Controversy Resolved: Don't Go In the House

Scorpion announced their blu-ray edition a good while ago. 1980's Don't Go In the House isn't an A-list horror title, but it's a solid genre flick with a respectable following, and this was going to be a fresh HD transfer with some new extras.  It got pushed back a few times, but before fans could get too grumpy about it, the label announced a pretty awesome reason for it: they uncovered long forgotten, presumed forever lost, footage of a longer cut of the film.  And not just padding with two babysitters bickering over who gets to borrow a blouse to pad out the running time like Halloween's TV cut or something, these were apparently big, juicy scenes.  So now we're really excited for this release!  Even those of us who thought we might've been fine just hanging onto our Shriek Show DVDs figured apparently we'll have to upgrade after all.  But now that it's here, well, it's flawed, and it's got some fans upset and disappointed.  It's totally the sort of thing that would prompt a replacement program from Scream Factory or Arrow, but Scorpion's a smaller company, so we'll probably just have to live with it.  Just what's the deal?  Is it still worth getting anyway?

Update 12/23/16 - 2/10/22: Well, that settles that.  Severin has released a brand new, 2-disc release, in conjunction with Arrow, that fixes Scorpion's issue.  Problem solved in style!
Don't Go In the House is a pretty generic horror movie title, coming out right around the same time as Don't Go In the Woods, Don't Look In the Basement, and Don't Go In the Attic.  You have every reason not to remember if you've seen this movie when you hear the title, but I can clear it up for you real quick: it's the slasher movie where the killer (Dan Grimaldi of The Sopranos)'s weapon of choice is a flamethrower.  There ain't a lot of those!  So I trust that's cleared that up.

It's also actually a pretty good flick.  I put off seeing it for a long time, because it just seemed like the sort of cheap, trashy slasher I wouldn't get much out of.  But when I finally got to the point where I was searching just to find any 80s horror movie I hadn't already seen at all, Don't Go In the House's number came up, and I was actually pretty impressed.  It's definitely got fuller production values than I would've expected, including some great locations and impressive fire effects.  It's got strong performances by actors who clearly cared about their craft and were putting in the work to make something really worthwhile.  Although, with that said, much (all?) of the dialogue was re-dubbed in post, and some of the supporting cast (like that priest!) don't come out very well.  Still, for the most part, it's all engrossing and effective.  The music's good (holy cow, that disco song's catchier than the one in House On the Edge Of the Park!) And the story has a bunch of great moments where it goes to smart and interesting places you wouldn't have expected.  No spoilers, but for me it was the nightclub scene that really turned this from a movie I'd rented to a film I had to have in my collection.  If Martin Scorsese had made a horror film early in his career, I feel like this is what he would've come up with.
So how about those new scenes?  Yeah, they're substantial. Almost ten minutes worth in big chunks.   There's a major scene with Dan Grimaldi laying a major monologue down the burnt corpses of his victims he keeps in his room, even giving one a big, wet kiss.  There's another big scene with that dubbed priest, and more of the first killing.  In a way, you can see the reason for cutting a lot of it: are audiences going to sit for long, dramatic speeches while waiting for their exploitation?  And yeah, the cuts probably do help the pace for people who aren't enjoying this film much anyway.  But if you appreciate this film, you'll appreciate it even more with the scenes restored.  They really flesh it out, and I don't even think they should've been stuck on the disc as "deleted scenes," because once you've seen the movie with them, they really feel absent from the shorter, theatrical cut.  It's just a better film with them in.
This man's been struck by Boogie Lightning
For the longest time, this film used to only be available on a DVD in a fullscreen, edited version from a label so generic, their name was DVD, LTD.  But in 2005, Shriek Show did right by the film, releasing it as an uncut, widescreen special edition.  They reissued it in a triple pack called Grindhouse Psychos Triple Feature with Cop Killers and Tenement in 2008, and Arrow released it in the UK in 2012, minus the extras.  Subkultur released it in HD for the first time in Germany in 2015, and then Scorpion gave it a brand new scan, and like I say, those new scenes the following year.  Unfortunately, they also made a major screw up.  But now we can put all that behind us, with Severin and Arrow's new special edition set (distributed in the US by Severin and Arrow in the UK) in 2022.
1) 2005 Shriek Show DVD; 2) 2016 Scorpion BD; 3) 2022 Severin theatrical BD;
4) 2022 Severin television BD; 5) 2022 Severin integral BD.

The Shriek Show DVD was pretty good for a DVD; the only really problem is that it was interlaced.  Naturally, that's been corrected on the blu-rays.   Every release is in 1.78:1 (despite Severin claiming 1.85:1 on their back cover), but you'll notice the actual framing differs.  Shriek Show has more picture on the left, and Scorpion has more on the right, and it's been adjusted vertically, too.  Severin, meanwhile, has made a brand new 2k scan of the OCN, and it matches Scorpion's framing for the most part, but reveals more on the bottom and left-hand side, and adjusts a few individual scenes differently.

Anyway, the DVD has a natural softness to it from the SD compression, which the HD clears up nicely.  Scorpion's blu has really nice, subtle grain and though there's a little damage to the film elements carried over, it's nothing that pulls you out of the film or gets annoying.  Overall, Scorpion's transfer is pretty terrific.  And Severin/ Arrow's is pretty equivalent.  The color timing is different, though determining which is better feels pretty arbitrary and varies shot by shot.  Detail levels are about the same, though the new disc is a bit sharper and resolves the grain a little more distinctly.  But it's not exactly a revelation.  There are reasons to replace the Scorpion disc for the Severin for sure, but PQ isn't really one of them.

Oh, and the three cuts across the two Severin discs all use the same transfer.  The only difference is that the theatrical cut is, for whatever curious reason, slightly brighter than the other two.  And I've been reading speculation on forums about whether the Severin or Arrow versions will differ.  Well, I'm pretty confident saying they won't, because disc 1 in the Severin set is actually an Arrow disc, with Arrow's logo coming up at the start and Arrow-style menus, etc.  So the only difference at all should be the region coding.
The audio is a whole other ball of wax.  I guess I'll start by saying that Scorpion's DTS-HD track is both pretty full in general, but also full of pops and hisses.  However, the Shriek Show is also like that.  The Scorpion does have more pops (that recur regularly, like it's from a damaged reel), but the hiss and general issues seem to be mostly tied to the film itself.  The audio commentary mentions this, and the overdubbing knocks some of the sync off.  There's one scene in a store, where a clerk calls out to another employee, and you can't hear what he's saying after the first word or two, but the sentence is clear on the old DVD.  But that's a rare exception.  It's not too distracting, but definitely feels like you're watching an old, worn movie.

Severin's now is the best of all.  It's all lossless: DTS-HD on the integral cut, LPCM on the other two; though they all sound about the same.  It's the clearest, doesn't have that recurring pop, and does have that line of dialogue.  They also include English descriptive audio tracks on the theatrical and integral cuts, and optional English subtitles on all three - something the previous discs lacked entirely.  So it's already a good step forward, but that's just the half of it.
Because why is Scorpion's blu so ding-dong controversial?  Well, their audio uses the censored TV track.  All the curse words have been replaced.  Admittedly, this movie isn't as full of curse words as a lot, so most scenes get away unscathed, but a long argument towards the beginning of the film where Grimaldi's character is repeatedly accused of being a f____t has a whole new, altered meaning.  One line in particular really sounds like something's wrong, where a girl in a car calls a guy an ass____, and the sound clearly cuts right out during the second syllable.  Severin/ Arrow have the proper uncut audio for both the theatrical and integral/ extended cuts, and if you're curious to hear the clean version, they give ya that, too, on the television cut.
Now Shriek Show came pretty nice with extras.  They got star Dan Grimaldi in for an on-camera interview and an audio commentary.  And he gives a really good commentary, well informed and with a lot of memories to share.  The interview does have some repeated anecdotes, but also enough unique parts to make ti worth watching, too.  Besides that, there's the trailer, some bonus trailers, and a featurette that shows a couple moments in open matte, revealing some extra nudity and bits.

Scorpion carries over all of those Shriek Show extras except the open matte bit.  That's fine, though, because Scorpion's framing includes the full frontal nudity that Shriek Show cropped out anyway, so there wouldn't be much point to them including it.  By the way, you can hear the original curses in the background of the audio commentary, and yes, the commentary goes silent during the added scenes.  They've also got some brand new extras, including an interview with co-star Robert Osth and a cool tour of the titular house, which is now a bit of a historical/ tourist attraction.  Those are both quite good.  Then there's another featurette on the house, where the guy who runs it explains how he thinks it's haunted and that he's a ghost hunter with an ebook you can buy.  That's a bit silly.  But over-all, it's a nice, fuller special edition.  Oh, and it has reversible artwork, too.
And Severin/ Arrow?  Well, first of all, they've kept the Shriek Show extras, even the open matte flame-thrower scene, but they've lost Scorpion's.  However, they've also come up with a bunch of mostly new stuff.  First of all, there are two new audio commentaries: one by director Joe Ellison and his producer/ wife Ellen Hammill, which is fantastic.  It's full of great info, some of which will be new even to die-hard fans, and also funny.   And there's an expert commentary by Stephen Thrower, which is... not his best work.  And it doesn't help that he winds up repeating a lot of stuff from the previous commentaries, except here it's second-hand.  There's also an on-camera interview with Ellison, as well as talks with co-writer Joseph R. Masefield and co-producer Matthew Mallinson.  We don't have Scorpion's featurettes on the house, but we have a brand new location tour, which covers all the locations and also gets into the weird haunting stuff.  It's pretty great.

There's some filler, too, including a featurette where Ellison is asked about NY grindhouse theaters along with some other filmmakers.  It's basically a half-hour continuation of that 42nd Street Forever doc, and even this specific featurette has been recycled from other discs before (it's definitely already been on 88 Film's Just Before Dawn, Turbine's Kill Squad, and probably one or two others).  And there's a video essay by another critic who doesn't have much to add either.  It feels like we're stretching to justify the second disc, but regular readers know what I say in situations like this, hey, I'll take 'em.  It's always better to err on the side of more than less.  And the good new extras are so good, this new release is a big win in that department anyway.

Severin also has multiple trailers for this film, and just for fun, other Don't horror flicks of the time.  There's a trailer gallery, a slipcover designed to match the British VHS cover (which makes more sense for the UK release than the US one) and reversible cover art.  And if you get the Arrow-distributed release, there's also a bonus third disc, which includes some rather silly extra presentations of the film: see it in VHS quality!  See it open matte with or without the BBFC cuts!  See it with the old commercials!  They also lose the open matte scene (no loss, since their bonus disc includes the whole film open matte) and also throw in the director interview from the Subkultur blu.   So it's cute I guess, and comes with a couple more scraps, but hardly worth going out of your way to secure.
So, we've finally gotten the definitive version we thought we were getting in the 2010s.  For a while there, dedicated fans were getting both of the old blus; but unless you're actually going to edit together a composite cut with Scorpion's 2k transfer and Subkultur's uncut audio, what's the point in that?  You can only watch one version of a film at a time.  Well, thank goodness we don't have to think about that anymore!  Severin/ Arrow have solved everything and come up with some cool new extras to boot.  If you have the Scorpion disc, though, you might want to hang onto it for the Osth interview - it's a shame they couldn't have licensed that.  But they've definitely put together a much stronger package over all.  And yeah, all thing's being equal, the Arrow the one to go with for the additional odds and ends, but both Severin and Arrow have all the important stuff, so don't feel like you're missing out if you're region A.

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