‘Everyone has nightmares about the ugliest way to die.’
Don’t Go in the Woods is a 1981 American slasher film directed by James Bryan from a screenplay by Garth Eliassen. Promoted as Don’t Go in the Woods… Alone!
The film was shot on a budget of $20,000 in the summer of 1980 in outdoor locations in Utah in order to save money on lighting. Meanwhile, Kingsley Thurber’s execrable synth score from Frozen Scream (1975) was recycled.
In the UK, Don’t Go in the Woods was one of the infamous video nasties that were banned in the moral panic of the 1980s. It was finally re-released uncut, with a BBFC ’15’ rating (!), in 2007.
As something kills a hysterical woman, and a bird watcher, four friends – Peter, Joanne, Ingrid and Craig – trek through the wilderness. A tourist is thrown over a waterfall – landing near some oblivious frolickers – and his mother is wounded, and dragged away.
The four backpackers set up camp for the night, and elsewhere a pair of honeymooners are attacked in their van and murdered. The next day, the two couples continue their hike, while an artist is stabbed to death, and her young daughter is taken.
Two more campers are butchered, and while off on his own, Peter witnesses a fisherman be murdered by the killer, a spear-wielding wild man adorned in furs and rags. Peter rushes off to warn his friends, who the maniac gets to first, spearing Craig, and sending Joanne fleeing into the woods. Peter finds Ingrid, and after the two stumble upon the wild man’s cabin, they accidentally attack another hiker, thinking he was the savage. The killer finishes off the hiker, and wounds Ingrid, but she and Peter escape, and eventually reach civilisation, and alert the authorities to the backwoods psychopath…
Buy Don’t Go in the Woods on Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray + DVD from Amazon.com
” …director James Bryan’s splatter film is an incoherent mess. An endless parade of victims keeps the fake blood squirting, but the murder sequences are so poorly staged that it’s usually impossible to tell precisely what’s happening. The most frightening thing about this alleged horror film, aside from its bad synthesizer soundtrack, is its pacing.” DVD Verdict
“The movie struck me as a low-budget attempt at a slasher film that’s main intention seemed to be as crude as possible. Yes, I did notice the overt comic moments (such as a tasteless scene of a man struggling with a wheelchair and a scene involving two middle-aged lovers), but I found these to be the most tiresome parts of the movie.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings
“The scriptwriter should have won some kind of surrealist award, or been shot – or both! The gore is cheap but plentiful (enough to get it banned in the UK, an accolade it still possess after so many years) and there is always the slightly satisfying feeling that you will (probably) never see anything as awful again.” Hysteria Lives
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” …a lively, ramshackle horror picture with a devil-may-care approach to story construction, and lots of grisly deaths. The story … may lack originality, but it plays the slasher horror game to the hilt and proved to be Bryan’s most visible and commercially successful picture.” Stephen Thrower, Nightmare USA
” …fat women huffing up hillsides, nerdy birdwatchers, roller-skating disco-bunnies and swinging couples, all accompanied by perhaps the most grating score of all time (by H. Kingsley Thurber). At the gore is plentiful – if extremely hokey.” J.A. Kerswell, Teenage Wasteland: The Slasher Movie Uncut
“Don’t Go in the Woods sucks. It sucks so hard I feared that it might suck a hole in the fabric of space and take us all with it. But it’s funny as hell and worth seeing for a dare if nothing more. The dubbing situation is amusing on its own but when coupled with the abysmal acting of virtually all involved, it just becomes one more reason not to visit Utah.” Vegan Voorhees
Heber City and Park City, Utah
11445 Big Cottonwood Canyon Rd, Brighton, Utah (Brighton Village Store)
Bridal Veil Falls, Provo, Utah (waterfall)
Running time: 1 hour 22 minutes
Aspect ratio: 1.66: 1
Full film free to watch on YouTube
Night of the Demon (1980)