As you can pretty much assume by the title, this film is a delightful family comedy that is sure to be an instant classic.
Director Shawn Burkett takes us to a world that any horny teenage boy would love to live in. With no shortage of reasons why any and all women in this film should be naked, one caveat is that in an age of female empowerment and an Internet full of the best and worst of human nature, you would think that a film about multiple couples fucking in the woods would contribute as much screen time to dick and man-ass as it does to tits and the occasional quick beaver shots. Not that I am a viewer who typically looks for male nudity, but in 2016 there is something a bit prude about a film full of women flashing their titties while the men stay comfortable in their BVDs which the cameraman tries his best to frame out. Movies take root in their audience when the audience can successfully “suspend disbelief”, and it’s easy to be distracted when the sex just looks like “movie sex”. As an actor myself, whose ass has had almost as much screentime as my face, in the handful of sex scenes that I’ve been involved with, whether they be comical, romantic, or downright filthy, the challenge is always to make it look and feel real. This is the same for an on-screen death or a crying scene. These three types of scenes have hundreds of examples of actors (or directors) just not getting it right, and that is when a viewer sadly gets reminded that they are just watching a movie, and not actually experiencing or living within the story.
But the lack of man-meat is not enough to disregard all the things that Burkett, along with his cast and crew, did right with this film. Obviously, this movie was made for a specific market – horror film fans who love their stories full of raunch, cheese, and gore. Don’t let the title fool you, however. Just because some characters don’t have sex, that doesn’t mean they are safe. The director spends very little time establishing the story (it’s pretty much spelled out for us on the cover already), and skips through the character introductions with painless haste. One of the most frustrating things about independent horror films that involve a group of people heading out somewhere remote for a fun vacation, is that the writers and directors think they need to spend precious time letting the audience get to know the characters through the most painful banter, usually while packing the car, then driving, then stopping for gas, then driving some more, then getting to the cabin (or wherever the fuck they need to get to before, thankfully, the killings can commence). Maybe it works to the benefit of some films that if you are annoyed enough at the first 20-30 minutes of witless conversation amongst non-redeeming characters, you will appreciate their deaths more. Thankfully Burkett is savvy enough to open his movie strong, spending the bare minimum amount of time meeting our victims, and getting them drunk around a campfire by the time your bowl of popcorn is ready.
Another area where many of these low-budget horror films fail, but Burkett succeeds, is with an ensemble cast that actually plays naturally amongst each other. Even the stereotypical “funny man” who can’t get laid while everyone else around him does, actually has one-liners that draw the laughs, which is rare in low-budget horror writing. My guess is that rather than try too hard as a writer to give “the right joke”, Burkett most likely gave his actors room for natural improv. While not trying too hard on crafting witty dialogue, Burkett still delivers some tongue-in-cheek references to the type of film this movie is the bastard step-child of. Lines like, “…titties and one scream don’t make a scream queen” show his appreciation for the heroines of classic horror films like “Halloween” or “Friday the 13th”, while at the same time delivering the same overdone tropes of “naked girl runs from a killer in the woods.” There is also a fun play on everyone’s favorite line from “Monster Squad”, 1987’s horror film answer to “The Goonies”. This callback to a nearly forgotten classic gives a hint as to why “Don’t Fuck in the Woods” is not content to be just a slasher film, but a creature feature, too. Shawn Burkett built this movie as an homage to those great films of our youth (if you’re in your 30s/40s), and today’s horror films do not deliver the same feel. The monster of “Don’t Fuck in the Woods”, who reminded me of Stan Winston’s creations for the Pumpkinhead franchise, was utilized well. Dark, mysterious, a bit slimy, and properly menacing. The success of the scares from the monster, and from the film itself, are also helped by Burkett bouncing between “less-is-more” moments and gratuitous gore. This could have been originally intended, or could be attributed to creativity due to budget constraint, but either way it works.
When I first got the screener of “Don’t Fuck in the Woods”, I had only a day before been dumped by the love of my life. I was worried that watching a bunch of fun-loving couples get horny and freak on each other beside the campfire for an hour and a half would be too depressing for my broken heart. Luckily, just as that little bit of sadness started creeping in while the first horny couple fumbled out of their clothes – and I started to think, “Oh God, I miss her… if only we had one more night together… one romantic night in the woods… [choke, sob]… one more night to prove — Oh Snap!” Disembowelment mid-coitus! Seeing these couples getting slaughtered in the midst of passion was actually lifting my spirits. “Maybe,” I thought, “just maybe my ex and her new lover will be massacred before he gets a chance to make her cum, too.” A man can hope – and that is the mark of a good film – it gives the watcher a sense of fulfillment. In that regard, “Don’t Fuck in the Woods” is a smashing success.
If you are still undecided about whether this film is for you, don’t be. You’ve read this far, so stop kidding yourself and just go watch it.
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