~Don't Go in the House
"How did Don't Go in the House get made? Some people ask 'Why.'"
~Director, Joseph Ellison
Horror flicks are rife with maladjusted mama's boys. Come to think of it, the entire horror film industry is more or less written, directed, financed and marketed by and to drooling maladjusted mama's boys. The archetypal nuclear family as private unit of societal order is inherently shrouded and seething with dreadful possibility. It is the "dark matter" of cruel mythology and tragedy of the most prodigious proportions. Let's face it, when families work they are downright miraculous but when they don't...all hell breaks loose! No wonder a gun-toting homosexual visionary like William Burroughs would advocate for the total abolition of the nuclear family. Beneath the opiate grunts and rictus mumblings there is a damn compelling argument. Anthony Perkins' chillingly understated portrayal of Norman Bates in Hitchcock's masterful Psycho (1960) seared forever into popular consciousness the specter of psychopathic brood and variations on the theme have been resurrected to scare the shit out of us ever since. It's universal. Consider the acne-scarred mouth breathing of Frank Zito in Maniac (1980); the oedipal hallucinations of anguished magician Fenix in Sante Sangre (1989)- director Jodorowsky upping the Freudian ante with typical panache by casting his own son(s) as the serial killer!; good ol' boy Ezra Cobb's split pea soup shenanigans in Deranged (1974); the satirical rape-slapstick (sorry) of Ike and Addley in Charles Kaufman's Mother's Day (1980); Jason Voorhees' hooded matriarchal fetishism in Friday The 13th Part 2...ad nauseum (1981). For the sake of brevity let's not even trifle with The Gruesome Twosome (1967) or The Sinful Dwarf (1973). And then there's Joseph Ellison's Don't Go in the House (1979). If you watch only one film this year about a pyromaniac New Jerseyite with mommy issues who incinerates cute disco chicks with a flamethrower in a D.I.Y. steel-walled torture chamber...make it Don't Go in the House! This is one of the most under-appreciated, unsettling and reviled of all mama's boys massacre flicks. It's really no surprise. This film exceeds where others fail precisely because it is absolutely unflinching in its grim portrayal of misogynistic violence, made all the more unnerving by creepy labyrinthine sets and a lingering pace that allows brooding atmosphere to percolate through the celluloid sans comic relief. You can almost smell the charred flesh and smoldering hair. It's angry, mean, and ugly. And, after all, shouldn't a story about burning women alive on a meat hook be all of those things? Allow me to put things in artistic perspective for you cretins: if Lustig's Maniac (which bears more than a passing resemblance and was released one year later) is Slayer's Reign in Blood, Ellison's Don't Go in the House is Mercyful Fate's Don't Break the Oath. Got it? This movie is as much about fire- and all that it has come to symbolize in its fiercest obsessive splendor- as it is about scaring your date into your lap in a darkened theater. And there's a sweet prolonged firewalk within the first few minutes that's worth the price of admission. Did I mention this will be an original 35mm print? Dysfunctional families rule!
DON'T GO IN THE HOUSE
June 26, 2012
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