Don't Go in the Woods (1981)

Everyone has nightmares about the ugliest way to die.
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Don't Go in the Woods - Everyone has nightmares about the ugliest way to die.

Don't Go in the Woods is another slasher rescued from wrongful imprisonment in the short-lived purgatory known as the BBFC Video Nasty List. Proof that it was not worthy of the cult status imbued by inclusion on the now infamous list is that when it was finally re-released in 2007 it passed the censors uncut and was rated 15. It is also a contentious issue as to whether it really deserved it's freedom after 24 years because frankly it's a bit shit. It's not "so bad that it's good" but it is so bad that it's highly entertaining in places but probably not in the places where intended. It is as if this movie's purpose was made to highlight the dangers of jumping on the bandwagon without the necessary training and showing the consequences of such an unadventurous leap.

As an attempt to cash in on the popularity of the slasher throughout the seventies, there are a lot of very recognisable scenarios in Don't Go in the Woods but they seem forced, over emphasised and a lot of the time nonsensical to the point where they go against the idea of the scenario. The phrase "Don't go in the woods... ALONE" (a phrase used a lot in the artwork) is bandied about at the beginning but seems a pointless gesture as most people in these particular woods aren't alone anyway. There aren't any bears either and fans of rhetoric know that they do go in the woods and they probably go alone so they have adequate privacy for such a clandestine and personal task. Also, based on the idea that the campers who are the focus of the film are supposed to be going on a trip in the wilderness, there seem to be a lot of people that have had the same idea at the same time and all ended up in the same place. It also turns out that an attempt has made to ensure that even the middle of nowhere is accessible for wheelchairs which is above and beyond basic anti-discriminatory duties.

The initial chunk of Don't Go in the Woods is a medley of murder at the hands of an unseen antagonist. Luckily there are numerous people performing trivial activities in his wilderness stomping grounds at precisely the time his murderous desires need satisfying. This is where the majority of the intended entertainment is within the film as the kills are violent and bloody. A number of kills are designed to cause controversy but these forced situations cause a suspension of what little belief there is with a movie of this nature. A woman is violently hacked to death in front of her toddler and a guy struggling through nature in his wheelchair is decapitated. The overriding thought though is "Why the fuck are these people there in the first place?" which makes any shock value diminish. There is usually an attempt to provide a suspenseful build up to the bloodshed but in most instances it fails.

As with all successful slashers there is a need for a killer that stands out from the crowd. In this scenario the reveal introduces a budding Grizzly Adams with a penchant for Ewok cosplay. This stimulates amusement rather than fear. There is no indication of backstory or motivation for the wildman and this inspires little care for him and consequently for his victims. At this point the annihilation slows down and an attempt to add substance emerges in the build up to a forgettable conclusion. This is the point where it starts to drag and time slows down for the viewer. Introduce a pointless and incompetent sheriff and his similarly qualified sidekick who don't really get involved, some survivors out for revenge and all you then require is an ending that suggests it might not all be over and you have a slasher right? In this instance the ending is the now orphaned toddler from before playing with a hatchet. Is that even a twist?

The budget was small and the cash was obviously paid out in advance of the writer having to pay attention as there is seemingly no investment there. The motivation to just cash in on the popularity of slashers is obvious with little respect for a story and for this reason it just doesn't work. After the hack and slash towards the beginning there is potential to make something memorable. Poor effects and poor acting can often be forgiven if there is an indication of a passion for horror behind the scenes but there is a distinctive lack of that apparent here. A smattering of plot evolution is necessary if nothing new is being brought to the screen, relying on mimicry of previous industry successes and then substituting the words "tongue-in-cheek" for the word "ineptitude" is just lazy.
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