000.

Shriek Show's region 1 DVD presented a remastered widescreen print of the film with an audio commentary from star Dan Grimaldi, as well as a filmed interview with Grimaldi, theatrical trailers, TV spots, and short 'unmatted' extracts from the full-screen VHS version.

The film was also released uncut on DVD in the UK for the first time in 2012 by Arrow Films, this release being a remastered print with a reversible cover, and special collector's booklet.


A three and a half out of five was awarded by DVD Talk, which wrote that Don't Go in the House "is one of those rare films that works really well despite the fact that rips off better known movies" and "it's a bitter, ugly, and nasty little horror movie that doesn't pull any punches and is just as seedy today as it was when it was made. It's effective in that it gets under your skin despite its low budget origins and obvious flaws". [2] The same grade was given by Hysteria Lives!, which stated "Grim is the only word for Joseph Ellison's psychological terror movie" and "It's easy to forget just how nihilistic much of American genre cinema was as the 70s turned into the 80s (especially with the avalanche of cheese that was just round the corner), but Don't Go in the House is a chilly reminder of times when practically anything went". [3]

DVD Verdict also had a positive response, writing "Don't Go in the House is a well-acted, disturbing film" and "this movie a mental and visual screw job. Writer/director Joseph Ellison has put together a brutal little 'psycho' flick—part excursion into the tortured mind of an abuse victim, and part shock horror". [4] Retro Slashers found Don't Go in the House a "very dull" piece that was brought down by bad acting, and a lack of suspense and originality. [5]


Despite some respectable critical notices, Don't Go in the House attracted controversy almost immediately because of its graphic depiction of the death of Kohler's first victim, and the touchy central theme of childhood abuse.[citation needed] The film was cut by almost three minutes when it was released in Britain in the winter of 1980, but an uncut version was released on video by the Arcade label in 1982 – knowingly or not, they advertised the release as "a true 'nasty' from Arcade", and it quickly wound up on the DPP's list of banned titles.[citation needed] The pre-cut British cinema version was released on video by the Apex label in April 1987, though the film was finally passed uncut in 2011.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Rotten Tomatoes - Don't Go in the House
  2. ^ Jane, Ian (11 January 2006). "Don't Go in the House". DVD Talk. Retrieved 3 May 2013. 
  3. ^ Kerswell, JA (2 May 2008). "Don't Go in the House". Hysteria Lives!. Retrieved 3 May 2013. 
  4. ^ Johnson, David (26 January 2006). "Don't Go in the House". DVD Verdict. Retrieved 3 May 2013. 
  5. ^ Ellison, Thomas. "Review: Don't Go in the House (1979)". Retro Slashers. Retrieved 3 May 2013. 

External links[edit]