Don't Go in the Woods (1981)

Everyone has nightmares about the ugliest way to die.

Year of Release: 1981
Genre: Horror
Rated: R
Running Time: 82 minutes (1:22)
Director: James Bryan


Jack McClelland ... Peter
Mary Gail Artz ... Ingrid
James P. Hayden ... Craig
Angie Brown ... Joanne
Ken Carter ... Sheriff
David Barth ... Deputy Benson
Tom Drury ... Maniac


Four young campers head into the deep woods of the Utah mountains for a relaxing weekend. But their fun is spoiled when a machete-wielding maniac embarks on a blood-splattering rampage, hacking and slashing all who enter the woods!


Don't Go in the Woods, the movie that reminds us just how important it is to seal food in an airtight container. It locks in freshness, ya know. Leatherface hates this movie with a passion, and not just because Tom Drury's infringing upon his character. Though that does angry up the blood. No, Leatherface hates this movie cause Daniel Goon here slashes up all these hapless campers, and for what? You think he's gonna be able to eat ALL these people? Only guy in this movie that looks like he could eat all that meat is Ken Carter. So all that camper meat? Just goes to waste. Left to rot. Now, Leatherface has scruples. He doesn't kill people he's not gonna eat, just to be killin' people. That'd be irresponsible to say the least. Waste not, want not, Tom. Check out Texas Chainsaw Massacre some time, you might learn something. This isn't even taking into account the fact that if you knock off too many people within too short a time, other people start gettin' suspicious an send search parties up to raid your meat locker. Not to mention prey tends to leave an area when it's too heavily pressured with possum pelt polearms. It was truly just a matter of time before this guy went outta business, and Leatherface? Completely vindicated. Now, as what has to be the second best movie ever filmed in Heber City, UT to feature a toddler witnessing the death of its mother (Second best cause Silent Night, Deadly Night did it the same city. Troll 2 did it here as well, but this is ever so slightly better than Troll 2), you know this one's got some life-altering, critical, need to know information. First thing you'll wanna keep in mind, don't ever leave the trail in the woods. For that matter, don't leave pavement. The reason this is so important is because if you happen to become lost, the state will not participate in attempting to locate you, because that's a "county matter". Unless of course, the county has both enough wilderness to hide a wild angry Viking, AND enough money to afford it's own helicopter.

Second, if you happen to BE a wild, angry Viking, pay close attention to the guy that gets lost within the first five minutes of the movie. Kill him IMMEDIATELY, because it's almost a certainty that he's just playin' dumb an that 2 days later, he'll be able to backtrack all the way from town an try to shish-kabob your hairy ass. Third, an this one boggles my mind, I'd never have guessed this one: flying 1000 feet in the air in a two seater plane is not particularly helpful in finding lost campers on the ground in a heavily wooded area. I know, I couldn't believe it either. Helpful and earth shattering as those revelations are, I think there's something here that warrants closer scrutiny, and a warning to men everywhere: threesomes are over rated. Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that anyone that's watched this movie not only has not been involved in one, but also has no prospects of ever doing so at any point in the future. Ya know, you've got some attitude, Buzz Killington. Seriously, take a moment to really consider it. Know how women are always sayin' things like "is that IT?" and "that's NOT where that goes"? Imagine that, in stereo. Who needs that? Then, invariably, you end up focusing on the more attractive woman, an when it's all said an done the other one goes around town tellin' everybody how lousy you were an pretty quick you're lucky if your hand'll even go out with you. And if I haven't made it sound bad enough yet, imagine now, that you have to run out into the woods to rescue the 2nd woman. From a guy that likes to wrestle bears an fashion underpants out of 'em, to even have a CHANCE at the threesome. Still sound like something you wanna do? Well, I'm not done yet. All the women in this movie look like drag queens. I'm bein' completely cereal here, the best looking woman in this movie bears a striking resemblance to Carrot Top. It was a bad idea in the movie, an it's a bad idea in real life. So put your foot down an tell the ladies; one at a time, please.

The movie begins with some gal runnin' through the woods, pursued by what appears to be a camcorder being pushed around on top of a washing machine that's off balance. We never see what happens to her, but I'm sure she's fine. Elsewhere, you've got another guy (I know, we'd been on her for at least 30 seconds, I was getting bored of her too) fartin' around tryin' to remember what poison oak looks like cause he's really really gotta make a poop, when he spots the river. Ah, nature's bidet. Only he never gets that far cause out of nowhere part of his face gets speared off an pretty quick a point of view monster rips his arm off an... oh that's okay, we didn't wanna see what happened to him either. This editor is the Quick Draw McGraw of his profession, yeesh. So now it's over to a group of punk kids on a tour of the wilderness, provided by some huckster that makes a living telling city folks about how they wouldn't last five minutes out here without 'im. We'll call him Chief. Not cause he's actually an Indian, he just really wants to be. So Chief passes the time tryin' to locate one of his lost city slickers by tellin' the rest of the group about what not to do in the woods. Important stuff like, don't pick up rattlesnakes an swing 'em around like slings an don't kick grizzly bears in the cajones. Fortunately, it doesn't take long to find the lost boy (Peter), 'cause Chief's pretty long winded, an after the girls (Ingrid & Joanne) have sufficiently emasculated Peter, the group presses on. Elsewhere (Ya know, it just doesn't seem as distracting and labored when Friday the 13th does this), we've got another couple, if you can call them that. The woman just whimpers the guy's name about 357 times cause he's goin' too fast for her, so for all I know she may be his mother. Anyway, he wants to get to the top of this waterfall so he can take a picture, only when he gets there the point of view monster wraps a gag order around his neck an pitches him over the falls. Or would it be the pitches... didn't really seem like an accident. Anyway, then something happens to the nagging shrew and mercifully, she shuts her face. More off-screen garbage. Meanwhile, in town, the cameraman tries to eat B-B-Q'd chicken with one hand an focus on the sheriff's deputy with the other as they make their way to the station. Upon their arrival the deputy needs to talk to the sheriff, only the secretary won't let 'im cause he doesn't have an appointment an the sheriff's busy workin' on his short game in his office.

Seems they're having a lot of disappearances in the woods, an there's a chance that if the number reaches double digits they might have to actually look into it. That evening, while the group tells scary stories, like the one about the girl that went camping an forgot tampons, a couple real ugly people in a van are about to bump every set of ugly equipment on their persons, when the woman shoves the guy off her cause he's not buttered her up enough to earn the sex yet. Also, she's caught a really funky scent coming from someplace, so the guy heads outside to get her adequately impressed with his dick waving prowess, and if there's time, see what's causin' that powerful stank. I thought for sure it'd go away when the guy left, but apparently not. Fortunately, the point of view monster sneaks up on 'im an cuts all his important arteries before we have to watch the pair fornicate, an the guy stumbles back to the van so he can spit up about three pints of blood on the rear windshield before the point of view monster starts rockin' the van like the bloody guy could only hope to. Unfortunately, he gets a little too rough with it an it rolls down an embankment, exploding on impact an hickory curing the woman inside. Back at camp, the troop soldiers on while the sheriff goes up in a plane lookin' for the missing people. Turns out, it's real god damn hard to see anything from up there an he has the pilot head for home since it's been damn near 20 minutes since he had anything deep fried. In still another location, we've got still another hippie that wants to experience the serenity of nature. But that plan starts to go south when the point of view monster sneaks up on her an shanks the bejezus outta her an turns the landscape portrait she was painting into something Bob Ross would not approve of. Back over to our determined band of city dwelling pioneers, where Peter's getting the feeling like he's bein' watched. Cause he is. Somebody really should have warned him that these weren't private woods, Christ almighty. That hiker came outta nowhere an ruined his favorite underpants. By this point, Peter's startin' to think the girls doubt his manliness an he storms off to make his own fort, an he's not gonna let them play in it even a little bit. Bitches. So, now that it's been a good six minutes since we panned over to some hitherto unseen characters, I think we're primed for some more of that. It's pretty hard to see what's happening in these shots, but it's pretty easy to HEAR what's happening. Stabby stabby.

The next morning, Peter's out gathering firewood when he stops to creepily watch some campers frolicking in the river. How come he can't have fun like that with his friends? Stupid friends. Avenge soon, take out on EVERYONE... hey, was that guy with the bear trap on his face always there? Then, out of nowhere, comes this burly mountain man covered in bear hides to finish the job on the guy with the bear trap on his face while he squeals like Tarzan havin' a seizure. At this point, Peter decides it's as good a time as any to break the record for the 1000 meter dash an runs like a yuppie from a three star hotel. Back at camp, Ingrid's wandered off so she wouldn't have to see the mating ritual occurring between Chief an Joanne, in which the male ties up the female in a sleeping bag an hangs her from a tree til she calls him "uncle"... it's really weird. Fortunately, Grisly Adams shows up an starts jabbin' Chief with his 10' polearm. It takes awhile for him to bleed out, cause all his blood was a lot lower than Grisly was stabbin', but while that's happening Joanne manages to tear her way outta the sleepin' bag an splits faster than Rosie O'Donnell's girdle at a pie eating contest. Grisly's mad. So mad that the only fitting way to express it is through a series of angry pirate noises. Noises which cause Ingrid to run for it as well, cause she ain't about to be boarded by whatever's makin' those sounds. Having also heard the sounds, Peter heads back to camp, but stumbles upon some of Grisly's work (never ask him about his work), at which point Ingrid springs from a tent an tries to brain him with a rock. What's that say about the state of your personal hygiene when you're confused for the maniac everyone can smell coming? So anyway, they have to get goin' before Grisly catches up with 'em, and of course, if you've seen Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Midnight, Anthropophagus, Friday the 13th Part 2, The Hills Have Eyes remake or any number of movies, you know where they're gonna end up. Seems like Grisly's in dire need of a maid service, there's trash an food layin' all over the place. Among said food, they find Chief, an between that an the fact that they can hear Grisly hollerin' like drunken rednecks at the Indy 500, they figure it's about time they were on their way.

Oh but there's more to Grisly than just howling like a starving Bruce Vilanch, he's cagey. He knows the city folk are desperate an armed with a dead pecker pole, so when what has to be an extremely deaf hiker happens by, he sets his walkin' stick down an jiggles it just enough for the dope to catch sight of it. The guy picks it up an goes on his merry way, only to find Peter an Ingrid lying in wait with their makeshift harpoon. Peter apologizes profusely for impaling the poor bastard, but he just makes awkward gurgling sounds an collapses in a heap. The walking stick looks a lot like the thing Rafiki carries around in The Lion King, so stabbing whoever was holding it SEEMED like a good idea, even if it wasn't Grisly. What a day these two are havin'. Then Satchmo starts lobbin' spears at 'em an after a couple glancing pokes, they figure it might be a good idea to let him cool off for awhile. You just can't talk to him when he gets like this. They're eventually able to get far enough away to make camp for the night, where they ingeniously light a fire, 'cause the guy's already proven he's smarter than them, surely he'll never spot that. Fortunately, due to the writers' lack of thought process, he doesn't spot the fire, and in the morning they wake up to the sight of a power pole and hobble into town. So then, after comparing stories between the two, the sheriff an his flunkie figure they'd probably better go ask Grisly if he's got tags for all these people he's been hackin' up, but the nurse tells 'em they might wanna step on it cause Peter just remembered that he left Joanne up there all by her lonesome an he's entertaining thoughts of chivalry. Too late. He's already gone back for her. Isn't it customary for at least one of the cops to be Andy Griffith? This entire force is lousy with Barney Fifes. Unfortunately, Joanne's made her way to Derrick the Red's place an about the time she finds his corpse collection he finds her an starts makin' the mark of Zorro all over her til she collapses in a squishy heap. It's on now. The sheriff's finally conceded that he's gonna have to burn off a few calories an hoof it up to Grisly's place, an he's got a heap of rowdy, gun toting rednecks backin' him up. So between the Podunk Posse an Peter (who's now found his inner savage) sneakin' around, Grisly's gonna need all his Nordic strength an cunning to survive the two pronged assault on his shanty.

Alright, well, this one's really bad. As "killer on the loose" movies go, this makes Friday the 13th look like Silence of the Lambs. Every facet of it is amateurish, and I do mean every facet. Allow me to show you what *every* facet looks like: acting, directing, writing, editing, special effects, camera work, soundtrack composition, plot. Bad bad bad. Okay, the special effects aren't completely without redeeming value, but the editing and/or lighting makes it so hard to see most of them that they're hardly worthy of any praise. I did like the costume for the maniac, at least. This movie's a fucking mess, literally and figuratively. I understand that in a body count movie you're gonna have to bring in irrelevant characters to stack it up, but this movie does it so often and with so little variation that it's not only extremely choppy, but completely uninteresting. And that's when they even bother to show what happens to the victims. Almost seems like they had so little budget they were trying to save money by leaving the death sequences to our imaginations. And it's not like anything they did was particularly involved. Stab wounds for the most part. Couple severed arms. The only remotely interesting kill is near the end where Grisly gets the sudden urge to play tee-ball with the guy in the wheelchair. An even that's an extremely obvious circular ball of some kind, off in the distance, near dusk, rolling off a prop in an terminally unconvincing manner. You're probably wondering how the movie can spend so much time jerking the viewer around from one scenario to another an still come in at only 82 minutes, well, I'll tell you. It's got absolutely no plot. None of these people are important to us in any capacity, you don't know anything about them, you don't know who the maniac is, what his back story is, or how he's able to teleport all over the forest to chop everybody into Kibbles 'n Bits. I realize that's something Friday the 13th does as well, but this movie's got so many victims in so many different locations it's impossible to suspend your disbelief. An the camera work is shakier than Michael J. Fox when he over-medicates for TV interviews, sometimes it looks like they just left the camera on by mistake an didn't realize it. Course, then they actually use the footage, so you'd at least assume it was intentional. I dunno. I get what they were going for here, but I can't see a single thing they did that at least one other slasher movie didn't do 10x better. With the exception of Grisly Adams, I do like Grisly. Even if he screams like a pirate getting a bikini wax at times.

Okay lets wrap this up so I can get this bad taste outta my mouth. The plot: seems they forgot to include one. Moving on. The acting is terribad, and I do mean terribad. My usual measuring stick for bad acting, mainly because there's probably nothing that will ever usurp it, is Troll 2. This movie has acting so bad that it's the closest anything has ever come to dethroning Troll 2. But, it doesn't quite have what it takes to knock Troll 2 from its pedestal. Interestingly, the movie was filmed in the same town, at least the sequences that have a town. Maybe it's cursed. Anyway, positively abhorrent. Here's who... well I wouldn't say they "matter", but strangely a couple of them did manage to get additional roles: John Williams (The Swarm), John Warren (Bride of the Monster). The special effects, and this is depressing, are probably a mildly positive force on the overall score. Perhaps in part because the movie shows so little, but to be fair, what is shown isn't completely without value, and I don't think it'd be fair to deduct points for the special effects. It's not like there's a shortage of other reasons to do it. The shooting locations, I'd probably also have to concede are one of its strong points. That is to say, are its strong point. To be perfectly honest, it's got some of the best, genuine nature shots I've seen in a horror movie. Which you can certainly blame some of the shaky camera work for. You know damn well that with scenery like this, that it isn't often they're within 10 yards of a road. Rough terrain doesn't do nice things for your cinematography. Although there is one running sequence that's obviously shot from the passenger window of a moving vehicle. So, if nothing else, it has some well scouted, enjoyable shooting locations. The soundtrack is one of the worst things I've heard in my life, outside of modern FM radio. To put it in perspective, the "best" tracks are the ones that utilize synthesizers an sound a lot like "In Search Of" with Leonard Nimoy that ran from 1976 - 1982. The bad ones, which you'd probably have to liken more to sound effects than an actual soundtrack, consist of comedic noises similar to the Animalese language spoken in the Nintendo GameCube version of Animal Crossing. Specifically, duck characters. Equally terrible is the thudding loop that's essentially nothing more than somebody pounding the lid of coffee can and having it gradually sped up. Kinda sounds like somebody shut a claustrophobic inside a coffin an they're freakin' out tryin' to escape. If I seem a little harsh on this one it's because it's an 80s slasher movie. These suckers are a piece of Americana from an age forgotten, that we can never get back. And I expect better of them than this. Don't Go in the Woods narrowly survives being placed below Troll 2, score wise. But not because it's the more entertaining of the two.

Rating: 55%