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Don’t Go in the Woods (1981)

REVIEW: Don’t Go in the Woods (1981): Reviewed by Bryan ‘shu’ Schuessler

Don’t Go in the Woods (1981) a.k.a. Don’t Go in the Woods…Alone! was hilarious. It was one of those films that was so bad it was good. The only reason I had to see this film is that Stephen Thrower, in his book Nightmare USA: The Untold Story of the Exploitation Independents, dedicated a whole lengthy chapter to filmmaker James Bryan, the director of Don’t Go in the Woods. This film has definitely achieved cult status and I guess I am not really sure why. Wait- I do know why but I guess I still am amazed what films achieve it and what films don’t.

The film starts out with a group of friends all get together and go camping in the woods. Little do they know that a crazy wilderness savage who lives in a shack in the middle of the forest is killing anyone who happens to venture in the woods. There is not much background information told here- the guy is crazy and he kills everyone. The film does have character. In fact, many of the actors and actresses had me cracking up just with there mannerisms, there dialogue, there facial reactions-it was terrible yet ridiculously corny and campy. I guess that was the appeal for me in this film. To say it is the worst horror/slasher film is by no means an accurate statement. I have seen far worse shitburgers in my day, but this film is not annoying, nor is it boring. The pace of the film is very quick and really doesn’t leave you much time to ponder over whether the film is bad or really bad. Some of the kill scenes are very mean spirited and violent. Some of the gore is merely someone throwing a bucket of fake blood against a wall, garnering a chuckle out of me during the viewing. I have to say that I don’t really recommend this film in a good way, but I do think it is a film that needs to be watched if you enjoy slasher films, outdoor deaths, trees, or some creepy synth music.

Yes!!! The soundtrack was done with this eerie and creepy synthesiser and I think that was my biggest appeal for me in the whole film. I enjoyed the soundtrack that H. Kingsley Thurber made. The ending really was cliche, but I enjoyed it. It had some goofy scenes with the dumby cops of the small town that I had seen in The Last House on the Left, at least the cops in Bryan’s film reminded me that all cops in all small town are total idiots and some might argue that same statement applies to all cops in any town, big or small.

I think that a few modern-day slasher flicks had to have gotten some of their killings from Don’t Go in the Woods Alone, namely Jason Voorhees. There is one scene in Bryan’s film involving sleeping bags that really reminded me of a few Friday the 13th seguels. I am glad that I finally saw this film. It is a must-see to completeists of the horror genre, especially the slasher genre. The film has cult appeal and has followers. That says something for it. I think the best scene in this film was the dismemberment of a person’s arm. That had me rolling in laughter.

Why? I guess because chopping arms off is just funny to me. As is chopping heads off, penises, legs, and many other parts of the human body. There is an artistry to film gore that is so magical that one gets misty-eyed just thinking about it….

Honestly, I can say that the career and history of James Bryan is probably far more fascinating than this film but one can’t truly understand and get a feel for a director unless one has seen all of their films. So, if you are one of those snobby film geeks, get off your high horse and watch the films you hold so low regard for so you can better appreciate those arty high-brow films. I guess what I can admire about this film is its rawness. Its grainy film and bad sound. The fact that a bunch of people just went into the woods and started making a horror film, I believe with no permits or no idea of just how they were going to pull it off. One has to respect that, no matter how bad one feels the film is.

If one can obtain any copies or prints of Bryan’s earlier works (click here), call me up and I will watch them with you. I would be happy to see some of his earlier works after having read so much about them.

Written by ShuTang

2 Comments

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  1. I believe this movie was shot on old, expired film. The sound was crappily recorded and had to be re-recorded on a sound stage and overdubbed. That sort of reminds me of Alien Dead and Fred Olen Ray running out of audio tape to record sound on so he broke open an Elvis 8-track and recorded on that.

  2. yeah, I remember reading that. He spliced together a bunch of old reels of film. I thought Fred Olen Ray's The Alien Dead was badly enjoyable as well!

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