10/20/13

Don't Go into the Lightning Bug's Lair #11: Don't Go in theWoods...Alone (1981)

After the travesty that was Don't Go in the Woods (2010), I was a little head shy, or should I say ear shy, after that musical horror mess, to press play on the first film entitled Don't Go in the Woods, albeit with the addition of the word "Alone" at the end.  To me, that's some good advice, but I would take it a step further and say don't go in the woods at all. I'm not much of an outdoorsman unless there's some kind of movie screen under the stars, and as far as my personal experience goes and based on the experiences of watching tons of films where people do go in the woods, it just never works out quite right.  I have friends who are hikers, and many of them expose the commendable belief in "leaving no trace" when they go out. I say there's an easier way than even that. Don't go at all and save your strength for trick or treating, and if you don't believe my advice, then just see what happens in Don't Go in the Woods...Alone.

Friends Craig, Peter, Ingrid, and Joanne (James P. Hayden, Jack MacClellend, Mary Gail Artz, Angie Brown) set off for a camping trip, but soon after getting there, they find themselves turned around in the woods. Craig, a self professed expert, has loads of advice about using higher ground to find their way, how to survive, and most importantly of all, don't go in the woods alone. (This is directly said aloud within the film's first five minutes, just in case the audience had already forgotten what it said on the title card.) While they try and find their way, they don't notice the other random hikers, bird watchers, and campers getting sliced, diced, and thrown off waterfalls by a mountain man who appears to be wearing buffalo hide. Soon the mountain man turns his attention on the four friends, and they are stalked though the woods as well. Peter manages to escape, but having seen too much already, he slips away from the porcine sheriff (Ken Carter) and back into the woods intent on hunting down the killer himself.

If you are looking for a movie with tons of plot and character development, then you're looking in the wrong place. Don't Go in the Woods...Alone isn't about those things. This title, like one or two more on this list, found itself on the UK "Video Nasties" list, and while the effects are laughable now, there were certainly plenty enough murders to see why it upset the censors. The mountain man strikes in waves, and often the killings are inflicted on characters who were simply introduced to be killed a minute later. One of these moments really scores. Peter spears a hiker wearing a mint green polo with a red backpack (he kind of deserved it) due to a little misdirection and a jingling walking stick, and it works both as a classic gore scene and a bit of unintended hilarity.  Where movies with Freddy, Michael, or Jason get accused of random violence, a movie like Don't Go in the Woods...Alone delivers, and it also makes for a great party film (with or without sound) to both elicit a chuckle and maybe even some disgust.

Apart from the body count, Don't Go in the Woods...Alone deserves to also be noted for the mean spirited vibe that runs throughout. This is especially apparent when James P. Hayden's Craig captures one of the girls in her sleeping bag and berates her with a litany of” bitch”  laden threats even while she tries to warn him that the mountain man killer is about to strike. Sure it doesn’t take long for him to get his, but she’s not far behind him in shuffling off the cinematic coil. Director James Bryan is well known to genre film fans for a string of cult film classics that cover everything from Lady Street Fighter to The Executioner Part 2 and Boogievision. He also appeared in Don’t Go in the Woods…Alone on many occasions as the double for the mountain man killer, and with Don’t Go in the Woods…Alone, he created a nasty little slasher that seems just the right fare for the 52nd Street theaters and drive in cinemas still flourishing in the 1980s. 

The titular advice, Don’t Go in the Woods…Alone, is no problem for me. I don’t even want to go in the woods with a group of people. The sad part is, between this film and 2010’s Don’t Go in the Woods, the concepts behind the titles don’t add up to success on the screen. While slashers like Friday the 13th and The Burning make a good case for staying out of woodland areas, the Don’t Go in the Woods films make a better case for not watching low budget horror films. Thanks to a few gruesome kills and an interesting looking mountain maniac, Don’t Go in the Woods...Alone makes for a much better time than the modern musical version I talked about earlier this month. Yet it still comes up short in the history of “Don’t” films and it doesn't manage to crack the top 10 on my countdown. Tomorrow something will, so check back and see what kind of madness don’t wanna stop when the Don’t Go in the Lightning Bug’s Lair countdown starts its march into the last ten days leading up to Halloween! 

Bugg Rating

And thanks to the YouTube, you can check out the whole film right here!

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