Home > Don't Go in the Woods - 5 > Don’t Go in the Woods – 5

Don’t Go in the Woods – 5

Director – Vincent D’Onofrio

Cast – Matt Sbeglia, Bo Boddie, Jorgen Jorgensen, Soomin Lee, Kate O’Malley, Casey Smith, Eric Bogosian

Release Year – 2012 (2011 VOD)

Reviewed by John of the Dead

When I first heard that famed yet very underrated actor Vincent D’Onofrio (“Law & Order: Criminal Intent”, The Cell, Full Metal Jacket) was coming out with his first horror film I was left beyond belief but definitely stoked to give it a watch. Watching him expertly portray unorthodox and literally insane characters left me a fan of his work, and knowing that he was going to lend his mind to the horror genre as a writer and director was pretty much a dream come true – even as a horror…MUSICAL. Well, Don’t Go in the Woods is finally available to a wide audience, and I will admit that I took my time getting to this one because of the numerous bad ratings it has been given. How such a seasoned and talented person could deliver such a bad experience did not make sense to me, and the time finally came for me to find out for myself what was going on with these negative reviews. After viewing the film I now understand why it has received so much hate from the horror community, but at the same time it comes with many positives and is nowhere near as bad as the consensus makes it out to be.

Nick leads his bandmates on a weekend trip into the wilderness in an effort to write new songs without worldly distractions. Cell phones, drugs, a shoe – anything Nick or the band deemed distracting has been discarded, and while they begin to achieve their songwriting success they come across horrors they never saw coming.

I was unsure of what to think when I went into this experience. I knew it was supposed to suck, and I had a feeling that it probably would suck, but I went in with the intent of enjoying it and it worked. Shot with two cameras in the woods of D’Onofrio’s private land in Woodstock, New York, it is very obvious that the film is of a very low budget, which totaled at around $100,000 – miniscule for a feature horror film. The actors came from the streets surrounding his home, including employees at his favorite coffee shop. I am not sure that an indie film can be more independent than this one, and that must be taken into consideration when viewing this piece.

The story takes off with the bandmates traveling in a nice passenger van that shows these “struggling” artists may not be as poor as they pretend to be, screwing around and singing hilarious songs that give a preview of the soundtrack to come. After arriving at their campsite in the beautiful and luscious green Woodstock woods, they begin the writing process – dishing out catching tunes via acoustic instruments and minimal drumming equipment. It is then that it really becomes apparent that this is definitely a MUSICAL, and in the vein of Glee where the characters will burst into song at random moments. Eventually (SPOILER ALERT) a group of girls they know crash the song-writing getaway and bring on the “fun”, which does not sit well with Nick, the band’s obvious frontman and the only one really taking the trip seriously. Now that we have the life of the party showing up (the girls) the horror begins to surface, with a few characters offed here and there via an oddly-dressed figure in black. I mentioned earlier that the film is of a very low budget, which means that most of the kills occur offscreen and consist only of blood, no guts. Even then, I did not balk at the quality of the kills in the film. The fact that there were kills and blood in an indie film had me pleased. The only real problem involving the horror in the film is that there is not enough of it. Why D’Onofrio did not include more horror in his story is beyond me, but of course his story was developed into a screenplay by two other writers so who knows just how much it swayed from his original idea. There were numerous occasions where the characters would burst into long song sequences and leave the viewer forgetting the horror that occurred just moments prior, and I think that really hurt the film in the end. Thankfully I did actually enjoy the songs and found the overall soundtrack to be a very fun one, so the flick does win a bit in the end, but not as a horror film.

So how did D’Onofrio do as director? Well, for the most part he did pretty well. Some things were just out of his hands, like the lack of gore and acting talent, and because of the low budget his kill sequences were a bit choppy and “poorly” edited to make do with what they had. Thankfully he does a great job at setting the atmosphere in the beautiful and engaging forest, complimented heavily with awesome sound work and of course…good music. He seems to execute the musical scenes much better than he does the horror, but nonetheless he still provides a few decent shocks that come at just the right time, but I blame the story for making us wait so darn long for the goods.

Overall, Don’t Go in the Woods is not as bad of a film as some make it out to be, but I cannot say it is a good film either. The musical element was very enjoyable and definitely overtook the horror, which took a backseat and waited very long to reclaim the driver’s seat in this musical slasher. There are numerous faults at play, mostly from the writing and lack of horror, but it will also take a forgiving attitude to get past the low-end acting performances thankfully graced with great singing voices.

Rating: 5/10

  1. August 14, 2012 at 12:47 am

    I love Vincent D’Onofrio. I am definitely going to watch this even if it isn’t great.

    • August 14, 2012 at 2:45 am

      It is on Netflix Instant Stream at the moment. I’m glad you are willing to give it a shot, let me know what you think if you do not mind.

      • August 14, 2012 at 1:19 pm

        Oh, I will for sure!

  2. Traeghy (for my friends)
    August 20, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Damn, could have been really good. Songs were very good but (Marlon Brando-voice) “the gore, the gore” come, on Vinnie, better kills, maybe even more original kills, maybe music(al) related, I don*’t know but if you got a more comedical premise tahn why not go for it (and there are low-budget productions WITH good/original kills)

    5 is okay here,

    • August 20, 2012 at 9:55 pm

      Yeah I did not love it but did not absolutely hate it either, was quite forgiving and found barely enough joy to warrant a mediocre 5 review. D’Onofrio has been great in most of what he has done, so this mess was a surprise to me.

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