Any serious movie fan should know who Vincent D'Onofrio is. I'll spare you the recitation of his IMDb page, but suffice to say he's been a truly excellent character for 30-some years and 60-some movies. Like the best "supporting" actors, D'Onofrio can invigorate a terrible film, or he can elevate a good one into something special. I say all these things A) because I truly believe them, and B) I'm about to tear the man's directorial debut a new butt-hole.
Early on from the festival circuit, I'd heard that this one was sort of a "failed experiment" at best, or an "outright stinker" at worst, but Tribeca's distribution arm has proven pretty consistent with Grave Encounters and 388 Arletts Avenue, so I sat down intent to find something likable in Don't Go in the Woods. Sorry to say I'm still waiting. Unrelated to the sleazy 1981 exploitation horror flick of the same name, Mr. D'Onofrio's movie is two things at once: a very -- and I do mean very -- perfunctory slasher flick that takes place in the forest, and a musical. Yes, it's a slasher flick musical, but the end result is not nearly as endearing as that idea might sound.
We start out with five outrageously obnoxious wannabe rock stars (I'm sorry, songwriters) who are intent on finding their musical muse in the quiet confines of a camping retreat. After a whole lot of arguing, consistently bad acting, and a few "indie rock" jam sessions around the campfire, a bunch of girls show up (thank god), and then we're treated to more arguing, bad acting, and some musical sequences that, to their credit, do manage to hit the screen with a bit more creativity than "let's all just sit around the campfire." (Being totally honest, a handful of the actor/musicians' songs aren't bad. It's just that a few good songs do not a fun movie make.)
One gets the impression that Mr. D'Onofrio and his producing partners simply liked this indie band's style, but then went and made the odd decision to simply wrap a very generic movie around the kids. Directorially he doesn't do anyone any favors: scenes run endlessly long, even considering the 83-minute running time; the ostensible "horror stuff" does offer a brief respite from the endless blather the ninnies keep throwing at the screen, but there's little in the way of actual scares, suspense, craftiness, or creativity. And it's not like a slasher movie needs "relatable" characters to succeed, but rare is a body count movie this overstuffed with selfish, whining, unpleasant wankers.
By the time Don't Go in the Woods offers its best pair of songs and a mildly amusing final scene, you'll probably be too frustrated with the whole aimless affair to take much notice. The novelty of the movie's overt weirdness only lasts so long, and then it's sort of a tiresome slog to the finale. Kudos to the indie producers who dared to try a combo as wacky as "slasher + musical," but the final result is a film that will probably dissuade any other filmmakers from trying it.