Code Red // 1981 // 83 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Bryan Pope (Retired) // November 17th, 2006
Everyone has nightmares about the ugliest way to die.
Oh, the things you can learn from the Internet Movie Database. To wit:
* This was star Mary Gail Artz's only acting gig before going on to become a casting director on films such as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Looney Toons: Back in Action, Serendipity, and The Nightmare Before Christmas.
* The late Ken Carter (the sheriff) was inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame in 2002.
And here's what IMDb users had to say about Don't Go in the Woods...Alone:
* "The music alters between generic upbeat country guitar and cheap early-eighties Casio keyboard." (Good call.)
* "The acting and bad script are what really makes DGITW special." (In a manner of speaking.)
* "I have seen many bad horror flicks, and DGITW easily makes my top five so-bad-it's-good list." (Er, riiiight. C'mon, some movies are so bad they're just bad.)
But moving on ...
Gotta love that title, right? Don't Go Out in the Woods...Alone! Just try getting even one moment of solitude in these woods. Good lord, you can hardly turn around without bumping into a birdwatcher, an artist, a photographer and his fat muumuu-wearing mother, two homely honeymooners makin' time in the back of a souped-up van, a tubby sheriff, an amusingly effeminate deputy, a search party, or some dude in a wheelchair. Then there's that hoochie mama honey roller skating down a gravel road.
So what's it about? Backpackers Peter (Jack McClelland), Craig (James P. Hayden), Ingrid (Mary Gail Artz), and Joanie (Angie Brown, who for some reason receives special billing) go camping in the mountains of Utah and fall prey to a machete-wielding maniac (Tom Drury), who looks like Captain Caveman and heralds each attack by shaking a giant rattle.
Aside from one nasty bit with a bear trap and a sequence toward the end that faintly -- and accidentally, believe me -- recalls The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in its slow, dread-saturated buildup, 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. Murder sequences are clumped together throughout the film, leaving a lot of flab in between.
If you're gonna shoot a film on a practically nonexistent budget (in his commentary, Bryan says the budget was around $20,000, although I think he's being generous), use the precious few free resources that are at your disposal. For example, night. Most of Bryan's film is shot in stark daylight, robbing the film of any suspense.
But something tells me I'm missing the point of the movie. The packaging says the film was originally intended as a comedy, and by the time the film gets to H. Kingsley Thurher's God-awful theme song (sung to "Teddy Bear Picnic," no less), there's no question that this movie was not meant to be taken seriously.
Don't go out in the woods tonight you probably will be thrilled.
Don't go out in the wood tonight, you probably will be killed.
There's a friendly beast that lurks about, he likes to feast, you won't get out, without being killed and chopped into little pieces.
Don't Go in the Woods...Alone may smell like something that needs to be scraped off the bottom of your shoe, but this package most certainly does not. As a matter of fact, this is the first DVD I've encountered that I'd almost be willing to recommend strictly on the basis of its extras, which are abundant and enormously entertaining. Media Blasters recognized this film as a cult classic and pulled out all the stops.
After a brief introduction by Deron Miller, who proudly proclaims himself the film's biggest fan, we're given not one, but two commentaries. The first features the pleasant and very informative Bryan, who remembers making this 25-year-old film as if it were yesterday. But if you have time for only one commentary, hold out for the second, in which Miller and lead actress Artz join Bryan. Audio quality is low, but the content is excellent. All three recognize Alone for the textbook example of poor filmmaking that it is, and they have a fine time poking good-natured fun at the film.
The real treat on this package, though, is the almost hour-long making-of featurette. Bryan has left no stone unturned and tracked down just about everyone who was even remotely involved in the production. Included here are the five lead actors, a couple of actors who had minor roles (wheelchair guy!), the screenwriter, the composer, the director of photography, one of the producers, and the costumer. Curiously, Bryan asks the entire cast and crew to comment on agent Peter Turner, who was involved with the production until he parted under, presumably, less-than-friendly circumstances. In fact, cheeky Bryan "dedicates" his little documentary to Turner. Bryan's wry sense of humor is on full display through this doc, but never more so than when he edits together comments from his ex-wife (and costumer on the film) and his current wife. The guy clearly has brass balls.
Also included are about 15 minutes of talk show appearances taped around the time the film premiered, a gallery of posters and stills, and a theatrical trailer of sorts.
The film is presented in a "director-supervised" full-frame transfer created using the original negatives. Look, regardless of how meticulously they worked on this thing, the film's ultra-low-budget origins are going to show. The image is still marred with specks, scratches, and debris, and the footage is grainy and amateurish, with colors that are largely washed out and black levels that are distractingly inconsistent.
The Dolby mono soundtrack is serviceable, but you'll find yourself chuckling at the looped dialogue, particularly in early scenes involving our four fearless hikers. Subtitles are not included.
Review content copyright © 2006 Bryan Pope; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Code Red
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 83 Minutes
Release Year: 1981
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Feature-length director commentary
* Feature-length director/star commentary
* Making-Of Featurette
* Talk show appearance
* Poster and stills gallery