This summer, both critics and regular folks who have to pay for their movie tickets have gone ga-ga over Baby Driver. The film was directed by Edgar Wright, who first gained mainstream attention for his awesome horror-comedy, Shaun of the Dead (2004). Admiration for Shaun led to Wright being asked to contribute a fake trailer for the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez extravaganza, Grindhouse (2007), their highly entertaining tribute to ‘70s and ‘80s exploitation cinema. In an interview with Rolling Stone prior to the release of Grindhouse, Wright talked about the main inspiration for Don’t.
In the ‘70s, when American International [Pictures] would release European horror films, they’d give them snazzier titles. And the one that inspired me was this Jorge Grau film: In the UK, it’s called The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue. In Spain and in Italy, I think it’s called Do Not Speak Ill of the Dead. But in the States, it was called Don’t Open the Window. I just loved the fact that there isn’t a big window scene in the film—it’s [the trailer’s] all based around the spin and the voiceover not really telling you what the hell is going on in the film.
Don’t Open the Window is set in England, and though English is the spoken language in the US version, the American trailer was cut in such a way that none of the actors’ voices are clearly heard. When Tarantino and Rodriquez appeared on Charlie Rose to promote Grindhouse, they talked about why there’s no dialogue in the preview for exploitation pictures like Don’t Open the Window.
Tarantino: His [Wright’s trailer] is like a British horror film from the ‘70s, but it’s the American trailer, which means they never let any of the actors talk, because in America they didn’t want anyone to know that it was a British movie until you were already in the theater.
Rodriguez: It was too late.
Tarantino: It’s too late!
Ha! Misleading the public was standard procedure in marketing these types of films, part of the whole grindhouse/exploitation cinema experience.
In the early ‘70s, a series of ‘Don’t’ movies began turning up in grindhouse theaters. As was the case with Don’t Open the Window, the names of these pictures often had nothing to do with the plot of said films. The titles that start with “Don’t” are warnings and invoke fear, exploiting a basic human emotion. ‘Don’t’ flicks tend to be low budget and are either outright horror movies or have elements of the genre.
One such motion picture appears to have kicked off the ‘Don’t’ cycle. Released in 1973, The Forgotten would be reissued under a number of alternate titles, including Don’t Look in the Basement.
Director S.F. Brownrigg followed it up with Don’t Hang Up, a/k/a Don’t Open the Door! (1974).
Below is a collection of poster art for just some of the ‘Don’t’ films.
’Don’t Look in the Basement’ (1973)
‘Don’t Open the Window,’ a/k/a ’Let Sleeping Corpses Lie’ (1975)
’Don’t Go in the House’ (1979)
’Don’t Answer the Phone’ (1980)
’Don’t Go Near the Park’ (1981)
‘Don’t Go in the Woods’ (1981)
The demise of the ‘Don’t’ trend coincided with American audiences growing tired of the horror genre in the early ‘80s, after a glut of slashers and other types of horror pictures. But ‘Don’t’ flicks never fully went away and will always be made—as long as there’s a market for exploitation films.
‘Don’t Look in the Basement 2’ (2015)
For the Don’t trailer, Wright took what he saw in the Don’t Open the Window preview and incorporated a dizzying array of horror film types, confusing and overwhelming the viewer with content, fast editing, and a bombastic voiceover (hilariously executed by Will Arnett)—just like an actual grindhouse trailer.
The “possessed child” image in ‘Don’t’ brings to mind supernatural horror films like ’The Omen (1976)
The creators of the Don’t fan art seen in this post envision Wright’s trailer as an actual film. I especially dig the fake Criterion art (by Tony Mayer), as it imagines a world where a full-length Don’t is not only made, but actually meets the home video company’s high standards. Bonus points for coming up with a back story involving a “terrifying bestseller” being the basis for the film (check out the fake book jacket). The “possessed child” poster, as well as the lead image, were produced by Silver Ferox. The shocking imagery seen in that first poster was influenced by supernatural movies, with Dario Argento’s occult horror masterwork, Suspiria, being one of Wright’s favorite pictures. There was a time when Wright had considered turning Don’t into a film and Suspiria was definitely on his mind.
“If it was [turned] into a feature, it’d have to be like Dario Argento and ‘Suspiria,’” said Wright. “’Suspiria’ is I think one of the few films that feels like a dream you’ve had when you’ve had too much cheese. It’s just like the weirdest bad dream you’ve ever had. I love those films that have the nightmare logic and don’t really have any plots or story. It’s just like horrible bad dream after bad dream.” (from Rotten Tomatoes)
Here’s Wright talking about how Suspiria and international movie trailers influenced Don’t:
Without further ado, Edgar Wright’s Don’t:
There are a myriad of cameos in Don’t, including the appearance of Wright usual suspects, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. The latter personifies the type of disturbing, decidedly un-PC depictions of the disabled seen in grindhouse flicks like The Baby (1973).
Wright compares the storyboards with the final product:
We’ll leave you with the making of Don’t featurette, which along with the above video and the Don’t trailer, can be had via the Grindhouse Blu-ray.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Dario Argento’s horror classic ‘Suspiria’ and the most vicious murder scene ever filmed, 1977