Don’t Go in the Woods (1981)

Comments Off on Don’t Go in the Woods (1981) 04 May 2015

don't blu ray

Studio: Vinegar Syndrome

Theatrical Release: September 1981

Blu Ray Release: March 10, 2015

Director: James Bryan


Review by James Klein

Ultra cheap, low budget regional slasher film made entirely in Utah with a budget of less than $30,000, Don’t Go in the Woods is pure amateur filmmaking and definitely not for everyone. However, its cheap gore effects, hilarious script, and gorgeous wilderness setting had me smiling and enjoying this inept slasher film.

Producer / director James Bryan, who got his start in the adult industry (come on Vinegar, release some of his 70’s smut!) before he broke out with the hippie comedy Boogievision in 1977. After that he decided to try his hand in the horror genre as the slasher film craze was just starting to boom. Deciding to shoot the film with almost entirely all local actors as well as re-use old film stock, Bryan’s Don’t Go in the Woods was born.

Don't go in the woodsThe (very) basic plot consists of four obnoxious young adults who  journey into the wilderness for a weekend of camping and just good old fashioned “roughing it.” As these four dorks bicker and wonder aimlessly through the woods, a mountain man (Tom Drury) watches their every move. This oddball’s weapon of choice is a spear / claw that he uses on all his victims. He also looks like something Grizzly Adam’s shat out after a night at the Ponderosa.

the maniacLuckily for the viewer, there are quite a bit of other campers, hikers, bird watchers, and artists in the woods to keep the body count shockingly high. Too bad Bryan has no idea how to hold a camera or edit a movie as most of the scenes are cut rather oddly, with sequences going on far too long or ending abruptly. While some of this is explained in the blu ray’s commentary track with Bryan, one can’t help but be confused as to what the hell is happening. A lot of kills, while gory, happen out of nowhere and then suddenly end. At first I was annoyed but after awhile I kind of just had fun with it. And there are plenty of WTF moments that will have one in stitches.

Dont Go In The WoodsWhy is there a little child holding an axe in the middle of the woods? Why is a man in the wheelchair hiking alone? What happened to the black guy in the sleeping bag (seriously, the film cuts to a guy screaming, covered in blood as he’s being attacked in what looks like his sleeping bag)? And lets not forget the rather large sheriff who is obviously unfit to be a police officer. And that final song being played during the final credits is pure gold.

screaming guyAnother drawback or plus, depending on how you see it, is that the film was shot in MOS. For those that don’t know, MOS means there was no sound recorded while the film was being shot thus forcing the actors to go back and re-dub their lines after the film was edited. This just adds to the bizarre atmosphere as actors spout some insane lines like, “Now I’ve got you, bitch! Let’s hear you say uncle! Say uncle! Say it, bag of bitch!” One may think this is a foreign film at first glance.

sherriffAnd for a director whose background is in the adult film world, why is there no nudity? This type of movie is screaming for some early 80’s bush and natural flappers. But judging by the look of some of these actors and actresses, you wouldn’t want to see them naked. While it was nice to see a slasher film without super models as the protagonists, these “actors” are just not attractive.

bloody bitchVinegar Syndrome once again doesn’t disappoint. The 2K scan from the 35 mm print looks amazing. The colors pop and the clarity is shockingly good. The print is a mess but that is because Bryan had used old film stock to use so scratches, flares, specks, all pop up more than occasionally. Regardless, this is one hell of a transfer and the mono soundtrack is also amazingly clear.

And holy shit, the special features alone can take you a good day to get through. There are three (!) commentary tracks, a cast and crew featurette that was shot on video in what looks like maybe the mid 2000’s, an autograph signing party where cast members are interviewed by a wooden dummy (folks, I am not making this shit up), a bunch of TV promos with Bryan and Drury appearing on various local talk shows promoting the film, a trailer, still gallery and a DVD copy of the film for those that still refuse to break down and buy a blu ray player.

wheel chair deathCalling all fans of Herschell Gordon Lewis, Al Adamson and Ted V. Mikels…this is your kind of movie. Don’t Go in the Woods can be low budget fun if seen while intoxicated at 2 am on a Friday night.

Movie Rating: ★★★☆☆

Blu Ray Rating: ★★★★★

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