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 date
  • March 28, 1980 (1980-03-28)
Running time
82 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $250,000
Box office Unknown

Don't Go in the House is a 1979 psychological horror film written and directed by Joseph Ellison and co-written by Ellen Hammill and Joe Masefield.


Donald 'Donny' Kohler is obsessed with fire and human combustion. A flashback shows the origin of his obsession. When he was young, he used to suffer severe abuse from his mother, who would hold his bare arms over a gas stove to 'burn the evil out of him'. After his mother dies, he sets out to avenge himself on any woman who bears a resemblance to her with the aid of steel chains, a flamethrower, and a steel-paneled bedroom crematorium.

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 pours Gasoline on her and burns her alive 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.

During his killing spree, 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 his co-worker Bobby Tuttle (Robert Osth), who phones his 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 victim, he can't 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 leave the past to rest.

In an attempt to stop killing, Donny accepts an invitation by Bobby to accompany him on a double-date to a disco club, despite Donny's lack of social skills. After visiting a clothing store and purchasing a new outfit, Donny shows up at the disco but is shy and awkward with his date. When the woman tries to take Donny to the dance floor, she inadvertently holds his arms over the table's lighted candle, which reminds him of his childhood abuse. Donny angrily picks up the candle holder and smashes it onto her head, setting her hair on fire. Donnie leaves the disco, however the woman's brother jumps him outside. Despite this, he escapes.

After fleeing from the disco, Donny runs into two drunken girls on the street and takes them to his house. Bobby tries to find Donny and meets Father Gerritty on his way to Donny's house. When no one answers the front door, they 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 put out the flames and rescue him despite starting the house on fire.

Donny takes refuge inside his mother's bedroom. The voices express their disappointment in him and the burned corpses come to life and attack him. He frantically fights them but dies; they drag him to the floor as the house burns down around him.

The final scene portrays a young boy named Michael watching the news report about Donny's death. His mother scolds and beats him for not turning off the TV as she asks him to. When she leaves the room, Michael hears the same voices as Donny did, and they tell him that they come 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
  • Joey Petzel as Bobby Tutle's son



DVD Talk gave Don't Go in the house a three and a half out of five, writing 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] Hysteria Lives! gave the film the same rating, writing, "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 is 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 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, or video nasties.[6] 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]

Release and Home Video[edit]

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 was a remastered print with a reversible cover and special collector's booklet.


  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. Archived from the original on 3 July 2013. Retrieved 3 May 2013. 
  6. ^ Wilson, Dave."Retrospective: Don’t Go in the House (1980) – Ignore the Warning and Go In". Dread Central, 2016-10-01. Retrieved 2018-07-12.

External links[edit]