Thursday, July 16, 2009

In short: Don't Go In The Woods...Alone! (1981)

A quartet of city-based campers makes their merry, bitching way through the American backwoods woods. Little do they know that they have stumbled onto the hunting grounds of an overworked, pelt-wearing wildman serial killer I like to call Stinky (Tom Drury).

And it'll take quite some time until they notice, because Stinky's work in this area is really never done, what with dozens of utterly bizarre people hiking through his woods at the same time.

Who will survive? And will the Sheriff who hasn't got a problem with the hundreds of people who must go missing in the area each year finally get a clue?

Don't Go In The Woods is one of those special treats US local independent filmmaking sometimes has to offer. It's an abysmally bad film by many people's standards, but to me (and a surprising number of others, it seems) it is utterly charming in everything it has to offer. Director James Bryan marries so-unfunny-it-is-funny-again humor (hello, wheelchair hiker with "funny" music) with moments of beautiful, cheap absurdity until the wrong-headed viewer doesn't know if he is supposed to feel bored, threatened or disturbed. Especially the last third of the film has some quite effective and disturbing moments. The magic lies in the off-hand way even the most absurd ideas are handled, I think.

Bryan's honestly great, atmospheric nature shots are the film's secret weapons against an ultra-low budget and an illogical (only in the best way) a-kill-a-minute script.

Don't Go In The Woods...Alone! is an absolutely magical piece of cinema if you are willing and able to see its flaws as a window into an alternative reality where local colour, improvisation and a manic insistence on making a film no matter what are the true virtues of a movie.


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