Don’t Go In The Woods (1981) Starring Nick Cleland, James P. Hayden and many other also-rans. Directed by James Bryan.
When I went to visit my buddy at the Vinegar Syndrome booth last year, I was psyched to see they had restored a copy of the 1981 slasher film, Don’t Go In The Woods. I remembered being twelve and seeing it with my friends in the theater by my house and we’d loved it. I hadn’t seen or heard of it since. It lived in my memory as this gory ‘killer in the woods’ flick, kinda like Friday the 13th. Vinegar Syndrome is a superstar outfit, finding and curating lost horror and exploitation films. I happily handed over my $20 for the Blu-ray I never thought would be available.
The moment I got home, I popped that bad boy in, settled back in my easy chair and was ready for classic 80s slasher carnage. Only a few minutes in, I began to wonder if I had had a concussion when I saw it as a kid. Everything about this is bad. Teens go into the woods, teens start to die. The killer is a crazed mountain man who wears animal furs and likes to swing his machete around…a lot. The film itself looks like it was dunked in acid and dragged behind a car. The acting is so terrible, I actually felt my blood pressure rise. The plot is insipid, even for a cheapo slasher film. And the score! Oh my Lord. Since this was the 80s, we’re talking synthesizers. There is this particular synth ramp up sound that at first was cool when it preceded a kill. It did a find job building what little tension can be gleaned from a steaming turd of a movie. The problem is, it was used over and over, sometimes for nothing more than someone looking around at the empty woods. Midway through the movie, I wanted to poke my eardrums with a knitting needle.
I totally understand why this movie exists. Slasher flicks were all the rage, and everyone was looking to jump on the bandwagon. Hell, they were cheap to make and didn’t require much heavy lifting in the plot department. Just get some late teens or early twenty-somethings in the woods, show some boobs, drink some booze, smoke some weed and let the blood fly. In that respect, Don’t Go In The Woods hits all the marks. The dreadful execution is what makes this almost unwatchable.
Perusing director James Bryan’s IMDB page, I did find some movies of his I am interested in watching, including Hell Riders, starring Adam West and Tina Louise, and Thanks for the Mammories. I respect the guy. He wasn’t making high art and he knew it. It’s just that Don’t Go In The Woods is about as low art as you can get. And lesson learned, never trust the critical evaluation of a twelve year old.
If you’re going to watch this, and I believe you should at least once in your life, pack the house with horror/slasher fans, pre-game with copious amount of PBR and have fun ripping the shit out of it. Just like you shouldn’t go in the woods alone, you shouldn’t watch this alone.
Hunter Shea is the product of a misspent childhood watching scary movies, reading forbidden books and wishing Bigfoot would walk past his house. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal – he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself. Hunter’s novels can even be found on display at the International Cryptozoology Museum. His video podcast, Monster Men, is one of the most watched horror podcasts in the world. He’s a bestselling author of over 13 (lucky number!) books, all of them written with the express desire to quicken heartbeats and make spines tingle. Living with his wonderful family and two cats, he’s happy to be close enough to New York City to gobble down Gray’s Papaya hotdogs when the craving hits.