Code Red originally released Don't Go In The Woods... Alone and The Forst as single disc special edition DVD releases a few years ago but these two backwoods slashers have been paired up as part of BCI's Exploitation Cinema line of double features. Fans of the films are better off with those previous releases for reasons covered further on in this review, but those curious about the 'merits' of these two films can now check them both out at the same time for less money, which is never a bad option to have.
Don't Go In The Woods... Alone (1981:)
The plot (ha, right) for this one involves a group of campers - Craig (James P. Hayden), Peter (Nick McClelland), Ingrid (Mary Galeartz) and Joanie (Angie Brown) - who decide to go into the mountains, not the woods, and not alone but together for a weekend getaway. Unfortunately they arrive at the exact time that a burly mountain caveman (Tom Drury) has decided to go on a killing spree for reasons never explained, a crippled man, and a bunch of people get knocked off. The campers aren't the only ones who get killed, however - a bird watcher, a married couple who like to swim in the river, and others are all thrown off of cliffs and hacked with machetes. Oh and the caveman guy steals a baby at one point, but again, we don't really know why.
There's really not much more to it than that. There's never really any motivation given to the killings, the whole thing has this weird 'dubbed in post' vibe to it, and the effects are little more than someone off camera throwing red goop at the actors. The pacing is... odd, I don't know if you can even really call it pacing and the dialogue almost entirely nonsensical. The performances are more wooden than the scenery and the score is made up of equal parts bad Casio Keyboard noises and cheery acoustic guitar bits which somehow manages to suit the equally eclectic tone of the picture as a whole.
Story-wise, Don't Go In The Woods... Alone owes a debt to Friday The 13th and the Hills Have Eyes in that it puts a bunch of young people in peril in the middle of a remote environment but those two movies made sense, whereas this one really does not. That said, as ridiculous and completely incompetent as it is, the film isn't boring. At times almost surreal in its 'why is this happeningness' the film is full of plot holes big enough to throw a Volkswagen through but it does have its own... something.
Director James Bryan would make other bad but far more competent films like Boogievision and Lady Streetfighter but Don't Go In The Woods... Alone really is on a planet of its own.
The Forest (1982):
The second feature starts off with a lot of traffic jam footage before introducing us to Steve (Dean Russell) and Charlie (John Batis), two dudes looking to ditch their better halves and enjoy some man time out in the woods. Okay. At any rate, they're stuck in the traffic we just watched for ten minutes and, once they make it through, we get to see them hanging out with the aforementioned wives, Sharon (Tomi Barrett) and Teddi (Ann Wilkinson) enjoying what by all accounts appears to be a nice, lovely dinner. The girls figure if they guys are going to head out on a camping trip by themselves, then they're going to do the same thing, albeit at a different campsite and before you know it the guys are heading into one part of the forest while the girls are heading into another part.
We get some nice footage of people walking around near the giant redwood trees that California is known for and after settling down near a cave, a squirrely looking old guy named John (Gary Kent) kills one of the girls and makes a meal out of her. Ironically, the guys later meet up with said squirrely guy and unwittingly chowing down, cannibal style. As they eat, John tells the camping guys about his two ghost kids who hang out in these woods. We learn that John was married once and when his wife cheated on him, he killed her. After that, Charlie and Steve spend the rest of the movie sort of just running around the woods while the ghost kids help out the remaining campers once John decides he's hungry again.
If lame gore, traffic jams, ghost kids and voiceovers are your thing, then this is the movie for you. The Forest is definitely lower tier trash, even by the often times very low standards of the slasher and it really doesn't have a whole lot going for it aside from a few moments of unintentional humor. Gary Kent is watchable enough whenever he's given something to do but there's too much filler and padding here - the traffic jam for example, or all the far away wide shots of the woods that just seem to go on - that the film loses its pace. On top of that, there's no legitimate suspense and the kill scenes, always the highlight of any slasher film, are pretty tame.
So both of these movies are bad then? Absolutely. They're terrible even. That said, they've got interesting qualities that, are horrible as they are, can make them marginally endearing to slasher fans even if they are some of the worst examples that the bastard child sub-genre has to offer. Neither film is interesting, scary, funny or even all that entertaining but they are interesting time capsules of the era in which they were made and screwball examples of just how bad some of the slasher knock offs that came in the wake of Friday The 13th could be. I'm glad they're on DVD, even if it's really next to impossible to say why.
When Code Red released Don't Go In The Woods... Alone on DVD separately a couple of years ago it was in its original 1.33.1 fullframe presentation as the director intended. A disclaimer card comes up before this 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen presentation of the film begins stating that the image has been matted for widescreen TVs based on the number of requests that they received for this film to be in widescreen. Okay. Aside from that aspect ratio change, this appears to be the same transfer that appeared on the solo disc, meaning that it's of pretty decent quality when you consider the age, budget and obscurity of the picture. Expect a bit of mild print damage, odd jumps and splices, and occasional color fading but otherwise the image is stable enough.
The Forest appears in what looks to be the same 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that graced that film's solo DVD debut as well. It starts off rough with some moderate print damage during the opening of the movie but thankfully gets cleaner looking as the movie progresses... until the end where it comes back. There is some occasional shimmering on screen and some inconsistencies in the blacks and the greens but otherwise it's perfectly watchable, though again, don't expect it to look pristine - because it's not. Both films are presented on a single sided double layered DVD.
Both movies feature English language Dolby Digital Mono soundtracks that have some occasional background hiss and a few random pops here and there but which are otherwise perfectly fine for what they are. Range is obviously limited by the source material but the levels are properly balanced and you'll have no problems understanding the dialogue.
Don't Go In The Woods... Alone includes a commentary track from comedy troupe Cinema Head Cheese made up of Jeff Dolniak, Kevin Moyer and David Hayes. This is an entertaining enough track and you get the feeling that you're sitting down watching a movie with some friends as they periodically spout off amusing observations about the movie and those who made it. The packaging mentions a commentary for The Forest but it's nowhere to be found on the disc itself.
Aside from that, there are also trailers for a few other Code Red releases, including Brian Trenchard Smith's awesome Stunt Rock, The Unseen, Beyond The Door, the crazy looking I'm Going To Get You... Elliot Boy and Choke Canyon. Menus and chapter stops are included for each movie. The single disc releases of both of these films feature a lot more supplemental material, none of which has been carried over to this release.
If you've already got the single disc releases, you've got the movies both in their proper aspect ratio and with a lot more supplemental material to boot and if you consider these films you really want to appreciate, you'll want to get those single disc releases for that reason. That said, this double feature offers up a cheap way to add two lesser known backwoods slashers to your collection at a more than fair price. As to the movies themselves, they're not particularly good, Hell, they're terrible, but slasher die-hards will probably appreciate them regardless. Rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.