Friday, March 22, 2013

REVIEW: Don't Go in the Woods (2010)

Wow, just wow. I don’t think I’ve seen something this beautifully insane and wrongheaded since The Stuff smacked me in the face last year around this time. I mean, what am I supposed to say? If the words “slasher musical” don’t sound perfectly batshit nuts to you, then perhaps this film will finally find its audience in some blissfully ignorant minority. A blissfully ignorant minority, however, that I want no part of whatsoever. Please, if this sounds like your type of movie, stay the hell away from me. And from the rest of humanity.

Director: Vincent D'Onofrio
Starring: Matt Sbegelia, Ali Tobia

Yes, Don’t Go in the Woods, the only film directed by sort of famous actor Vincent D’Onofrio, and frankly, I think he should go back to the drawing board a bit. I mean…a slasher musical. I’m not even making that up – it’s a slasher film, and most of the runtime that would normally be taken up by a bunch of indie rock ass-hats playing bland, uninteresting and sometimes actually ear-splitting-awful music. The ideas in this film, the choices made…I just don’t understand. It’s like a strange Frankenstein’s Monster-esque abomination of epic proportions. It’s one thing to make a horrendous generic slasher movie, but quite another to take the basic format of a slasher movie and then…do whatever D’Onofrio did here.

Alright, well I’m never going to convey exactly how strange this is by simply raving about it like a madman. I’m going to have to actually talk about it, aren’t I? Oh, God. I’m actually going to have to look at this film again? The horror!

Eh, I’m over it now.

We start off with this title card:

Well, allow me to retort by turning my volume down to a moderate level. Take that, you damn movie! I rebelled by turning my volume down to an inoffensively quiet tone so as to not bother the neighbors! I'm such a badass.

We then are introduced to a bunch of idiots in a car singing to some truly horrible hybrid of acoustic rock, reggae and Beatles-style pop. I would post some sound clips, but I actually want people to keep reading the rest of the review, so I’ll just skip it. Safe to say, it’s bad. It’s really bad. Not all of the music in this movie is this bad, but the opening song will even make your pets cover their ears in agony. Christ. These guys really need some weed…

What? The lead guy in the band just threw the weed out the window? The audacity of this prick…they bought that from a perfectly decent drug dealer behind a K-Mart that morning. And really, the rock band doesn’t want weed? That’s how Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd made most of their best albums back in the day! Somehow I’m not convinced these guys are really in tune with the spirit of rock. And even beyond that, if there's no weed, how is the movie's slasher killer going to have a reason to hack them up? These morons better have a lot of sex out in the woods to make up for this indiscretion!

So apparently their plan is just to…go out into the woods and play music for a while, hoping to come back with some of the best songs ever that can get them a record deal. Apparently some record exec douche-face is coming out to join them for some reason – I guess having a corporate presence breathing down their necks would help the songwriting process? But he gets killed off, and they never even ask about him again for the rest of the damn movie, so I guess D’Onofrio just forgot all about it…

Oh, there's a sign that says the title of the movie right when they're going in? Who put it there? And why? I NEED ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS...nah, I'm over it. Still though, a more accurate sign would have read DON'T WATCH THIS MOVIE.

While that’s going on, the lead singer guy, Nick, takes all of their cell phones and smashes them with an ax. You may think this is too extreme. However…well, no, it is too extreme. But at least we also get to see a crazy man chopping up one of his shoes into little bits.

And the weird thing is, there’s no reason for it. Even after he does it, Nick, otherwise a complete insensitive ass throughout the film, is like “dude, why did you do that?” And there’s never a reason given. It’s like D’Onofrio and the production team just gave the guy an ax and he chopped up his shoe impromptu in a fit of madness, without it being scripted at all. Maybe it’s not a good idea to hire crazy people off the streets, D’Onofrio. Just saying.

Later on, Mr. Ax Chop Man steps on a little leaf and somehow gets a gigantic bloody welt on his foot…which is also never made anything of, and he goes on to seduce a bunch of beautiful women. Presumably while trailing blood on the ground and wincing every time he has to take a step. But we’ll get to that.

No, really what makes up the bulk of this movie is the songs. Yes, the rumors were true, a bona fide slasher musical. What planet am I on? Since most of these parts are just long, repetitive segments of bland music broken up by even more nonsensical scenes that actually TRY to be a musical, it’s tough to really go all play-by-play on these scenes. However, I will say that the main guy, Nick, has a voice about as endearing as a tone deaf drunk man with laryngitis. He can’t stay on key and mostly just sounds completely awful and heinous. And we’re supposed to believe people actually listen to this guy and unironically think he’s good…maybe they’re all tone deaf, and that’s the movie’s twist at the end.

Please, please, please follow the path of Kurt Cobain rather than that of Nikki Sixx...

So despite the fact that the guys agreed to come out in the woods in solitude and write music, with nothing to distract them…a bunch of girls come and crash the party, bringing weed and loud, fun times with them – basically everything Nick said they wouldn’t have at the beginning. I’m so glad they explained what they were doing to these girls, so that they would not do exactly this. Oh, wait, I’m just being sarcastic for no reason again. Nick and his band of morons didn’t do that at all. Oh how I love the human ability to communicate. It isn’t just for singing pointless songs in a terrible slasher movie anymore!

Yeah, whatever's in that flask with the skull and crossbones on it would probably be great right now. Please, pass it over!

Either way, at least there’s some tits in the movie now; that oughta brighten it up. Even if this one girl does look sort of like a female Filipino version of Sid Vicious. And what’s this? She’s the only talented singer in the entire film?

Color me surprised!

No, really. Color me surprised.

So of course she gets killed off a few scenes later, along with the other girl who is mad that one of the guys, I’m not sure who (and do you really care?) who she was dating, is now with someone else. They go off into the woods and she starts singing, apparently under the assumption that she’s a cast member in The Sound of Music, performed by talentless people. They even superimpose her face over the top of the scene like a low-budget music video.

There's a joke about that 'o' face in here somewhere, but I'm not crass enough to make it, so I'll let you supply your own.

What is this? Surely it’s not a horror movie. I mean, D’Onofrio, man…half the time I do movies like this, by this point in the review, I’m already knee-deep in the murders going on, as well as the plotholes involved in said murders. What the hell am I watching here? Movie, if REPO: The Genetic Opera is outdoing your script in terms of making sense, there’s something seriously wrong!

Okay, well anyway. They get into a car and, for no reason at all, they get killed off by a man wearing black, who takes the time first to smash their car up with a sledgehammer. He spends more time doing that then he does actually killing the girls! And trust me, I’m not planning on going all bleeding-hearts on you guys this time. I fully support killing off people who participated in this movie. However, I do not support the needless wreckage of vehicles. Think of how many red lights that car could have run!

Just imagine the person who spent money on that car and had it appear in this movie. I think car dealerships everywhere are cringing in their sleep, as if someone walked over their graves...

Also, seriously? You don’t even have the budget to show the gore, so you just cut to black as soon as any contact is made? I’m starting to see why D’Onofrio put so much music in this: he didn’t have any money to shoot actual gory slasher kill scenes. Maybe you should have just scrapped the idea to make this a movie, and directed a high school production of West Side Story, dude.

Meanwhile, back at the Hitler Youth Indie Rock Band Camp, Nick wakes everyone up by splashing fizzy soda pop into their tents. It’s nice to know Vincent D’Onofrio, previously a star of Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, never quite left boot camp:

"Are you quitting on me? Well, are you? Then quit, you slimy fucking walrus-looking piece of shit! Get the fuck off of my obstacle! Get the fuck down off of my obstacle! NOW! MOVE IT! Or I'm going to rip your balls off, so you cannot contaminate the rest of the world! I will motivate you, Private Pyle, IF IT SHORT-DICKS EVERY CANNIBAL ON THE CONGO!" - the kind of motivation this movie really needed, but never got...shame.

As long as this movie ends with Nick splattering his brains out in a bathroom after realizing his failure as a human being, I’m totally fine with it.

So, in any other movie, they’d at least notice the disappearance of the two girls and investigate it, right? Not this movie! They just go right on practicing, never even mentioning the girls again save for a cursory ‘hey, they said they were going to a hotel! Must be why they never tried to contact us or anything, right? Oh well. Just let em get kidnapped and raped.’ What a bunch of great friends. You know what else makes them great friends? The fact that they constantly make fun of the one blind guy in the band.

He sings a song called "I Don't Wanna Be Blind." Guess what it's about. That's right, it's about filing taxes.

And it’s not even like they’re creative with the jokes! Constantly, they just sort of point out that he’s blind. That’s the whole joke – he can’t see. Hilarious, right? Dudes, it’s not that funny. If you want to make some blind jokes, fine, but at least put some thought into it! It’s like walking up to a guy with a lisp and just going “HEY! YOU TALK SORTA FUNNY!” And then repeating that same joke every time you see him for the next three years. C’mon, movie; try better than Bulk and Skull-levels of bullying.

Man, you know what this movie needs? Some people getting murdered. That would lighten up the mood.

So, after about fifteen more minutes of nothing but songs that you won’t even remember a few seconds after they end…we get some trite romance going on, between Nick and this girl, who apparently slept with him once. Isn’t this exactly what you want to see when you pop in a DVD titled Don’t Go in the Woods? Well, I’ll give it some credit – it is closer to what a regular horror movie would do, so maybe D’Onofrio is finally getting to the damn point here.

Good, good, now have her fuck Nick and then have them both impaled with a hockey stick or something. Then you'd be on the right track for a slasher film.

Well, eventually it does finally happen. The kills, while rather terrible, do start to happen. Even if most of them are just cutting to black before we see any blood, like this one, which brings back the hallowed ‘sleeping bag kill’ popularized by Jason X!

It's a lost art in slasher movies.

There's also this scene, in which this one foreign girl and the girl who's trying to teach her English sing about...well, pretty much teaching a foreign girl English. It's a silly subject matter for a song, but when these girls do it? It's just flat out embarrassing, as they embellish the whole thing with ludicrous voices, stupid facial expressions and awful, awful melodies...seriously, you can just hear their careers, and by extension their hopes and dreams, dying with every note:

Aren't those the kinds of faces girls make in really horrible niche German porno movies?

After some more poorly filmed kill scenes, it’s just Nick and his kinda-sorta-girlfriend left alive, as Nick shows us how he can play a song so terrible that it makes him start bleeding from his neck and hands!

I…really have no idea what this is supposed to convey. Seriously, go watch this yourself; it’s on Netflix. Have a field day with it. Maybe some of the more pretentious among you will come back with some interpretation of this that makes sense. Is he killing himself? Is it all really in the girl’s head? Is the entire movie some kind of warped Lynchian subtext for the state of the music industry? I dunno. All I know is, THIS MUSIC IS TERRIBLE! He sings worse than William Hung if he had lead bricks strapped to his ears and his nuts were in a vice! It’s terrible!

After that, Nick jumps in the water. Nice way to ruin a good guitar there, you moron. He then gets out of the water and has a battle with the masked killer, who looks more like a Victorian England Gentleman cosplay if it was, well, a slasher movie killer doing that...

After killing him, the movie cuts to black and then shows us a very short scene where Nick is sitting with some record producer who holds up a CD that says Nick’s name and has the title Don’t Go in the Woods. The producer then says, “All you had to do [to get famous] was get rid of that band.” And that’s the end.

Uh, what? Am I supposed to glean some A-HA! moment from this? Is that supposed to be a twist? So he basically killed off his bandmates, or hired someone to kill them off…so he could record his own music and get famous off of it? Isn’t that a bit overkill? Not to mention the gaping plothole of the fact that no sane record label, that wanted to keep making money, would ever hire this guy. Here’s a novel idea: if you don’t like your band and don’t want to make music with them…QUIT THE GODDAMN BAND. GO SOLO. Anything! Anything as long as we don’t have to listen to more of your god-awful music!

So it makes sense that the end credits involve more of the same ear-splitting yowling and bland acoustic guitars as the rest of the movie had…that’s it; I’m convinced this is a lost level of Hell. There is no way anyone could have intended this to be enjoyable; it’s too horrendous, too maniacally unlistenable to any normal pair of ears!

So that’s Don’t Go in the Woods, and it’s…well, it’s special. There really is nothing else like this movie out there, and there’s a reason for that: it’s terrible. The acting is subpar, the story is a mess, and most of the movie is just these morons playing their rather unimpressive music. Once in a while, the songs don’t sound too bad, but is ‘not bad’ really the ideal standard to hold?

There was really no budget for this thing, so it’s hard to really come down on it for that, but the whole thing is just such a spectacle to behold. It’s literally so insane an idea that it’s really just amazing to think about what the creative thought process must have been like to come up with it. A slasher musical…I can’t stop saying it. The words themselves are so curiously bizarre when placed together. And really, after all is said and done, this IS at least trying to do something, even though it failed horribly at it. While it was a trainwreck, Don’t Go in the Woods was at least doing its own thing and had a clear purpose in mind. Can we say the same for The Devil Inside or Black Dahlia? I don’t think so.

So am I saying this movie was good? Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. But I did find it at least interesting, and though D’Onofrio failed entirely at what he was trying to evoke, he at least tried, and there’s something to be said for that. So if you really want to see a musical slasher movie…go check yourself into a mental hospital. But if you want something interesting and experimental, if incredibly flawed, Don’t Go in the Woods wouldn’t be your worst choice ever. Maybe on the top 20 worst, but still, better than the majority of big budget horror films that came out last year. There is that.

The images in this review do not belong to me; they are copyright of their original owners.