Don't Go in the Woods
... Alone!
U.S.A. | 1981
Directed by James Bryan
Starring
Jack McClelland
Mary Gail Artz
Tom Drury
Color
| 82 Minutes | R
Format: DVD (R1 - NTSC)
Code Red
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Guest Review by John Gargo
Being the adventures of an uncivilized man whose principle interests are slasher movie clichés, ultra-violence and bad synthesizer music...
    Don't Go in the Woods... Alone! is director James Bryan's attempt at making an early '80s slasher film. The threadbare plot involves a bearded maniac who wanders around a heavily wooded camping spot killing off secondary characters. Actually, calling them characters would be a bit of a stretch victims are often introduced and then systematically slaughtered in the same scene, effectively killing any sense of suspense or impending dread. The exception to this rule concerns a quartet of hitchhikers we meet early on, but we never get to really know anything about them other than their first names.
    To spend more time discussing the plot of this film would probably entail more writing than the Bryan’s 'script'. Even given the already low standards of the slasher genre, Don't Go in the Woods is shockingly devoid of story or purpose. The apparent reason for its existence is to riff on the same old clichés that anyone remotely familiar with the genre is already sick of. Unfortunately, there isn't even entertainment to be had by the presence of the formula, because everything is rendered absolutely unwatchable by Bryan's ineptitude as a filmmaker. The camerawork is amateurish at best and the editing is so sloppy that some scenes are often incomprehensible.
    The only draw that the film could possibly have would be its plentiful body count, which helped land it an undeserved spot on the U.K.'s now infamous "Video Nasties" list, but the special effects are so cheap that it's doubtful anyone will be that impressed. The acting in these types of zero-budget horror flicks is often bad, and Don't Go in the Woods is certainly no exception... Bryan mostly recruited friends of his and locals with no experience, and it shows. The cheap synthesizer soundtrack is an amusing novelty at first but soon becomes monotonous and grating (a far cry, for example, from Rick Wakeman's excellent work in The Burning). Worst of all is the film's wretched pacing, which mercilessly drags on and on... Lengthy build-ups alternate between unsatisfying payoffs. While the film clocks in at just barely over 80 minutes, it feels nearly twice as long.
    Curiously, Don't Go in the Woods is sometimes billed as a horror-comedy, although such claims are mystifying to this viewer. There is nothing funny about this film, and it is such a chore to sit through that it doesn't even function as a so-bad-it's-good type experience. It's not scary, it's not emotionally involving, it's not even remotely interesting it's not much of anything, really. Perhaps some pleasure can be had when viewing the film as the horrendous wreck that it is, but after a while even the most morbid of rubberneckers will step on the accelerator and move along their way.

It is utterly baffling that Don't Go in the Woods has attained something of a cult following over the years, and yet here it is, the 25th Anniversary Edition in all its unlikely glory and Code Red has bestowed upon the fans of this obscure film a stunning release. Presented in a director-approved fullframe transfer that is far better than anyone had a right to expect, the image is often sharp and clear. The exceptions are the night scenes, which are often too dark and murky, but this appears to be the inept way the film was shot rather than a fault with the transfer. There are no problems with the audio, which is only available in mono.
    There are two audio commentary tracks to choose from. The first features director James Bryan and is the more conventional and informative of the tracks. Bryan never runs out of things to say about the film (should you care to know anything more about it), and there are very few dry spots. The second, and far more entertaining and relaxed, of the commentaries featuring Bryan again, actress Mary Artz, and two 'superfans', David Masco and Deron Miller of the band CKY. In addition to appearing on the commentary track, Miller also provides a proper introduction to the band (and horrifying suggesting that a sequel should be made) and seems to have been the main factor in the film getting a legitimate release on DVD.
    The main extra is a lengthy documentary assembled entirely by James Bryan that features interviews with nearly all of the main characters and crew members, most of whom look back at their experiences with fondness. Also included are retro television interviews and radio spots.
12/15/06

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