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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. 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:

  • Abusive Parents: Mrs. Kohler, and the mother of the boy shown in the epilogue.
  • Bad Samaritan: Donny poses as a helpful passerby in order to lure young women into his home and kill them.
  • 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.
  • Bystander Syndrome: In the beginning of the film, Donny meekly watches a co-worker get horribly burned instead of intervening. He's justifiably called out for it by his boss afterwards. Justified, since Donny is violently psychotic and has a fearful reverence for fire.
  • 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 disturbing one where he's attacked by the charred corpses of his victims.
  • 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. Donny doesn't get a single punch in and runs away in shame after a terrible beat-down.
  • Dangerous Workplace: Donny's job at a garbage incinerator is shown to be unsafe at the start of the movie, when an employee is badly burned by an overheated aerosol can.
  • Disappeared Dad: Mr. Kohler is only mentioned once, and his status is not elaborated on.
  • Evil Matriarch: Mrs. Kohler functioned as one for Donny, abusing him by burning his arms for misbehavior, real or imagined.
  • 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: Donny creates his own flamethrower to kill people with.
  • Flashback: Donny has a recurring one involving his mother burning and verbally abusing him.
  • Hallucinations: Donny has multiple over the course of the movie. They start off as just auditory, but quickly escalate to visual.
  • Hearing Voices: Donny hears two; one is of his mother continuing to taunt and abuse him after her death, the other a mysterious unexplained voice that encourages him to act on his violent thoughts and fantasies.
  • 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.
  • Hooks and Crooks: The victims are suspended by chains before being set alight.
  • Hope Spot: Donny, after visiting Father Gerrity, puts in an effort to change and actually takes the initiative to call Bobby and see about going out somewhere. It seems to be working until Donny’s date unwittingly pulls his arms over a candle, triggering a flashback to his mother’s abuse of him and a subsequent freakout, leading to the date getting said candle to the face leaving her hair on fire, and Bobby getting beaten up by her vengeful brother.
  • Hysterical Woman: Suzanne does not take being captured by Donny nearly as well as Patty does.
  • I Can't Dance: Donny refuses to dance at the disco, telling his "date" of the evening he doesn't dance. Her attempts to get him up from the table causes him to have a meltdown and burn her face with a candle.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • Kill It with Fire: Donny's modus operandi as a serial killer.
  • 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 military surplus store (a "serial killer shop" as one review put it).
  • Malevolent Masked Men: Donny's fireproof suit has a mask that gives him this vibe when he dons it.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Nice Guy: Although implied to be an adulterer, Bobby still fits, given that he constantly tries to reach out and be a friend to Donny, whom he feels bad for. He even tries setting up a date for Donny, and when that goes disastrously, goes to Donny's house first to try and reason with him instead of immediately going to the cops.
  • 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: Donny struggles when interacting with other people and notably fumbles when trying to lure a girl to his house after trying to help her carry her groceries; even after getting told no, he keeps asking her and gets in her way.
  • 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.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Donny, if some of his language towards women ("You're all bitches! Selfish and vain! Don't you dare laugh at me!") is any indication.
  • Posthumous Character: Mrs. Kohler is dead by the time the film starts, but her actions in Donny's past are what spurs him to be the person he becomes.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: After discovering his mother's body, Donny, after the initial freak out, becomes giddy with excitement at the thought of being able to do whatever he wants. He then proceeds to crank up his music, bounce on the furniture, light up some cigarettes, and put them out on his mother's statuettes.
  • Pummeling the Corpse: Donny punches a body during a fit; the attack is, oddly, shown from the corpse's POV.
  • Pyromaniac: Donny, being a serial killer who burns people to death.
  • Real After All: While the film is shown primarily through Donny's POV, and thus subject to Unreliable Narrator in regards to the disembodied voices he hears and the visions of charred corpses he sees, the ending implies that at least one of those voices wasn't just the product of his decaying sanity; another abused boy named Michael starts hearing the same voice that Donny heard, telling him that they'll help.
  • Sanctuary of Solitude: As his mind begins to go, Donny visits a church, to confide in Father Gerritty. Unfortunately, it doesn't take.
  • 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, caused by his mother's abuse.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The disco tune that plays over the credits.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: In Donny's nightmare, everything seems to be exploding or on fire.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Donny is quite prone to them, especially if fire is involved. This is most prominent in the opening, where seeing his colleague get set on fire accidentally only causes Donny to stare blankly.
  • Torture Cellar: The steel room was built by Donny specifically for this purpose, to be the place where he burns his victims to death.
  • 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.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Donny's final meltdown at the film's climax, where the burnt corpses of his victims attack him, and he sets everything around him on fire, causing his own death.
  • Villain Protagonist: Donny, the Pyromaniac Serial Killer of women, is our POV character.
  • Visual Pun: A woman is briefly set on fire on a dance floor. "Disco Inferno" anyone?
  • You Have Failed Me: Essentially what the voices say to Donny before he dies.