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July 3, 2012

Don’t Go in the Woods

by Franz Patrick

Don’t Go in the Woods (2010)
★ / ★★★★

Nick (Matt Sbeglia) decided to go to the woods with his bandmates (Jorge Jorgensen, Soomin Lee, Casey Smith, Nick Thorp) so they could write some songs in peace and quiet. Being isolated from girls and weed, he figured they wouldn’t have as much of an urge to mess around and accomplish nothing. Five songs was what they needed for an EP, but a deranged madman with a sledgehammer roamed the woods and threatened to take them out one by one. “Don’t Go in the Woods,” based on the screenplay by Sam Bisbee and Joe Vinciguerra, was a depressingly spineless horror-musical, another excuse to create a pile of dead teenagers. If one could point at a similarity between horror movies and musicals, it would be their energy. Traditionally, they have a sense of fun–the suspense sandwiched between images meant to incite terror and the joie de vivre expressed by characters through shaking their bodies and exercising their vocal cords in musicals. In here, the characters mostly huddled among the campfire, gave each other flirtatious looks when the girls inevitably arrived–after all, what kind of a horror movie would it be if screaming women, sadly only seen as here targets to be sliced and diced into submission–and sung songs that felt so interminable, I actually wanted the serial killer to jump out from the bushes to give the unsuspecting twenty-somethings one good scare. I caught one or two of them looking bored which I laughed at because I felt exactly the same way. Even though I came to enjoy one or two songs, especially the first song performed around the campfire, there were long stretches when I craved to laugh at something else because I grew tired at noting the script’s frustrating lack of logic. For example, I didn’t understand why the band knowingly gave Carson (Bo Boddie), the person who was supposed to get them a record deal, the wrong direction to the rendezvous point. Was a little thing called professionalism worth anything to these greasy-haired indie rockers? Furthermore, naturally, the cell phone situation had to be dealt with. At one point, one of the girls suggested that they called for help because some of their friends started to go missing. Some agreed that this was the right thing to do; I caught myself nodding in approval. But day turned to night and no one bothered to make one call to the police or to the people back home. Why? Because the material conveniently relied on clichés ingrained in the genre and mistaken them for camp. I sensed a growing cynicism as the film went on. Why couldn’t the writers have bothered to make interesting characters? More importantly, why weren’t they shown to wield weapons when their lives were threatened? If I were stuck in the woods and being hunted by a psychopath, you can bet that I’d have some of weapon with me at all times, whether I was hiding in an unsuspecting thicket or up in a tree either until helped arrived or the killer assumed everyone was dead. A little bit pragmatism could’ve gone a long way and the filmmakers didn’t even try. Directed by Vincent D’Onofrio, “Don’t Go in the Woods” was heavy on the songs but the songs didn’t stand out. The supposed scares didn’t stand out either. In the least, its overall lack of creativity was exasperating.

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