Don't Go in the House (1979)

R  |   |  Horror  |  28 March 1980 (USA)
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Ratings: 5.6/10 from 2,249 users  
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A disturbed young man who was burned as a child by his sadistic mother stalks women with a flamethrower.



(story) (as Joseph R. Masefield) , (screenplay), 2 more credits »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Dan Grimaldi ...
Charles Bonet ...
Ben (as Charlie Bonet)
Bill Ricci ...
Robert Osth ...
Bobby Tuttle
Dennis M. Hunter ...
John Hedberg ...
Ruth Dardick ...
Mrs. Kohler
Johanna Brushay ...
Kathy Jordan
Girl in Car
Mary Ann Chinn ...
Woman in Street (as Mary Ann Chin)
Lois Verkruepse ...
Woman with Kids
Susan Smith ...
Girl in Market
Jim Donnegan ...
Claudia Folts ...
Body #1
Denise Woods ...
Body #2


A slasher film about a victim of child abuse (Dan Grimaldi) who grows up to become a maniacal construction worker. He stalks women at discos, takes them home, then hangs them upside-down in a special steel-walled room and sets them on fire. Written by Ørnås

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


it was too late to tell them... See more »




R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

28 March 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Burning  »

Box Office


$250,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Star Dan Grimaldi didn't have to audition for the part of Donny Kohler. At the time, he was the lead in an Off Broadway play titled "Mama's Little Angels". The director and producers came to see it several times and ended up asking him if he was interested in doing their picture. See more »


When Donny is in the steel room, he obviously is able to exit the room after the death of his first victim. But when Suzanne and Patty are in the steel room, neither of them can escape despite the one woman not being chained to the floor and ceiling. See more »


Referenced in The Big Box: The House of the Devil (2010) See more »


Late Night Surrender
Composed by Bill Heller
Available on Reflection Records & Tapes
See more »

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User Reviews

Nasty Exploitation Thriller ... With Historical Inspiration??
14 March 2007 | by (New York, USA) – See all my reviews

Yes, DON'T GO IN THE HOUSE seems to be another lurid cinematic adaptation of a real-life serial killer's exploits. The first time I saw this film I said to myself "Now where have I heard about someone burning fetching young ladies to death in an asbestos insulated room before?" and the answer is Herman Mudgett, aka H.H. Holmes, Chicago's twisted "Torture Doctor" who murdered anywhere between 20 and 200 people in a self-designed townhouse on 63rd Street during the 1890s. Mudgett built a maze of false corridors, secret passageways, trap doors, sound proof and air proof killing rooms and dug vats for quicklime acid baths & a crematorium incinerator in the basement of his 3 story castle of horrors, complete with fake battlements and windows covered with sheets of steel. The most famous of which was an asbestos lined room with gas jets where he would confine victims and watch them being burnt to cinders for kicks.

It is perhaps from those basic elements that the brain trust responsible for DON'T GO IN THE HOUSE found their inspiration for a story about a steel mill worker who goes on a killing spree after his mother -- who cruelly abused him as a child -- drops dead in her sitting chair. Character actor Dan Grimaldi is very well cast as Donny Koehler, a mommy obsessed loser and budding psychopath still bearing the scars of his childhood trauma where mom attempted to "burn the evil out" of his soul by holding his bare arms over a lit gas stove, which of course created a Freudian fascination with fire, his relationship with women, his mistrust of authority figures and religion. It doesn't quite answer the question of how he became interested in disco music but what the hell, that was the fad of the time. These days he'd be obsessed with Britney Spears maybe, which IMHO would make for an even more frightening portrait of insanity.

Several things about this movie actually click and make it a rewarding ride for fans of 1980s era slasher horror, the first being the setting. This is one of the most bleak and dismal looking horror movies ever, set on Long Island during a cold, inhospitable looking February that is actually quite unique: Most slasher movies are set during the warmer months of the year to afford the cast to walk around half naked in the great outdoors. By contrast this film is set within dank, claustrophobic interiors, specifically the wonderfully creepy, empty and rapidly dilapidating house that Donny grew up in, which is photographed from an interesting vantage point to make it look all the more isolated from the rest of the world. There are no neighbors to overhear the screams of anguish from Donny's victims, who's complete lack of hope for rescue is probably more disturbing than their on screen fates.

Much ado is rightfully made about Donny's first murder of a full-breasted young florist he tricks into coming home with him after wrapping up a get well bouquet for his putrefying dead mother. She is knocked unconscious, stripped nude, hung by her wrists, doused with gasoline and lit on fire. The sequence is convincingly staged but again what struck me about the murder wasn't how graphic it was so much as that she has utterly no hope of salvation and is merely present in the story as someone to suffer horribly for the benefit of the camera. Then there is the scene in the men's shop where Donny is outfitted for a night on the town in a disco ensemble suit that would have made John Travolta envious. Others have questioned it's relevance to the story and my thought is that it depicts just how isolated Donny is from the world around him. And reflects the filmmakers' disdain for the whole disco era subculture.

Aside from the young florist no characters in this story are sympathetic, there are no good guys and even the local minister ends up a charred reminder of how the community failed Donny by turning a blind eye to his mother's cruelty. Next time you are waiting in line at the grocery store and some pathetic loser starts screaming at their misbehaving kid tell them to knock it off lest the young urchin someday grow up to buy an asbestos suit and flamethrower. Psychopathic mommy obsessed losers are a dime a dozen and you might just end up saving the life of a hot young florist with pert nipples. We need all of them we can get.


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