The ’80s were a special time for horror films, specifically slashers, as filmmakers with or without talent rushed to capitalize on the success of films like Halloween and Friday the 13th. Of course, for every The Burning horror fans also got a dozen low-rent duds. One such example that leans closer to the latter is 1981’s Don’t Go in the Woods.
Devoid of pesky details like character or narrative, the film is entertainingly terrible.
Specialty label Vinegar Syndrome is releasing the film to Blu-ray this week with an impressive-looking 2K restoration and a solid selection of special features. Included among them are three commentary tracks – one with the film’s director, one with the director and members of the cast/crew, one with members of The Hysteria Continues! podcast.
Keep reading to see what I heard on the Hysteria Continues commentary track for Don’t Go in the Woods.
Don’t Go in the Woods (1981)
Commentator: The Hysteria Continues! podcast crew (including Justin, Joseph, Nathan, Eric)
1. Many members of the cast apparently expected this to be a high-budget production and we’re surprised when they began shooting to discover it was nothing of the sort. It will surprise no one that most of them didn’t pursue a career in acting after this film.
2. Mary Gail Artz, who plays Ingrid, became a casting director shortly after this film. “She worked on Halloween II the very year after this, from one extreme to the other in terms of slasher movies.”
3. There was a rumor in some circles that James P. Hayden, who plays Craig, had died of AIDS. Hayden actually addresses this himself in one of the special features and points out that it was a different actor with a similar name. “He talks and breathes, so I think he’s alive.”
4. One of the guys mentions that Ingrid (Artz) looks like Ron Howard. There’s a pause, and then Justin asks nervously if they’re allowed to say that. No one mentions how Joanne (Angie Brown) is a dead ringer for Jacob Lofland (Mud).
5. The film is viewed as a ripoff of Friday the 13th, but the original script apparently pre-dated that far better known movie.
6. Ken Carter, who plays the sheriff, was a “legendary DJ” for forty years and was known as Hubcap.
7. The film was shot in Utah which was something of a “slasher movie capital” as some of the Halloween films were shot there as well. Justin surmises that the prudish locale explains this film’s lack of nudity, but he’s quickly reminded of the many breasts visible in those other films shot in Salt Lake City.
8. Craig’s campfire ghost story was meant to feature cutaways to him speaking, but the footage was apparently ruined during processing. The other actors apparently didn’t want to do the scene at all and acted poorly on purpose. “In my opinion they don’t seem any different to how they appear in the rest of the movie.”
9. Cherry’s failed attempts to close the van doors were not planned. The actress (Carolyn Braza) actually couldn’t close them.
10. The film was one of the UK’s notorious “video nasties” that were banned from sale and possession during the ’80s. The gang is understandably boggled.
11. The original script by Garth Eliassen was “deadly serious” and featured the campers discussing their most-feared ways to die while the killer listens from the bushes. The director cut that aspect and added “humor” instead.
12. It was released in some markets as The Forest Part 2.
13. They do compliment the film’s “technical competence” during the dolly shot of Peter running from the killer. Surprisingly, Nathan wasn’t the only one with the kind words.
14. Much of the filming took place at a high altitude which apparently left many of the cast members close to passing out on a daily basis.
15. The Brits on the commentary don’t understand the phrase “Say uncle,” but the Americans explain it to them. Seems like the opportune time for a Revolutionary War joke, but no one makes it.
16. Frank Millen, who plays Dick, has the killer’s murder weapon – the jingle stick – in his shed. He actually shows it off in the hour-long featurette and claims he’s been offered as much as $500 from fans.
17. They say director James Bryan had a successful career as a sound editor on films like one of the Police Academy sequels, but IMDB lists no sound-related credits so it’s unclear what’s going on there.
18. They all agree that the most disturbing scene in the film is when Joanne licks the nasty, food-stained paper plate.
19. The guy in the wheelchair is played by the film’s sound recorder, and the fisherman is the cinematographer.
20. Nathan, who loves this movie, has seen it enough times that he and his friend Melissa can quote it.
21. The original title was Sierra as it was originally intended to take place in the Sierra Mountains.
22. Nathan believes that people who are dating develop telepathy between each other. He may be joking.
23. Brown is the only member of the cast to have her name in a box in the end credits. They believe it’s because her agent asked for it.
24. The gang references several other films (mostly horror) during this commentary, and it makes for an interesting primer on slasher films. Here are the ones they mentioned: Night of the Demon, The Prey, The Forest, Friday the 13th, Rituals, Just Before Dawn, Smokey & the Bandit, Pieces, Silent Night Deadly Night, Halloween 4, Halloween 5, Halloween 6, Night of Horror, The Burning, Friday the 13th: Part 2, The Hills Have Eyes, Bloody Moon, Boogievision, Batman Begins, Suspiria, Lawrence of Arabia, Friday the 13th (2009), Don’t Go in the Woods (2010), Police Academy 3, Police Academy 4, Mortuary, Saw, Deliverance, Halloween: H20, Serial Mom, All-American Murder, Dressed to Kill, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Bay of Blood, Don’t Answer the Phone, Don’t Go Into the House, The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, Don’t Look in the Basement, Grindhouse, Don’t Go to the Reunion, Maniac, Final Exam, Slumber Party Massacre, Silence of the Lambs, Pulp Fiction, Seven, The Final Terror and Blood Tracks. They do mention another film around the 44:14 mark, but I’ll be damned if I can tell what the hell they’re saying. Criminal Head? Cruller Head? No clue. My guess is it’s something incredibly obvious, and I’ll feel like an idiot once I find out what it is.
Best in Commentary
- “I hated it originally.”
- “The music… sounds like a drunk baboon let loose on a piano.”
- “Is there such a thing as a thin sheriff in any movie ever made?”
- “Vegans don’t just eat leaves.”
- “Here comes Hungry Hungry Joanie!”
- “I do know some people who would rather eat their own feet than watch this movie.”
It’s clear from the outset that these guys love horror films – Nathan even loves this one – and their enthusiasm combined with deep genre knowledge makes for a fun and informative commentary track. The Hysteria Continues! crew is also present on Vinegar Syndrome’s recent release of Graduation Day and their upcoming 4K restoration of Madman, and judging by this one I look forward to listening them both.