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Film / Don't Go in the House

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If you do... then don't say we didn't warn you.

Don't Go in the House is a 1980 horror film and Video Nasty. It was released in France under the name Pyromaniac.

After his father died (or merely left) young Donald "Donny" Kohler became the subject of much abuse at the hands of his mother, an apparent religious fanatic. She would verbally abuse the boy, and repeatedly burn him when she believed he was being bad, or even just thinking about mischief. She convinced herself and Donny that she was "burning the evil out of him" and that fire was the ultimate cleanser, causing Donny to grow up with both a deep fascination with and fear of fire.

As the years pass, Donny and his mother live in a shaky state of co-dependence in their slowly rotting New Jersey home, supported by Donny's job at a garbage incinerator. Due to his upbringing, Donny is a meek, awkward, and submissive shut-in. The closest thing he has to a friend is a co-worker named Bobby Tuttle, who continually tries to get Donny to be more outgoing, only to be brushed off at every turn.


One cold winter day Donny witnesses the death of a co-worker named Ben when he is engulfed in flames when a heated aerosol can explodes. Donny stands by idly instead of helping the burning man. Donny is told off by his boss for his inaction, brushes off another request for a night out with Bobby, (in an attempt to cheer him up), returns home, and discovers his ailing mother has died.

At first shocked and saddened by his mother's death, Donny soon realizes that with her gone he can now do what he wants. He finds himself receiving messages from disembodied voices, who tell him that with his mother dead, he is now "the keeper of the flame" and the one who can use it to punish "evil". At the insistence of his new "friends", Donny takes some time off from work, steel-plates one his rooms, and purchases a fire retardant suit and a flamethrower. Once he is done with the preparations, Donny uses what little charm and social skills he possesses to get a florist named Kathy Jordan into his house where he burns her to death in the steel room, keeping her charred corpse as a "guest" in his home.


His mental state deteriorates. Donny murders more women, the voices growing more insistent, and he begins suffering hallucinations of his overbearing mother. As Donny spirals, local priest Father Gerritty, who Donny confides in one day, grows worried, as does Bobby, who continually tries to get in touch with his friend.

Quentin Tarantino has apparently stated this is one of his favorite films, and one that really disturbed him when he first saw it.

Not for the pyrophobic.

If you do go in, expect to find the following:

  • '80s Hair
  • Abusive Parents: Mrs. Kohler, and the mother of the boy shown in the epilogue.
  • Ambiguously Gay: The clothing store clerk.
  • Bad Samaritan: How Donny acquires most of his victims.
  • Bar Brawl: Averted. Donny is already in the parking lot by the time Anthony catches up with him.
  • Big "NO!": Donny lets one out when Farrah's attempt at pulling him onto the dance floor causes him to flashback to his mother yanking his arms into an open flame.
  • Blatant Lies: After getting attacked by Anthony, Donny picks up Suzanne and Patty, and tells them his injuries were the result of him easily fending off a trio of knife-wielding muggers using skills he acquired in a military special division.
  • Cast as a Mask: A trio of dancers played the victims after they were burned, since their petite frames were better suited as charred borderline skeletons than the original actresses.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Donny has a justifiably disturbing one.
  • Child by Rape: Donny, possibly. He tells Father Gerritty his mother told him he "was born of an evil deed" but considering how unbalanced she appeared to be, it was possibly just a plain old Sex Is Evil mentality.
  • Completely Different Title: Pyromaniac in France.
  • Covers Always Lie: The above really does look like the cover of a Haunted House film, doesn't it?
  • Creepy Child: Michael, the abused boy shown at the end.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: "In a steel room built for revenge they die burning... in chains."
  • Curbstomp Battle: Anthony attacking Donny after Donny non-fatally burns his sister Farrah in the disco.
  • Dangerous Workplace: Especially when you work with a bit of a space case.
  • Disappeared Dad: Mr. Kohler is only mentioned once, and his status is not elaborated on.
  • The '80s: The nightclub scene is so eighties it hurts.
  • Evil Matriarch
  • Fan Disservice: Kathy is naked when Donny burns her.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Right before being engulfed in flames, Ben mentions having a child. He survives, though.
  • Fire-Breathing Weapon
  • Flashback: Donny has a recurring one involving his mother burning and verbally abusing him.
  • Gorn
  • Hallucinations: They start off as just auditory, but quickly escalate to visual.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Suzanne and Patty.
  • Hearing Voices
  • He Cleans Up Nicely: Donny, after a little shopping spree.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Donny dies when he has a complete psychotic meltdown, and is engulfed in a fire of his own creation.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Bobby, possibly.
  • Hooks and Crooks: The victims are suspended by chains before being set alight.
  • Hysterical Woman: Suzanne does not take being captured by Donny nearly as well as Patty does.
  • I Can't Dance: Donny.
  • Improvised Weapon: Donny subdues Kathy by bashing her with one of his mother's statuettes, and later jams a burning candle into Farrah's face while having an episode.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: Played at several points.
  • Jerkass: Donny's boss, Vito. There's probably better ways of reprimanding an employee than shoving them and calling them a crazy son of a bitch faggot.
  • Joisey
  • Kill It with Fire: How Donny tries to fight off his victims and mother when he hallucinates them returning to life.
  • Laughing Mad: When Donny first starts playing with matches after the voices tell he is "the master of the flame" now.
  • Lock and Load Montage: Occurs offscreen, when Donny stops by a store that seems to exclusively specialize in weaponry (a "serial killer shop" as one review put it).
  • Malevolent Masked Men: Donny's fireproof suit.
  • Manchild: After discovering his mother's body, Donny, after the initial freak out, proceeds to crank up his music, bounce on the furniture, light up some cigarettes, and put them out on his mother's statuettes. Of course, he quickly escalates to...
  • Man on Fire: Of course.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: For the entire film, we assume the voices Donny hears are simply auditory hallucinations, though as he burns to death, they denounce him as a failure, and later another abused child is depicted as hearing disembodied voices identical to the ones Donny heard.
  • Monster Misogyny: The only man Donny tries to kill is Father Gerritty, who was attacked in a rage, and probably survived.
  • Mugging the Monster: See Blatant Lies above.
  • Mummies at the Dinner Table: Donny treats the corpses of his victims and his mother like they're still alive, usually ranting and screaming at them when he's not treating the former like his guests.
  • My Car Hates Me: The second victim is a woman whose car broke down.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Donny dreams about being on an exploding beach at night, and wakes up after being attacked and dragged into a chasm by his charred victims.
  • No Social Skills: Being raised by a crazy woman will do that to you.
  • Old, Dark House: Very Bates-ish.
  • Ominous Music Box Tune: Used in the trailer.
  • Peek-a-Boo Corpse: Patty stumbles onto Donny's corpse collection while looking for Suzanne.
  • Porn Stache: Ben.
  • Pummeling the Corpse: Donny punches a body during a fit; the attack is, oddly, shown from the corpse's POV.
  • Pyromaniac: Donny.
  • Reaction Shot
  • Recut: Like most Video Nasties.
  • Sanctuary of Solitude: As his mind begins to go, Donny visits a church, to confide in Father Gerritty.
  • Sequel Hook: A boy named Michael, who is heavily abused by his mother, starts hearing the same voices that guided Donny.
  • Serial Killer: Donny, albeit one who uses fire instead of more traditional methods, like knives or firearms.
  • Scare Chord: Whenever Donny has a hallucination of his mother.
  • Scars Are Forever: The burns on Donny's arms.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The disco tune that plays over the credits.
  • The Stoic: Father Gerritty.
  • Straw Misogynist: Donny, if some of his dialogue ("You're all bitches! Selfish and vain! Don't you dare laugh at me!") is any indication.
  • Stripperific: One of the disco patrons has a pretty nice outfit.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: In Donny's nightmare.
  • Sweater Girl: Winter, so yeah.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Donny is quite prone to them, especially if fire is involved.
  • Torture Cellar: The steel room.
  • Two First Names: Kathy Jordan.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Donny's reaction to Ben catching on fire, and most of the patrons failure to notice Farrah when Donny sets her hair on fire, and burns her face.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: It does come across as pretty Ed Gein inspired, which would probably explain the similarities to Psycho.
  • Video Nasties: It's not hard to see why it was labeled one. Although this wound up on the non-prosecuted list, not the prosecuted list.
  • Villainous Breakdown: As the film progresses, Donny grows increasingly unstable, but mid-way through, after a talk with Father Gerritty, he actually tries to be normal and good, but it doesn't last.
  • Villain Protagonist
  • Visual Pun: A woman is briefly set on fire on a dance floor. "Disco Inferno" anyone?
  • Weapon of Choice: A flamethrower.
  • You Have Failed Me: Essentially what the voices say to Donny before he dies.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Bobby sneaks out to the disco with Donny and few girls, though we never do learn if he actually intended cheat on his wife with one of them.


Example of: