DNDF: Sylvan Terror

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

DNDF: Sylvan Terror

Sylvan or silvan refers to an association with the woodland.  Specifically, that which inhabits the wood, is made of tree materials, or comprises the forest itself.  The term can also refer to a person who resides in the woods or a spirit of the wood.  In mythology, the term also refers to deities or spirits of the woods.

The term in English is from the Latin silva meaning "forest, woods."  This root is found in place names in Canada such as Sylvan Lake (as in wooded lake) in Alberta, Sylvan Valley Regional Park Reserve in Saskatchewan, and in the United States like Pennsylvania (lit. "Penn's woods") and Spotsylvania.  The first names Sylvester and Sylva(i)n, and the female name Sylvia/Silvia, are also from the Latin word.

Don't Go in the Woods (1981)

  • Genre: Horror
  • Directed: James Bryan
  • Produced:
    • James Bryan 
    • Roberto Gomez 
    • Suzette Gomez 
    • William Stockdale
  • Written: Garth Eliassen
  • Starring: Jack McClelland, Mary Gail Artz, James P. Hayden, Angie Brown, Ken Carter, David Barth, Larry Roupe, Amy Martell, Tom Drury, Laura Trefts
  • Music: H. Kingsley Thurber
  • Cinematography: Hank Zinman
  • Editing: Unknown
  • Studio: JBF
  • Distributed: Seymour Borde & Associates
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: September 1981 (USA)
  • Running Time: 82 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

As something kills a hysterical woman, and a bird watcher, four friends (Peter, Joanne, Ingrid, and Craig) trek through the wilderness.  A tourist is thrown over a waterfall (landing near some oblivious frolickers) and his mother is wounded, and dragged away.  The four backpackers set up camp for the night, and elsewhere a pair of honeymooners are attacked in their van, and murdered.  The next day, the two couples continue their hike, while an artist is stabbed to death, and her young daughter is taken.

Two more campers are butchered, and while off on his own, Peter witnesses a fisherman be murdered by the killer, a spear-wielding wild man adorned in furs and rags.  Peter rushes off to warn his friends, who the maniac gets to first, spearing Craig, and sending Joanne fleeing into the woods.  Peter finds Ingrid, and after the two stumble upon the wild man's cabin, they accidentally attack another hiker, thinking he was the savage.  The killer finishes off the hiker, and wounds Ingrid, but she and Peter escape, and eventually reach civilization, and alert the authorities to the backwoods psychopath.

Irrational due to guilt over leaving Joanne behind, Peter escapes from the hospital he and Ingrid are brought to, and returns to the woods to look for her.  Joanne finds a campsite containing a dead body, then the cabin, where the killer hacks her to death with a machete.  A posse (which includes Ingrid) is formed to take out maniac, and look for Peter and Joanne.  The sheriff finds the cabin, where he uncovers Joanne's body, which Peter sees, leaving him even more distraught.

By nightfall, the wild man claims another victim (a man in a wheelchair who is decapitated) and Ingrid steals a machete, and goes off on her own to look for Peter.  In the morning, Peter and Ingrid find each other, and the savage, who they stab to death in a frenzy, only stopping when they notice the search party staring at them in shock.  As everyone clears out of the forest, the baby that was taken from the artist is shown alone in the wilderness, playing with a hatchet.

AllRovi panned the film, writing, "This splatter hack-job was forged during the slasher gold rush of the early '80s, and though it's inept enough to inspire guffaws for those who find ineptness amusing, there's nothing to recommend for connoisseurs of horror".  Don't Go in the Woods was also lambasted by DVD Verdict, which stated "Aside from one nasty bit with a bear trap and a sequence toward the end that faintly—and accidentally, believe me—recalls The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in its slow, dread-saturated buildup, director James Bryan's splatter film is an incoherent mess.  An endless parade of victims keeps the fake blood squirting, but the murder sequences are so poorly staged that it's usually impossible to tell precisely what's happening.  The most frightening thing about this alleged horror film, aside from its bad synthesizer soundtrack, is its pacing.  Murder sequences are clumped together throughout the film, leaving a lot of flab in between".

A one and a half out of five was given by DVD Talk, which said the film suffered from "mismatched shots, wooden acting (if it can even be called that), atrocious dialogue, questionable special effects, continuity problems, and a general air of arrested artistic development" and "In fact, it's not even bad enough to be funny.  It's just a crappy little horror film, made on a shoestring budget, with people who really showed some grit in getting it done.  That's fine, and more power to those people.  But that doesn't make it good".

In the 1980s, the film was deemed as a video nasty in the United Kingdom, and subsequently banned by issuance of the Video Recordings Act.  Aside from an early rare video release, it was not available for rent or sale since then in the UK until 2007 when it was released uncut on DVD with a 15 certificate.  It was classified as R18 in New Zealand for its violence.

The Wendigo (also known as windigo, weendigo, windago, waindigo, windiga, witiko, wihtikow, and numerous other variants including manaha) is a demonic half-beast creature appearing in the legends of the Algonquian peoples along the Atlantic Coast and Great Lakes Region of both the United States and Canada.  The creature or spirit could either possess humans or be a monster that had physically transformed from a person.  It is particularly associated with cannibalism.  The Algonquian believed those who indulged in eating human flesh were at particular risk; the legend appears to have reinforced the practice of cannibalism as a taboo.  It is often described in Algonquian mythology as a balance of nature.

The legend lends its name to the disputed modern medical term Wendigo Psychosis.  This is supposed to be a culture-bound disorder that features symptoms such as an intense craving for human flesh and a fear the sufferer is a cannibal.  This condition was alleged to have occurred among Algonquian native cultures, but remains disputed.  The Wendigo character now is a common creature found in modern horror fiction.


Wendigo (2001)

  • Genre: Horror – Mystery – Thriller
  • Directed: Larry Fessenden
  • Produced:
    • Jeffrey Kusama-Hinte 
    • Edward R. Pressman
  • Written: Larry Fessenden
  • Starring: Patricia Clarkson, Jake Weber, Erik Per Sullivan, John Speredakos, Christopher Wynkoop, Lloyd Oxendine, Brian Delate, Daniel Sherman, Jennifer Wiltsie, Maxx Stratton, Richard Stratton, Dash Stratton
  • Music: Michelle DiBucci
  • Cinematography: Terry Stacey
  • Editing: Larry Fessenden
  • Studio:
    • ContentFilm 
    • Antidote Films 
    • Glass Eye Pix
  • Distributed:
    • A-Film Home Entertainment  
    • Curb Entertainment  
    • Madman Entertainment  
    • Magnolia Pictures  
    • Media Cooperation One  
    • WE Productions
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: 23 January 2001 (USA)
  • Running Time: 91 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

George is a highly-strung professional photographer who is starting to unravel from the stress of his work with a Manhattan advertising agency.  Needing some time away from the city, George, his wife Kim, and their son Miles head to upstate New York to take in the winter sights, though the drive up is hardly relaxing for any of them.

George accidentally hits and severely injures a deer that ran onto the icy road.  After George stops to inspect the damage, he's confronted by an angry local named Otis who flies into a rage, telling George that he and his fellow hunters had been tracking the deer for some time.  An argument breaks out, which leaves George feeling deeply shaken.  When George and Kim arrive at their cabin, they discover that a dark and intimidating presence seems to have taken it over.

The next day, when they stop at a store in a town near the cabin, a shopkeeper tells Miles about the legend of the Wendigo, a deformed beast from Indian folklore who changes from a human to a hideous beast after engaging in cannibalism.  The Wendigo also has supernatural powers and can change its appearance at will.  The shopkeeper then gives him a small figurine of a Wendigo.  Shaken, Miles can't help but think the Wendigo has something to do with the dark forces at work in the woods near the cabin. 

Later that day, while sledding together, George suddenly falls to the ground, leaving Miles alone and lost in the woods.  Frightened, Miles approaches his dad when he is chased by the Wendigo and passes out.  He is awakened later by a frightened Kim, who went looking for her family once they didn't come home.  Kim and Miles begin a trek deep into the forest, until they end up at the house, where they find a bloody George crawling towards the car claiming Otis shot him.  Frantic, Kim and Miles put George in the car and drive to the nearest hospital.  It is revealed that George and Miles were sledding near a shooting range and Otis shot George in the liver with a high powered hunting rifle.  George undergoes emergency surgery and Miles walks into the hospital, and hallucinates that his father is being assaulted by the Wendigo, faints and awakens only to find that George has died. 

Otis is confronted by the local sheriff, but he kills the sheriff and drives away into the night, being stalked by the Wendigo until he crashes into a tree and runs away into the forest, eventually ending up on a road where he is hit by the sheriff deputy's squad car.  The movie ends with Otis being carted into the emergency room of the hospital, and being followed by the Indian shopkeeper while Miles watches it all, caressing the Wendigo figurine.


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