Don't Go in the Woods (1981)
DON'T GO IN THE WOODS
WRITER: Original story and screenplay by Garth Eliassen
DIRECTOR: James Bryan
STARRING: Jack McClelland as Peter
Mary Gail Artz as Ingrid
James P. Hayden as Craig
Ken Carter as Sheriff
Larry Roupe as Store Owner
Angie Brown as Joanne
David Barth as Deputy Benson
Tom Drury as Maniac
QUICK CUT: A group of friends wander on a nature hike and camping trip, and meet a strange hermit who would love to just be left alone.
You know what? This is one of those movies where there's so many characters, and they're really just there to die, so the character ideas are very thin, and I can't be bother. Isn't this always a good sign to start the movie on??
THE GUTS: Hello, Triskelions! The school year is over, and we have a long, hot summer ahead of us. And what better way to spend summer, than by heading up into the woods for some camping and dying horribly, or sending the kids off to summer camp to die horribly? The summer camp slasher flick, and the camping slasher flick, has a long history amongst horror, and I am celebrating that this summer with a series of reviews all taking place in the woods. There will be NO Friday the 13ths in here however, and that made things surprisingly difficult! Also, there will be one interruption for Trisk's 200th!! review! What will THAT be, well, you will just have to wait and see!
For now though, it's off to the woods, and it's a good thing I've got all of you readers with me, because our first outing in this Summer of Slashers is...DON'T GO IN THE WOODS...ALONE!
We dive right in and waste no time, seeing a woman running from an unknown assailant, falling into a river in the middle of the woods. She clearly didn't heed the title of the movie. It's never clear if she dies, or is just some random person, but I'm counting it.
But just in case that wasn't enough, we immediately follow another guy who runs into trouble running from synthesizer wolves, and gets his arm ripped off by something in the woods.
Oh, and yes, synthesizer wolves. The soundtrack is gloriously 80s synth AGAIN, even moreso than Graduation Day. And it constantly makes this kinda howling noise, that half the time the cast is reacting to. So, there's wolves. Synthesizer wolves. Just one of the many glories of this movie.
Another is the really terrible and obvious dialogue replacement. The entire movie is dubbed. I even question if the voices are the actual actors.
Next, we meet our actual main characters, such as they are, a bunch of hikers out for a little weekend of enjoying nature. We are given several survival tips, including...DON'T GO IN THE WOODS ALONE. So there, title'd. Not that anyone follows this advice, obviously.
Peter, a rare instance when I know who someone is in this movie, jumps around the trees, and gets yelled at by their apparent leader, because he may have encountered a snake hiding in the brush. Yeeeah, you've got worse to worry about than snakes.
Now, I call this group our main characters, and the *are* but all they really do for most of the movie is wander through the woods until stuff starts happening. To keep things lively though, the movie is not shy about peppering in other random people in the woods being killed. Yep, it's one of THOSE random bloodbaths.
Which is exactly what we do now, as we find a photographer trying to get a good shot, and his...mom? Girlfriend? Eh, whatever. All she does is wander behind him shouting, "DALE! DAYULLLL! DAAAALE!" until he jumps off the cliff to be rid of her...er, I mean, the backwoods mountain man kills him.
But she'll be able to call after him all the way in the afterlife, because she's so quickly dispatched as well, we don't even know what happens to her.
We take a brief trip into town where the cops are already dealing with missing persons reports. They're frustrated with these dumb cityfolk getting lost in them thar hills, but they actually do their jobs and look for them. Which is more than most horror movie cops...
The sheriff drives up into the woods and runs into a random roller skating woman who literally falls out of the movie as she skates on by and yelps, tripping. NO other reason for being in the movie. I am not counting this as a death.
Back to our hikers, they're settling in for the night around the campfire, so you know what that means! Time for the requisite campfire horror story! Unlike other movies though, this has NOTHING to do with their own mountain man monster.
It's a decent mood setter, but also pretty random, and almost certainly made up on the spot. It is also terribly shot. We never see the guy telling the story, which is an immediate fail. And the hikers are barely in the shot either.
But enough of that, time for more random death, this time with Cherry and Dick, in his love wagon. If the trailer's rockin', the monster in the woods has come a-knockin'. And let's just not even mention that they are both named after slang for their respective sexual organs.
You know how this goes. Especially since Beasties relied on it as its main plot device in the first five minutes. Couple in a car, hears something outside, guy goes to check it out, dies, then the girl dies.
And that is exactly how this plays out. I will give Dick some credit though, to taking a gun with him. That's way more than most do.
But it does no good, as the killer makes short work of Dick, and then pushes the van off one of the many cliffs these mountains seem to have. If that wasn't enough, we get some Cherry's jubilee as the van bursts into flames.
If nothing else, this movie does share some really lovely scenery of the mountains it was filmed in. When it's not, y'know, brutally murdering random peoples and tossing them off those mountains.
The next day, our hikers continue hiking, as they endlessly wander around in search of a plot. Meanwhile, the sheriff jumps in a plane to continue searching for lost people. The only speck he'll find in that thing so high up is DAAYYUHHHL with his loud shirt.
Following that, we find our next random victim of randomness, a woman who has hiked all the way into the middle of nowhere...to paint. Oh, and she brought her baby with her. But her brushes are no match for the mountain monster, who stumbles by and adds her body to the pile.
Our hero hikers almost stumble into the actual plot, when one of them gets spooked by something in the woods, but nope. We can't be that lucky, it's just another hiker, so they remain completely oblivious to the movie happening around them.
Night falls again, and we find another random pair of campers, one of which gets tied up in her sleeping bag, hung up in a tree, and has logs thrown at her. Which seems like a terribly ineffecient way to kill someone.
Her boyfriend tries to crawl away in his own sleeping bag, but gets stabbed to pieces, and then the girl is finished off with the knife as well, like she's some kind of machete pinata.
Oh, and on top of the dreaded synthesizer wolves, there's also the most feared weapon in all of slasherdom, the synthesizer blade. Because this movie needs the music to work the 'sching!' of stabbing knives into the score. Even if the blade is slicing through fabric!
The hikers continue hiking, but have split up. Peter has gone off on his own to whine, with his suddenly appearing British accent, and their leader wanders off with one of the girls, leaving Ingrid to wait for Peter to come back from his tantrum.
A fisherman wanders into the plot, sees Peter, but also sees the Madman of the Mountain on the ridge right above him. What he fails to see is the bear trap the hermit throws into his face. I love Peter's obliviousness as he watches this guy's face get crushed like a grape in a Jigsaw trap. Well, they know there's something in these woods after them now!!
Peter watches from his vantage point as the killer comes down to finish the fisherman off, and makes the mistake of screaming for him to stop.
In another universe, Peter keeps his trap shut, the killer never notices him, and goes on his way to stab up a bunch of other random campers.
However, that's not what happens here, and Peter leads the monster right back to the group. Every murder from this point on is Peter's fault.
Back at the camp though, they're playing pranks, which ends up with the other girl dangling from a tree in her sleeping bag, and she tears a hole in it just in time to see the killer coming along.
The killer stabs their leader in the chest a few times, a-hootin' and a-hollerin' all the while. He drags the body off into the woods, going Yarrharr! so much he sounds like the pirate of the mountains.
Joanie finally escapes her sleeping bag and runs off, just as Peter finally returns to the camp, nearly getting brained with a rock by Ingrid. Finally, the plot has found our main characters.
Peter and Ingrid run through the woods, and it would've been nice to see any of those rules actually coming into play at any time during the last half of this movie, but nope. Who needs to properly pay off a setup? Not this movie!
They come across a cabin, so the good news is they can take a break and maybe get some food and shelter. The bad news is, the cabin is the killer's murder shack.
Pete and Ingrid rummage around quickly for food, but instead they set off a booby trap. Which is pretty lame, since all it does is make a dead, bloody body sit up. Which is scary, but if you're gonna do something that elaborate with rocks and pulleys, someone oughta die.
Our villain is about to kill another poor random schmuck in the woods, but his shack sense begins tingling. So he hurries home to see what these cityfolk have done and why they've disturbed his pop up murder.
But don't worry about that poor random schmuck, he finds one of the hermit's walking sticks just stuck in a tree, because why not? He grabs it and uses it, but the noise it makes gives Ingrid and Peter the wrong idea about which little rabbit is hopping down the bunny trail.
Peter bursts out from behind a fallen tree, expecting to find the hermit, but instead runs the poor random schmuck right through. Completely random accidental death, yay!
First of all, way more effective than a football sword. Second of all, the monster of the mountain refuses to have any kills taken from him, so hurls a spear from the woods and doubly kills the poor random schmuck.
He also has a whole box o' sticks, and keeps throwing them at the couple, getting in a number of hits on Ingrid, but leaving them alive for now.
Cap'n Bigfeet LaFleur cheers his yarharrs! as the pair runs off into the woods while Joannie finds another random camp and another dead camper. ...I don't even know anymore if we've seen this guy before.
The couple rest for the night, and in the morning discover a chairlift nearby, and follow it back to civilisation. And while this seems like it should be the end of the movie? There is still somehow 25 minutes left!
Sheriff Tubbs shows up and they hear all about the wildman of the woods. Which just gives them more incentive to actually track this guy down. It's actually a decent final act turn and motivation.
The sheriff starts rounding up the town mob, but Peter doesn't have time to wait, and runs off back into the woods to try and save Joannie before the synthisizer wolves get her.
Joannie's actually still alive, surviving on whatever chocolate she can lick from discarded Baby Ruth wrappers, and left behind rotting food in broken coolers.
She comes back upon the wildman's shack, but he's right there with her, and slashes her up until she's just tiny little ribbons of red.
And don't worry, if you missed having random people appear for the sole purpose of dying, we still have those! This hasn't become all plot driven just yet! At this point, the movie could totally just focus on our remaining few main characters, but no! Let's introduce some poor bastard trying to get up the mountain. IN A WHEELCHAIR!
I got nothing against disabled people trying to connect with nature, but this movie really doesn't need some poor guy being used as comic relief as he can't roll his chair around the trails and falls over for a good couple minutes.
You would think that with the cops and their mob, and Peter, all rushing through the woods to find this crazed killer, the final act would have a lot of energy about it.
Well, you would be dead wrong. There's a LOT of standing around, and aimless wandering. Because NO ONE knows where to go. It seems like it's by sheer chance that the sheriff finds the murder shack. Which just leads to him slowly and alonely wandering through it until Joannie's pieces falls on top of him.
The cops start cataloguing the bodies, and they mention they've found six so far. Ahahaha, that's half of what I got. And I'm sure there's many more.
Oh, and the doctor has shown up from the hospital, because why not? I can almost roll with that because of dead bodies, but she also brought Ingrid because "I thought it might be a good idea." Sure she could calm down the crazed Peter, but let's just sit the traumatised girl down next to all her dead friends!
As the killer finally slices off the head of the dude in the wheelchair, ending that offensiveness, the mob decides to call it a night and resume searching in the morning. And oh! Ingrid has gone missing! Whomp.
The next day, the synthesizer wolves go to sleep, and the search resumes, but they better hurry up, this mess is almost over.
Cap'n Bigfeet finds Peter before he finds anyone, and Ingrid just so happens to be nearby. Peter turns his shirt into a decoy that the wildman attacks.
In his confused grunty distractedness, Pete flings a makeshift spear and impales the guy in the shoulder. But, and let's say it all together now, he's Not Really Dead!
He somehow sneaks around, because the two are too distracted by kissing, and he chases them down the mountain.
Peter somehow flings a tiny branch with enough force to hurt the killer's leg, make him trip down the hill, and get beaten in the face. The two of them team up, once Ingrid grabs the machete she stole from the crime scene evidence, and turn the guy into a smelly pile of tomato sauce.
The sheriff and the mob hear all the screaming, come running with guns drawn, and see the couple covered in blood and the killer at their feet.
So the mob just kinda looks at the two, and has a reaction along the lines of "*shrug emoji!* Yeah okay, we're done here!"
The cops and the mob go off in one direction, as the killers of killers wander off into the woods. Um, shouldn't they all stick together? Title of the movie? Where are they even GOING?? Fine, whatever.
Oh, and the deputy smiles and waves as they wander off, saying they're a cute couple! Yes, the couple that slays together stays together, I guess.
And speaking of families, remember the painter? And her baby? Yeah, she's actually still sitting alone in the woods, playing with an axe, as everyone wanders off to wherever. She'll probably die of exposure or synthesizer wolves.
Video: For a no budget movie, this looks decent enough. It's from the 80s, and is wonderfuly grainy and scratchy. It's cleaned up to look good in HD, but they left the charm.
Audio: It sounds good enough, and the synthesizer pop soundtrack is wonderful.
Sound Bite: Yarrhaaaahrahhh
Body Count: The only upside of movies that drop in deaths every ten minutes to keep the horror going, is that they are wonderfully bloody and brutal.
1 - Barely beyond the credits, and a random woman maybe dies in a river.
2 - Three minutes in, our first entirely random victim loses his arm.
3 - DAYYULLL is tossed down the mountain.
4 - His ladyfriend is killed as well.
5 - Dick gets hacked up by the hermit.
6 - And Cherry gets crushed and burned when the van is pushed off the cliff.
7 - Poor painter lady gets sliced through the gut, but gets a nice red out of it.
8 - Random dude gets stabbed in his sleeping bag.
9 - Random girl gets turned into a machete pinata.
10 - Random fisherman gets beartrap-fu'd in the face.
11 - Craig gets stabbed in the chest a few times and dragged off.
12 - Some poor random guy gets killed accidentally by Peter.
13 - Joannie gets sliced up by the wildman
14 - Poor random guy in a wheelchair wheels into a beheading.
15 - And finally, the wildman himself gets stabbed way past the point of death.
Best Corpse: I rather like Craig's death. He's the first character who dies that we know and arguably care about, and it's really in your face.
Blood Type - B: There's quite a bit of blood, but it's cartoony red, with equally cartoony violence. But the quantity is solid.
Sex Appeal: A little something for everyone, as lots of people go topless.
Drink Up! Whenever someone you've never met before shows up and dies suddenly. A special finish off your drink when a rollerskater falls off camera.
Video Nasties: Enjoy the poor random guy getting run through by Peter, and then the wildman appears. Enjoy the hilarious dubbing, music, sound effects, and pirate wildman.
Movie Review: By any generous definition, this movie is terrible. The plot is nothing more than 'people wander around aimlessly until they run into a murderer who has nothing better to do'. It's peppered with random people to keep interest going. The characters are paper thin, the action is often laughable, and the villain is...just kinda there. Whys are never answered. His look is baffling. It somehow manages to be shot competently enough, but that's about it. Two out of five missing babies.
Entertainment Value: This movie is undeniably garbage. But it's equally hard to deny that there's something entertaining here. The deaths are actually pretty creative, and bloody. The wildman is...unique, even if he's not that defined. The yarhaaarrrs are GREAT. The random characters are wonderfully colourful and memorable before they die horribly. This movie should NOT be this fun. How this terrible piece of cinema managed to be this damned entertaining is a miracle. Four out of five murder shacks.