Controversial Blus: Don't Go In the House (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

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?  Well, let's have a look.
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 around to the point where I was really searching just to find any 80s horror movie I hadn't already seen, 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 some strong performances by actors who clearly cared about their craft and were putting in the work to make something really worthwhile.  There are also a few minor roles with problematic acting, including a priest who's every line has clearly been overdubbed.  But 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 big 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 a 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 last year, but now Scorpion's given it a brand new scan, and like I say, those new scenes.
2005 Shriek Show DVD on top; 2016 Scorpion blu-ray bottom.
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-ray.   Both releases are in 1.78:1, but you'll notice the actual framing is quite different.  Shriek Show has more picture on the left, and Scorpion has more on the right, and it's different vertically, too.  You could really hash it out shot by shot, but overall I'd say I prefer Scorpion's framing.  A little bit more on that in the extras talk.  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.

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 pretty 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.
So why's this blu controversial?  Well, another problem with the audio is that it's a 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 faggot has a whole new, altered meaning.  Still, if you're not already familiar with the film, you won't notice most of them.  Only one 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.  Still, if you didn't know better, you'd probably think it was a drop out, like the line in the store, rather than a cleansing.  So don't get me wrong, the film is visually uncut, with all the violence and nudity intact.  It's just the language that's been cleaned up with this alternate audio track.  But it's a shame, because otherwise this was easily the definitive version of the film.
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 scenes 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 now.  Oh, and it has reversible artwork, too.
So, this may not be the perfectly definitive version we anticipated, but it's still the best version available by far.  I've seen people saying they'll be getting both blus (this and Subkultur's, which by the way, has a unique interview with the director as an extra, but not the new Scorpion stuff), but unless you're going to edit together a composite cut for yourself, I wouldn't bother.  This is the one.  At least until 88 Films, Umbrella or somebody release the film in another market with the Scorpion transfer and the unedited sound.  I could definitely see that happening, so if you're not a big fan of this film anyway, you may want to wait and see.  But for now, Scorpion's blu does so much right that I give it a strong recommendation despite its problems, which is basically just the one issue; and it really shouldn't be enough to spoil the film for you.

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