What the Hell Were They Thinking?!

What part of don’t go in the woods do these dumb-asses not understand? Jack McClelland, James P. Hayden, Mary Gail Artz and Tom Drury star in Don’t Go in the Woods.

Don't Go in the WoodsCast of Characters:
Peter – Jack McClelland
Craig – James P. Hayden
Ingrid – Mary Gail Artz
Maniac – Tom Drury
Joanne – Angie Brown

Director – James Bryan
Screenplay – Garth Eliassen
Producer – James Bryan, Robert Gomez & Suzette Gomez
Rated R

Four young campers – Peter (Jack McClelland), Craig (James P. Hayden), Ingrid (Mary Gail Artz) and Joanne (Angie Brown) – are spending a relaxing weekend out in the wilderness. But the relaxing part is short-lived when they discover a crazed, backwoods madman (Tom Drury) is killing tourists within the area.

See, this is what happens when you don’t abide by the blatantly obvious film title.

While the original Friday the 13th doesn’t stack up against the greatest slasher films the horror genre’s had to offer, such as Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it’s still a fun slasher flick (ironically, the only good one doesn’t even feature the iconic hockey mask wearing baddie). Plus, if its long list of crappy sequels can boast about anything, it’s how quick and easy their casts can win Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, who was tragically stabbed in the throat in the first film.

But if Friday the 13th came with any downside, it’s the same effect Paranormal Activity would have almost 30 years later, where its success led to an outbreak of crappy found footage knockoffs. The slaughter at Camp Crystal Lake would lead to a horrid infestation of cheap slasher films set in the woods.

Don’t Go in the Woods stands out as one of the worst offenders mainly ’cause of how flimsily put together everything about it is. This is shaky cam before shaky cam became cool and then quickly irritating. The Bourne series, The Blair Witch Project and pretty much every single other found footage film is like Birdman compared to this. Prior to this masterpiece, director James Bryan apparently dabbled in softcore porn films, which doesn’t become all that evident… until you hear the screams of agony delivered by the victims.

The moaning will make it perfectly clear to you of his softcore background…

While the blood and violence thrown into the mix will have you worried as to what type of porn he was making.

Most of the kills have no rhyme or reason, because the characters have no setup; they just show up at random moments to be instantly killed off (two, in particular, are the obligatory horny couple named Dick and Cherry… no joke). Perhaps at some point in his life, writer Garth Eliassen (whose repetitively dialogued script is the equivalent of a junior higher padding out his book report with “very very very very very very very very…”) was pissed off by a birdwatcher, artist, the handicapped and Mama Cass and throwing in those character types for the sole sake of falling prey to the monster was his way of calming his chi. I mean, does it make any other sense that someone bound to a wheelchair, one who’s totally unrelated to the story, would be going on a casual roll up the mountainside? For God’s sakes, the people behind the Americans with Disabilities Act throw a fit over the wrong doorknobs being installed at a place of business. They’d shit a cinder brick over this.

Give it time. Federal law will soon require all mountain trails to have wheelchair accessible ramps and hand rails.

Eliassen and Bryan hold the film together, or at least attempt to, by focusing on four main hikers while the assembly line of random victims keeps chugging along (Maybe the next one will be a team of rhythmic gymnasts or a high school marching band?). They’re the usual suspects of slasher victim characters we root for to be sliced and diced off the screen by way of this film’s maniacal killer, the offspring of Jeremiah Johnson and Bobo Shand. The difference here, though, is they somehow manage to be even more grating and unlikeable than the usual, run-of-the-mill, soon to be DOA characters found in these bottom of the barrel horror films. The fault can be chalked up to either Bryan’s horrid use of overdubbed dialogue, the cast’s stiff acting ability (one particular scene between a doctor and the police takes the cake) or the annoyingly repetitive lines (within a minute, lead character Peter had to have reminded the other three to “not go in the woods alone” at least fifty times).

Or all of the above. Either way, once these idiots meet their fate at the hands of the killer you’ll be dancing, shouting hallelujah and speaking in tongues like a charismatic church whose communion consists of Red Bull, speed and crack cocaine.

I know, far be it from me to criticize a cheap slasher flick for not having, of all things, any character development, but in all honesty, the characters here make those from Jason Takes Manhattan look like the character arcs from The Godfather.

What’s most shocking is that this somehow was all made for $20,000, a gross exaggeration for even today’s standards, let alone the onset of the ’80s. If that figure is accurate than where the hell did 98% of it go?


Don’t go out in the woods tonight, you probably will be thrilled
Don’t go out in the woods tonight, you probably will be killed
There’s a friendly beast, who lurks about
And likes to feast, you won’t get out
Without being killed, and chopped up in little pieces

I’m in a generous mood today, so I’ll give ’em some credit for that. Not so much for the drunk partier’s lyrics, but for the “Mister Rogers had a nervous breakdown” way its sung over the closing credits.

Still wanna be his neighbor?

Don’t Go in the Woods goes beyond just being a bottom of the barrel slasher in the woods flick, and is more like something scraped underneath the bottom of the barrel. It’s shoddily filmed, poorly acted and about as coherent as listening to rabid street cats mating to a Bob Dylan record spun backwards, but it’s hard not to be amused, no matter how unintentional the laughs may be, by the sheer incompetence of it all.

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