Don’t Go In the Woods (1981)

Some slashers take their time getting to the first kill. Others start James Bond style, with a kill or two at the beginning before settling into the formula. Don’t Go in the Woods starts with murder and never stops. There are characters you’re supposed to get behind. But mostly, there are just random people who are killed in increasingly horrific ways while comedic synthesizer music bleets and boops and at times, goes silent. It’s a crude, brutal and at times, hilarious film. It also feels like it was made by either amateurs or maniacs. Maybe both.

There is one rule in this movie: Don’t go in the woods. Every single person that dies ignores this rule, so they are to blame for whatever happens next.

A woman screams and is killed.

A bird watcher watches birds and is killed.

Four friends — Peter, Joanne, Ingrid and Craig — are traveling through the woods.

A tourist is thrown over a waterfall, landing near our heroes having a splash fight (they don’t notice). Our intrepid foursome set up camp for the evening as two honeymooners in an RV are killed, followed by an artist being offed and her daughter kidnapped.

Of note here — it seems like the couples should be boy/girl, but through a combination of outfits and hairstyles, it is truly up to you to determine the non-binary combinations that they may be.

Two more campers get killed, then Peter watches while a fisherman is slaughtered, finally revealing the antagonist, who is a wild man covered in rags and fur with a big spear, known only as Maniac in the credits. He runs to warn his friends, but the Maniac follows and kills Craig with a spear.

Peter and Ingrid finally find the Maniac’s cabin, but accidentally stab a hitchhiker they believe is the killer. Our two heroes — minus the missing Joanne — make it to the hospital where they alert authorities, including the Sheriff (Ken Carter, a career rock ‘n roll DJ), who might as well be the cousin of Troll 2‘s Sheriff Gene Freak.

Peter feels guilty about leaving Joanne behind. As for her, she wanders into the Maniac’s house and is killed via multiple machete strikes. The killer doesn’t stop, beheading a man in a wheelchair, before Peter and Ingrid find him and go full on crazy, stabbing him numerous times while an entire crowd of lawmen watches.

Meanwhile, that kidnapped baby everyone forgot about? She’s up in the woods with an axe, all alone and ready to grow up to be the next Maniac.

Whew. This movie is a whirlwind of dubbed dialogue, bright red ketchup made with BBQ sauce and red food coloring, all shot on $400 worth of film stock (look for light bleeding through at numerous times).

Director James Bryan is a jack of all trades, having worked as an editor, a production manager, a post-production supervisor, a director of photography, a production assistant and more. He even filmed the pick-up shots for Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural! Plus, his resume includes films as diverse as The Executioner, Part II and sex films like Sex Aliens and The Hottest Show in Town.

Should you watch it? It depends. Are you willing to endure some of the worst dialogue and outfits in the history of film — all non-ironically created, mind you — and enjoy a story that makes no logical sense? Then yes. You should watch this on Shudder!

After all, how can you dislike a movie that ends with a song like this?


5 thoughts on “Don’t Go In the Woods (1981)

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  5. The key word is, as you say, it’s “all non-ironically created.” These days that would be tough to find. I think the key to good horror is a small budget and talented but inexperienced crew and cast. The bigger the budget, the more the director feels the need to spend money, to overthink and overdo everything until it’s not scary and, usually, totally contrived. It makes you feel ripped off and sad for the crew who were saddled with a director and producers who had to bury everything in $$ and style to put their “stamp” on things – the HALLOWEEN reboots, the SUSPIRIA remake are prime examples. Compare them to fast, fun from-the-hip films like LUZ, CLIMAX, and HOST. If you want to be artsy, have the ballsy vision and guts to actually go for something new and warping, like MANDY


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