Thursday, September 2, 2021

DON'T Fest '21


I decided to make myself a little mini-horror festival, centered around movies from the 70s and 80s that have the proscription DON'T in their titles. Here's what I watched:

Don't Go in the Woods

Don't Go in the Woods was banned in the UK as a "video nasty" for a long time. However, aside from the final scene, I thought the bloodshed in this was actually pretty tame. And yet, I'm not sure people should ever be exposed to acting, writing, and cinematography this poor. 

The premise is simple: an insane woodsman is murdering hikers, campers, and whoever else he happens to encounter, but many of the murder scenes are inexplicable and hard to follow visually. One early killing has a character's arm drop off suddenly, and it is unclear what has wounded him. Don't Go in the Woods has the feel of a movie made by effete city-slickers who imagine that every stick found in the woods could impale someone to death if thrown...because that's exactly what happens several times over the course of the movie's runtime. This one is barely watchable.

Don't Look in the Basement

A pretty young nurse comes to work in a home for the mentally ill where the doctor in charge believes that rehabilitation of the violently insane can only happen...if they are given free rein. Which, in this case, includes letting them swing an axe around to master their aggression. I don't have a medical degree, but that seems like a bad idea immediately. And it is: one crazy immediately kill the doctor. 

Ultimately, the "doctor" left in charge after the original guy dies is an insane woman who believes she is a doctor and manages to fool the pretty young nurse for a while. It's a bit of a Tarr and Fether situation. Also, despite the title, going through the basement is the only way the nurse can escape the literal madhouse, so maybe don't take it as life advice. There is a shocking bit of implied necrophilia that I didn't see coming, so that's something.

Don't Look in the Attic

This Italian film is mercifully short, and unlike the previous two it isn't a slasher movie. Two feuding brothers and their psychically sensitive cousin are drawn to the house of the relatives they never knew with the promise of inheriting their villa in Turin, but something dark and occult is afoot in the house. 

The supernatural elements are admittedly a bit murky; thrills and chills are thin on the ground. Also, as with Don't Go in the Basement, the Americanized title of Don't Look in the Attic one is a bit misplaced: looking in the attic is actually essential, for reasons of exposition and plot!

Don't Go in the House

Don't Go in the House is an extreme Psycho riff. A damaged loser is abducting women and burning them alive to show his dead, but still puritanically castigating, mother who's boss. 

In one noteworthy scene the killer goes to a clothing store to get an outfit for his night out at the disco (!!!) and is assisted by a clearly gay clerk. The clerk's sexual orientation is obvious, but never mentioned, and oddly for a movie of this era, it isn't played for laughs or for moral condemnation. Also, imagine if Psycho had  a disco scene.

Don't Go in the House isn't great, but it's got enough off-the-wall ideas to keep things moving. The corpses of the main character's victims aren't convincing as charred remains, but they have a gribbly charm that is unsettling on their own merits. It ends on a didactic message: don't abuse your kids or they will grow up to be serial killers, mmkay? 

Don't Answer the Phone

Don't Answer the Phone has that classic "grimy" feel that you rarely get in modern horror movies. A porno photographer with daddy issues is strangling and raping women in Los Angeles. The cops are hot on his trail, but are portrayed as surprisingly inept as a matter of course; at one point they shoot their only lead to death before they get a chance to question him. 

The film is mostly memorable due to the strange touches that set it apart from similar movies of its ilk, such as the scenes where the killer is inexplicably pumping iron and having a mental breakdown simultaneously. I suppose this is meant to set-up the fact that he's strong enough to bust out of handcuffs (!!!), but it's a very odd recurring image in the movie. There are a few lines in this movie that should be better known, such as the killer terrorizing a women while saying "Shut up, or I'll tear your tit off!" and the handsome cop stating "Adios, creep" after he's sent the killer to his grave.