At times like these
When enemies
Can number more than friends
A friend indeed is what I need
Not someone who pretends

Neil Innes/The Rutles, "Another Day"


We all go there. The days when the world seems dark and gloomy. When the sun only illuminates the darkness instead of brightening our lives. The terrible moments when society and everything in it feels like nothing but deception and hypocrisy.

It's been a bad week. No major life problems, just the doldrums of disillusionment and distrust.

I used to drown these feelings in alcohol, but I don't do that anymore. That sort of thing may get you through the night, but it merely compounds the problem.

No headbanging music to assuage my dismay, no angry pounding punk rock.

No, for me it's a down and dirty exploitation movie. For some of us, these films serve to feed the nasty side of our minds. The parts that say and think things we don't really mean. The ones that wish ill on others. Horror fans work out these impulses through hard grindhouse/drive-in movies. And, some of us at least, come out the other side better for it.

I wasn't in the mood for some digital chicanery. This called for some vintage sleaze. Something with no redeeming value, like Nightmare or Maniac. I opted for Joseph (definitely no relation to Harlan) Ellison's Don't Go in the House.

I watched this one on The Movie Channel on a Friday night around 1987. It was perfectly suitable entertainment to me at the time.

There have been plenty of charges of misogyny against horror movies over the years. Sometimes I think it's a bunch of baloney and other times it's appropriate. Don't Go in the House falls in the latter category.

This is a dark, dark story of a firebug who was dominated by a sadistic mother. Mom tried to burn the evil out of him when he was a boy. One fine evening after a day at the sewage incineration plant where the guy is employed, he finds Mom dead in her chair. Free at last, he can make messes, smoke in the house, and lure innocent women home to murder. Luckily there just happens to be a flame thrower laying around.

The violence is as stark as a Herschell Gordon Lewis cheapie, but there is none of the goofy charm of Blood Feast or Two-Thousand Maniacs. This is as brutal and soulless as it got in the nihilistic days of the late seventies.

There are coke-fueled discotheque scenes where our hero sets his date's hair on fire, some inspired hallucinatory footage of decaying Mom still nagging away at the poor man, and a coterie of dead burn victims sitting around a parlor.

The genre needed cleansing after Don't Go in the House and other movies of this nature. Balance was achieved in the next few years with enjoyably silly productions like Creepshow, House, and The Lost Boys. Even the slasher movies were cheerful fun in comparison.

I go back to movies like this to figure out who and what I was in the early years of my life. I wasn't a terrible person, but sometimes I watched really awful movies. Seeing something like Don't Go in the House with friends on a rowdy drive-in night is one thing. Watching it home alone is quite another.

Don't Go in the House is worth a look to those interested in the history of the horror movie. This is where we were in the seventies. I don't regret going back to see it, but I don't care to indulge in this kind of wretchedness any more.

Did Don't Go in the House help my depression? Sure. Just knowing I will never have to sit through it again makes my day a lot happier.

Written by Mark Sieber

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