[Review] 'What Happens In The Woods' Tells The Twisted Tale Of The Decade's Most Infamous Indie Film

Updated: Mar 6

What's in a name? A project can thrive or shrivel based on what it's called. With Don’t Fuck in the Woods, this rule proved to define the project as a whole. Were it not for the provocative title, it may never have made the blip on the horror radar that it did. But because of that title, evoking the old horror trope of sex equals death, and that lovely four-letter word, Shawn Burkett’s 2017 passion project turned the horror world on its ear. It would turn out, though, that the controversy stretched beyond the infamous title of the film.

Nipping at the heels of the impending sequel, What Happens in the Woods tells the full story, the forest beyond the trees, so to speak. Writer/director Shawn Burkett tells us why he called his movie Don’t Fuck in the Woods, while other key people in the production of the project talk about the making of the film, the struggles with budgeting, and some of the personal problems that arose during the crafting of this would-be video nasty.

At first, the idea of a studio creating a making-of documentary that eclipses its source content in length comes off as pretentious. By the end of What Happens in the Woods, though, you may walk away with that sense of "getting it," that sense of understanding why this film is the big effing deal it has become. Conversations about marketing go beyond the film’s title, and the greater effects of piracy on the art of filmmaking are covered in such a way that, even with the film’s rise to cult status, make one want to actually acquire the film through proper channels, rather than just tracking it down on a shady website.

Those who have yet to see Don’t Fuck in the Woods may be wondering if all of this hype is deserved. The short answer is abso-fucking-lutely. With its extensive use of practical effects, right down to the monster itself being an actual dude in an actual costume and not a CG creation, to the winks and nudges to seasoned horror fans on tropes and trademarks of the genre, this film is worth the watch. Come for the solid construction and practical effects, stay for the lesson in marketing and the sheer volume of madness that goes into making an independent horror film from the ground up. And no, I will not close out this paragraph without mentioning that we have a canon lesbian for a final girl, because fuck yes, representation.

Whether or not Don’t Fuck in the Woods got big for the right reasons or not is to be debated elsewhere. Fact is, this film has become important for several reasons, which I’ve named above. If you are one of the disillusioned about independent directors and their projects, give Don’t Fuck in the Woods and its companion documentary a watch, then come back and apologize for what you’ve done. No one could have expected this project to take off quite like it did, but maybe it is for the best.

Both Don't Fuck in the Woods and What Happens in the Woods are available for purchase from Concept Media Films.


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