Don't Go in the Woods (1981) poster

Don’t Go in the Woods (1981)


USA. 1981.


Director – James Bryan, Screenplay – Garth Eliassen, Producers – Roberto Gomez & Suzette Gomez, Photography – Hank Zinman, Music – H. Kingsley Thurber, Production Design – S.K. James. Production Company – JBF.


Jack McClelland (Peter), Mary Gail Artz (Ingrid), James P. Hayden (Craig), Angie Brown (Joanne), Ken Carter (Sheriff), David Barth (Deputy Benson), Tom Drury (Maniac)


Four friends go hiking in the woods. Lurking in the area is a brutish mountain man who lives in a cabin and has been killing all passers-by. The maniac now pursues the members of the group, intent on killing them.

Don’t Go in the Woods is a prime example of the 1980s Slasher Film. It was made soon after the breakout successes of Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980), a period that was filled with a host of near-identical films concerning lurking maniacs killing innocent teens and twentysomethings as they ventured to summer camps or, as here, into the backwoods. This also jumps aboard the fad for ‘Don’t –’ titled films that came out around the same era after Don’t Look Now (1973) – the same era also saw the likes of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (1973), Don’t Look in the Basement (1973), Don’t Go Near the Park (1979) and a couple of other slasher entries with Don’t Go in the House (1979) and Don’t Answer the Phone! (1980).

Don’t Go in the Woods is not one of the better made amongst these slasher copycats. The actors to a person are all amateurs – none of them seem to have ever worked in the industry again. Many of their interactions, particularly those of Ken Carter as the obese sheriff, seem stilted when it comes to the dialogue. James Bryan’s directorial set-ups seem crude and his editing well in need of improvement.

Tom Drury as the Maniac in Don't Go in the Woods (1981)
Tom Drury as the Maniac

The upshot of this is a dull variant on the 1980s slasher film. There are the requisite deaths at certain points. Most of these are fairly dull – the one novelty death is when the guy in the wheelchair get his head whacked off on the edge of a cliff. There is certainly no style or craft to any of them. In between these, Bryan seems to insert a lot of scenes of people wandering around the woods and their petty dramas, which are simply dull and uninteresting.

Elsewhere, director James Bryan has been employed in the industry as a sound effects editor. He has directed a number of other films – mostly porn films with titles such as Beach Blanket Bango (1975), Bizarre Encounters (1986), Sex Aliens (1986), Swedish Erotica (1986) and Thanks for the Mammaries (1987). He also made a couple of action films with Lady Street Fighter (1981) and ones that sit astride the horror genre with Hell Riders (1984) and The Executioner Part II (1984). He later returned to the horror genre with Jungle Trap (2016).

Trailer here

Full film available here

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