DON’T FUCK IN THE WOODS
Firstly, I’d just like to say thanks to Concept Media films and Writer/Director, Shawn Burkett (Bludgeon) for allowing me access to an online screener of the Horror/Creature Feature, “Don’t Fuck In The Woods”. Don’t Fuck In The Woods is equal parts slasher film and monster, b movie. A group of friends decide to take a camping trip to celebrate graduating college. While some are looking to party and get laid, Alex (Ayse Howard) hopes to find her friend Meg (Brandy Mason) and Meg’s boyfriend, Luke (played by Scott Gillespie) who haven’t been seen since they ventured into the same woods. The group quickly realizes they’re not alone and must band together to survive an unknown evil. The film also stars Brittany Blanton, Roman Jossart, Nadia White, Hannah Herdt and Brian Cornell. I first heard about Burkett’s film over a year ago and thought it sounded like something worth getting behind. I ended up donating some funds toward the IndieGoGo campaign that made this film happen. I’ve seen a couple of Shawn’s previous films and although I wasn’t a big fan of them, I could see plenty of potential in him. There were issues at play out of Shawn’s control when he first attempted to bring this film to life, yet here we are twelve months on and it’s finally complete.
The first thing is quite obviously that crude yet catchy title. Clearly a round about reference to the fact that when people have sex in horror films, they usually die. Back in 1996, Randy Meeks (of Scream) warned us of the rules one must abide by in order to survive a horror movie and let’s face it we’ve never forgotten them. The pretty simple rule of DFITW, is if you have sex you’re probably going to die. Burkett’s written a speedy little film (62 minutes minus the credits) that mixes our love of the slasher sub-genre, with the creature feature element that maestro, Roger Corman made famous back in the 50’s and 60’s. The key location in Burkett’s film is a plush, heavily wooded forest which he showcases using some pleasant establishing shots to transition between his scenes. The inclusion of a sequence in a video store (or more accurately DVD) was great to see and brings back the days when that was pertinent. Given this was a low-budget, independent film there’s some impressive aerial shots used during the time lapses. Shawn employs a nice tracking shot during an apartment scene and there’s also some good over the shoulder shots scattered throughout the film as well. The audio track is fairly decent and all the lighting is consistent, a key factor when you take into account the amount of night shots. There’s some solid 80’s style, bass orientated synth that plays regularly throughout the course of the film, usually to try to build the suspense. Burkett also exercises orchestral cues during the chase/action sequences, a technique often used in 80’s slasher films right before a kill. As far as the music goes, it’s pretty diverse. We get a Hardcore/Metal song over the opening and closing credits, Rock in the middle of the film and even a Ballad thrown in for good measure.
If stereotypical young adults getting naked and having sex is what you desire, Don’t Fuck In The Woods has it in spades. The group of 6 is made up of lesbian couple, Alex and Jane (played by Howard and Blanton respectively), straight couple, Lacey and Conor (White and Cornell), stoner and self-proclaimed ladies man, Mac (Jossart) and outcast horror movie buff, Parker (Herdt). Each of our ladies are attractive in their own right but my favorites were the sassy, Jane and promiscuous, Lacey, both of whom look sexy. Like most guys, I’m a boob man and there’s plenty of all shapes and sizes on display in Don’t Fuck In The Woods, the best being Nadia Whites. Mac supplies us with the comedy, some good, some not so good and then there’s Parker, whose dialogue I liked because it was mostly horror related, perhaps Burkett’s personal commentary on his clear love for horror. The performances vary in quality and not everyone gets their moment to shine but I enjoyed watching Nadia, Brittany and Roman the most. There’s some early blood and gore around the ten minute mark but unfortunately it takes place off-screen. You’ll have to wait until the last twenty minutes to get to the good stuff. I dug that all the effects were practical and there’s one or two impressive and nasty deaths during the last act. Taking into consideration the budget of $10,000 (or somewhere thereabouts), the creature design looked solid and the sharp teeth give it a slightly different look to your classic monster. At the same time, it tips the hat to classic b movies like, “Creature From The Black Lagoon” and even more modern adaptions like Fred Andrews film, “Creature”.
Most of the issues I had with Don’t Fuck In The Woods were technical aspects, which you can often but not always chalk up to budgetary constraints. Some of the framing in the opening scenes involving Meg and Luke is a little off centre. You get mostly him and little of her and given that she looks so damn fine, the emphasis should have been on her. While I think of it, kudos to Brandy Mason for baring all in this one, she looked great. Often shots inside the tent (which occur on multiple occasions) feel claustrophobic, simply because it’s just to tight of a space for shooting (unless your camera is out the back of it) and it’s a little difficult to get your bearings as a viewer during those scenes. Fortunately as the film progresses, the distance and positioning of the camera gets better and keeps the production value looking pretty solid. Although there’s also a handful of lapses with the focus when the camera is on the move. The only poorly executed effects in this film are a series of green screen shots. They’re spotty, with an odd filter spread over the screen during a sequence that sees the group travel in the car. Even though the score is quite good, there’s a continuous and dreary bass note that lingers over scenes on a couple of occasions, it gets a bit old. Some of the dialogue is rather immature too and the cast a bit stiff with their delivery at times. The conversations between Howard and Blanton don’t always flow smoothly and some of the secondary campers aren’t all that strong. The one thing I wanted more of in Don’t Fuck In The Woods was the blood and gore. With such a short running time, things take a little too long to heat up. Viewers expecting copious amounts of carnage within the first thirty minutes will be sorely disappointed. Very few horror movies actually satisfy my appetite for action, so this issue is nothing new and I try my best to keep in mind, this is a low-budget film so you should too.
Going in, I had pretty high hopes for “Don’t Fuck In The Woods” and in the end had a reasonable amount of fun with it. I really like the original title and poster art, along with it being a mashup of slasher movie and creature feature. The location makes for decent cinematography and some of the shot choices were nicely detailed and in my opinion, a step above any of Burkett’s previous work. The audio and soundtrack were both reliable and the lighting was another well conceived aspect. You’ve got the cliché archetypes we all know and love, chunks of horror orientated dialogue, a few laughs and plenty of the nudity and sex you expect from a good horror film. The eye candy is definitely a plus and the blood and gore, when it does hit, is more than serviceable for the size of the budget. Some of the technical features could have used some work, most notably the poor green screen stuff and the focus issues. The approach to the framing in the beginning could have also been a bit sharper. I wasn’t a fan of parts of the writing and the killing doesn’t strike soon enough in a film this short and I think that might tease the audience more than they’d expect. Issues aside, horror fans should be entertained and this is by far in a way Shawn’s best work, I look forward to seeing what he does next!
My rating for “Don’t Fuck In The Woods” is 6/10