Don't Go Near the Park (1979)

They were cursed to eternal life at the cost of their souls!
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Don't Go Near the Park - They were cursed to eternal life at the cost of their souls!

Despite being an awful film, Don't Go Near the Park is an important movie for horror geeks of a certain age. It made it to the video nasty list which gave numerous horror movies that deserved to vanish into obscurity a cult status. The list has also increased recent demand for a lot of low quality shit which is the only reason this movie is likely to be seen by a wider audience. Apart from just being on the list, it also typifies a large segment (mostly the American contributions) of the films that created the whole video nasty hysteria; the marketable yet only mildly relevant title, numerous alternative titles (such as Curse of the Living Dead and Sanctuary for Evil), the deliberately offensive cover, the lackadaisical approach to filmmaking and the lingering feeling of confusion once the attempt at a shock ending has passed. Most importantly, Don't Go Near the Park introduced the horror world to Linnea Quigley's boobs which would go on to have a successful career providing more woodys to young males in the eighties than the Disney Store would after the release of Toy Story.

The story starts 12 000 years ago in a cave with a brother, sister and their mother (who all have a good grasp of the English language and American accents). Their mother proceeds to curse them for performing acts of cannibalism. They will age 10 years for every year that passes but will never die and can only rejuvenate by performing more acts of cannibalism (which makes about as much sense as Rolf Harris serving community service as a school janitor). And so the 12 000 year murder spree begins. To lift the curse they must sacrifice a virgin descendent of the tribe when certain stars align, so the brother knocks up Linnea Quigley and waits for the inevitable day when he can sacrifice his daughter.

The evil plot is uncovered by an investigative reporter who befriends a runaway child who happens to be living with the cursed sister in what can only be assumed to be a derelict house in a national park (hence the justification of the title). The movie revolves around the uncovering of the diabolical scheme interspersed with the day-to-day life of the brother protecting his child's virginity (mostly from horrible men determined to kiss her on the blouse). This all culminates in a final showdown where the cursed ones reveal they have the power of laser eyes. Yes, laser eyes. At this point it is worth noting that the movie claims to be "based on actual occurrences that happened over the centuries". It doesn't state in which universe they occurred though.

Writer and director Lawrence David Foldes approaches the film with a common technique used in the seventies; take a vague idea and pad this with ever increasing ridiculousness to make up the time until you achieve something so convoluted that the audience will either think you are a "genius voice of a generation" or slightly mentally challenged. The film starts out strange but, by the end, it is hard to believe the photons entering your eyes as the characters on screen have the opposite experience.

The special effects are poor, striving to provide this level of visual gore simply highlights the cheapness of the film rather than providing any genuine shocks. The acting is at the level expected for this type of market driven drivel that tries to cash in on more successful movies of the same ilk. Although with competent actors and actresses this movie would probably not have achieved the level of likeableness that it has as time has progressed.

Don't Go Near the Park is a mess of a film but there is something endearing about it. This is probably nostalgia and a false sense of achievement for it contributing to British hysteria. Combining this with the manner in which the nonsense escalates as the events unfold on the screen makes for an amusing experience. As the story progresses it feels that certain scenes are acts of desperation from the director, desperate to fill the holes with something he thinks is exciting like he was a deluded teenage boy struggling with puberty. This just adds more confusion to the already convoluted and confusing plot. It is the accomplishment that this even got made, released and then subsequently condemned to the video nasty list that provides the allure. The originality of the movie cannot be denied but whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is debateable. It's a movie that is loved to be hated and hated to be loved. It is so bad that it is still bad but that is what makes it so damn entertaining.
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