One of the first words that we hear in our youth is “don’t.” Don’t sit too close to the TV. Don’t stay up too late. Don’t hit your brother. The words has taught us loads of valuable lessons about how to take care of ourselves, make good use of our time, and be overall descent human beings. But for the budding young horror fans in the 70s and 80s, the word “don’t” was not only heard from parents but also in the movies. The word to the wise has made its way back to horror titles as of late with films such as DON’T KILL IT and DON’T BREATHE, perhaps signifying a new generation of youths seeking guidance, be it on how to overcome SAT anxiety or how to outrun a demon. The word has always been an innocent suggestion coming from parents whereas the movies have used it as a blunt warning for the sake of survival. If you are in need of a survival guide, here are the top 5 “Don’t” movies…
DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT (1973, Directed by S.F. Brownrigg)
No stranger to the don’t movies (his other claim to fame being DON’T HANG UP in 1974), S.F. Brownrigg causes us all to go a little mad in this claustrophobic and bloody tale of misfit toys. A young nurse transfers to an isolated psychiatric facility after a murder has occurred. She maintains the belief that she is making progress with the patients until one by one they begin to reveal murder clues all the while robbing her of her sanity. Unlike many of the don’t movies that have a formulaic feel, I always enjoy the eccentric characters in DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT as well as the unforgettably poetic surprise ending. If anything is to be taken away from this movie, it is to mind your own business. Don’t ask questions. Don’t make inferences. Don’t trust anyone. And above all else, don’t look in the basement.
DON’T GO TO SLEEP (1982, Directed by Richard Lang)
Originally premiering as a TV movie, DON’T GO TO SLEEP tells the dreary ghost story of young Mary who is haunted by the spirit of her deceased sister Jennifer who died in a car wreck one year earlier. Played by Robin Ignico whose other claim to fame is the classic film production of ANNIE, Mary—driven by her older sister— is without a doubt the ruthless Rhoda Penmark of the 1980s. Unlike many of the “Don’t” that tend to follow a late-night B-movie gore-fest pattern of disposable characters, this frightening film contains wholesome, fully-developed characters complete with demons and vices. Each member of Mary’s family is coping with the same tragedy in a way that either kills them or lands them in the nuthouse. Don’t go to sleep… because the dead could be waiting at the foot of your bed.
DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS (1984, Directed by Edmund Perdom
I’m an unapologetic sucker for Christmas horror and I’ll admit that one year I was one of the millions of kids who couldn’t wait until that commercial wonderland of a holiday to take a peek at the goods. DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS is a classic case of who-done-it only with more TNA than Sherlock could handle. A former psychiatric inpatient hates Christ’s birthday after a traumatic childhood experience and he is determined to ruin the holiday for all of London with nothing more than a razor and a cheap mask. This film provides some valuable tips to help you stay off the naughty list. Don’t dress like Santa. Don’t work in the adult industry. And definitely don’t give your child a weapon for Christmas.
DON’T LOOK NOW (1973, Directed by Nicholas Roeg)
Grieving the loss of their young daughter, a young married couple meet two elderly women in Venice. One of the women has psychic abilities and delivers an unnerving warning from beyond. While most of the “Don’t” films are more enjoyable for the sake of entertainment value, they are not exactly prime examples of “quality” filmmaking. Aside from being a classic in this horror niche, DON’T LOOK NOW stands out in that it is widely celebrated as a masterpiece among horror fans and general film fans alike. The enticing tale is so compelling that even Tim Curry— who has played one of Stephen King’s most psychologically damaging monsters— has claimed DON’T LOOK NOW as his favorite horror film of all time. With trouble lurking in every twist and turn, don’t walk… don’t run… don’t look now.
DON’T OPEN THE WINDOW (1974, Directed by Jorge Grau)
George A. Romero might have brought to life our love of the zombie sub-genre of horror, but Italian directors such as Jorge Grau turned such films into bloody fine art. Most commonly known by its alternative title, THE LIVING DEAD AT MANCHESTER MORGUE, this film follows a couple of hippies who are on the run from the police after being accused of multiple cult-like murders across the English countryside. However, what the police fail to understand is that the real culprits are the dead rising back to life at the local mortuary. Released into theaters seven years after the notorious summer of love, this anti-authority film is a reflection of the open-mindedness of 70s youth culture that spanned further than the United States. It also pays great homage to Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, continuing to carry out Romero’s theme of hopelessness. Don’t open the window. Don’t open the door. Really, just don’t open anything.