Don’t Go in the Woods (1981)
Director: James Bryan
Starring: Jack McClelland, Mary Gail Artz, James P. Hayden, Angie Brown & Tom Drury
Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
From Director James Bryan (Boogievision, The Executioner, Part II), Don’t Go in the Woodscenters on a group of wandering campers who venture into the wilderness for a weekend getaway. Unbeknownst to them, a savage maniac is stalking their every move, killing at every chance he gets. Starring many first time actors, Don’t Go in the Woods remains a slasher classic due to its campy production values and low-budget gore effects.
Released at the peak of the slasher boom, Don’t Go in the Woods maintains a paper-thin plot of a quartet of campers wandering the wilderness only to evade the wrath of a deadly killer. Littered with countless other tourists used as mere cattle, this Utah-shot production bolsters a body count that trumps most Friday the 13th installments but, lacks in any real suspense. With horrendous yet, hilariously entertaining performances, Don’t Go in the Woods packs plenty of gore while, backfiring with many a false jump scares. Relatively slow-paced, Director James Bryan’s indie effort makes decent use of its wilderness dwelling killer who lives off the land and makes grunting his first language. With the core group of campers dwindling, the remaining survivors look to avenge their friends deaths by tracking the peculiar killer with weapons off the land, leading to a most bloody finale.
Drawing its line in the sand, Don’t Go in the Woods has split slasher enthusiasts for decades with many brushing it off as amateurish dreck while, others find appreciation in its over the top kills and not so serious tone. While, it can hardly be categorized as a competent slasher with genuine scares, Don’t Go in the Woods possesses a low-budget charm of sticktoitiveness that bleeds in every frame. Filmed over a two year period, Don’t Go in the Woods takes great pleasure in presenting a simplistic story while, never shying from its slasher genre staples with kills that will most assuredly leave viewers in chuckles rather than fear. Cheesy but, undeniably appealing, Don’t Go in the Woods is an essential regional slasher for viewers who take delight in its quirkier traits.
Newly restored in 2K from the 35mm Interpositive, Vinegar Syndrome presents Don’t Go in the Woods with a 1080p transfer, sporting its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio. Plagued with aging artifacts including, scratches and hazy photography, the pros far outweigh the cons. Colors pop nicely in the film’s lush greenery, pastel colored wardrobe and scenes of blood-soaked carnage. In addition, skin tones appear natural and inviting while, black levels are handled as well as can be with decent visibility amongst instances of flakes and speckles. Vinegar Syndrome works wonders with this, at times, rough looking slasher, easily making this its definitive release. Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 Mono mix, dialogue is relayed decently with several occurrences of lower volume levels and mild hiss, all of which are never inaudible. Scenes of slashing mayhem register sharply with Composer H. Kingsley Thurber’s music pushing the most authority in this otherwise contained yet, satisfying sounding mix. Loaded with extras, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director James Bryan, Audio Commentary with Director James Bryan, Actress Mary Gail Artz and Superfans Deron Miller & Dave Mosca and a third Audio Commentary with The Hysteria Continues. Plus, a Cast & Crew Featurette (56:43), TV Promos Compilation (14:14), Autograph Signing Party (29:27), Theatrical Trailer (1:07), Production Stills Gallery (64 in total), Press Artwork Gallery (44 in total), Script Gallery (32 in total) and a DVD edition of the release round out the supplemental offerings.
While, its cult classic status has been debated by likeminded viewers, Don’t Go in the Woodsholds a special appeal for those who revel in its cheeky charm and hilariously over the top gore effects. Previously released by Code Red DVD as their inaugural title, Vinegar Syndrome’s newly restored Blu-ray release is a revelation of color and natural grain that trumps its imperfections while, preserving its OAR. Packed with endless bonus content, Vinegar Syndrome delivers this low-budget slasher affair with all the bells and whistles one could hope to expect. Whether it’s loved or hated, Don’t Go in the Woods has lasted the test of time and can now be better appreciated and debated with this definitive release.
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