Sunday, May 31, 2009
Don't Go In The House
I currently have Fridays and Saturdays off. This leads to some strange Thursday nights. All my friends have to work on Friday, so Thursday night is usually a little pocket of solitude to kick off my weekend alone. 1:30 a.m., Thursday night: the girlfriend is asleep, the beer is cold, and I am scouring my shelves for something to watch. I need something sleazy, degraded, preferably from the late 1970s or early 1980s. It needs to be exploitation, but not too cheesy. I need something dark, something bizarre, something that stands the test of time but is so of its time that it takes me away from these foul times we inhabit. The answer is found with the "Grindhouse Psychos" box set and "Don't Go In The House".
This film is much better than any other film that I've ever seen with a title that begins with "Don't". Yes, it is even better than "Don't Be A Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood", but that's sort of an apples and oranges comparison, isn't it. This particular "Don't" concerns a young man named Kohler, who lives with his mother in her giant, creepy house. We learn through flashbacks that she would burn his arms over the gas stovetop as a boy to "burn the evil" out of him. He now works at a giant trash burning incinerator plant. The film opens with a fellow worker of Kohler's tending the raging fire, not noticing a highly flammable aerosol can, presumably placed in the incinerator by the intently observant Kohler. The can explodes, dousing the worker in flames. Kohler does nothing but stare at the writhing, burning man. The fire effects are excellent and look way better than today's CGI cartoon blazes.
Kohler's superior berates him for not helping the man, calling him a "faggot" in the locker room. Kohler's buddy, who could easily be played by Michael Showalter if they ever remade this film, tries to get him to go to a bar after work to talk about the situation. As they stand outside the incinerator plant on a cold New Jersey or Long Island winter night, I realized that this film boasts some excellent photography. The darkness and swirling snow really captures the lonely weirdness of the small town Northeast winter experience. The winter setting also creates an interesting contrast to the fire that burns inside of Kohler, the fire which later manifests itself when he starts chaining up girls in a fireproof room and setting them ablaze. First, though, there is the matter of Kohler's mother.
He returns to work to find her dead in her chair. He is sad at first, then the voices in his head tell him that he is free at last. So he starts partying, turning his music up loud, smoking cigarettes in the house, jumping on the furniture. The voices goad him on. The sound of his mother screaming at him put his party to an end.
The whole look of the film is really great for what it is, a disturbing little psycho potboiler. But the house looks genuinely creepy, his room looks like what a disturbed man-child's room would look like, and so on. Once he fireproofs a room and buys a fireproof suit from an Army Navy store and starts convincing attractive young women to accompany him back to his house, often to see his "sick" mother, the film takes off. We watch his already damaged psyche erode as he kills the girls and keeps their scorched carcasses in a special room upstairs.
The psychology is right on the money, as far as the serial killer model goes. Child abuse is the first and foremost creator of serial killers, and this film really captures that. This is a non-exploitative exploitation film that had my eyes glued to the tube all night. There are genuinely frightening moments and the whole thing keeps a sustained tone of creepiness that will keep you watching intently. Definitely excellent viewing material for a late night beer session.