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Don’t Go Near The Park (1981)

Directed by Lawrence D. Folks
Dark Sky Films DVD

THE FILM
I first read about Don’t Go Near The Park in The Deep Red Horror Handbook back in the summer of ’90. There was an article in it called “The Unwatchables”. I don’t remember the author’s name (It was Mr. Greg Goodsell — J.Z.). My copy fell to pieces about 5 years ago. The fellow wrote in-depth about some of the oddest, most damaged movies he’d ever seen. One of these films was Don’t Go Near The Park. After several years of hunting, I found a VHS copy under the title Nightstalker (Thrillervideo) and the film entered the realm of my cracked and warped favorites. It has never left.

Don’t Go Near the Park is an over-complicated, mighty strange, rather incompetent, gory/sleazy (gleazy?) little number that looked like an After School Special. It follows the shenanigans two 12,000-year-old cannibals have to go through to achieve eternal life. I’d always felt like it was one of those films that slipped in from another universe and wound up on my doorstep.

This is one of those films where every scene has a little something special in it. Whether it’s a ripe bit of acting, a nutty effect, some really odd storytelling techniques or…well, anything…this film has it. An 8-year-old feeling up a 16-year-old. Yes. A scene where the lead actress is groped by the director and writer in the back of a van. There it is. (Although, I had always imagined the mustachioed groper was the director. He’s not. Thank Goodness.) Aldo Ray belching in between lines. Yeah. The DVD only adds to the thrill. There are certain things (like the old age makeup) that really reveal their special nature in the digital realm. And, the sleaze factor is knocked up a bit by the fact the film looks decent now. All the filthy bits shine that much brighter when they look so commonplace.

If the film grabbed you in the past, well, prepare to be grabbed again. Harder. If you want to spend an evening with a real strange one, thank Dark Sky. They’ve done a great job.

The DVD does do that thing that all the Special Editions do. Did you once think that Werewolves on Wheels couldn’t be accounted for under normal human behavior? Well, you won’t think that after the commentary. H.G. Lewis films? Made by a group of nuthouse inmates? Nope. He’s an intelligent, well-spoken man out to make a buck. On the flipside, I would love a Last Slumber Party commentary. But, I’m glad the DVD didn’t have one. The film looks better but is still made by madmen.

In the commentary, L.D. Foldes mentions that they were just making a low budget horror film. There is no hidden subtext or anything else going on. Well, possibly. But, a film is not a shoe. Once it is released onto screens (or wherever), it becomes more than its function. The viewer is free to interpret as they choose. That’s what makes these films so watchable. That’s why we love these films so much.

AUDIO AND VIDEO
Sounds fine. Stronger than the old VHS. The movie looks great with a real 70s TV look. Some scenes are a little too dark. But, the VHS was too dark as well (except when it was washed out). The dark scenes kind of occur towards the climax in the cave so you may need to pay close attention to catch everything that’s going on. The letterboxing gives some nice balance to the picture and relieves some of that “Look How Much of the Screen Our Faces Take Up” thing that happens with pan & scan. I did notice that on a couple of occasions some interesting info does vanish with the new aspect ratio. The first time I noticed it was in the aftermath of the first cannibal scene. Tra is yelling at Gar (although, I may have that backwards) with the corpse of the fishing boy between them. On the DVD, the lower bar cuts off the corpse’s head. On the VHS, you see the eyeless corpse. You win some…

EXTRAS
Well, there’s that commentary I mentioned. It’s a good one. Linnea Quigley tells some good stories. L.D. Foldes, director and non-mustache wearing co-writer, lets out a truckload of information, filling in a ton of little gaps and giving the film its context. I found it very interesting but, also, I found that I didn’t always want the context. I liked not knowing every little thing about the movie. If you feel this way, maybe you’d be better off having someone listen to it and then give you some highlights.

The deleted scenes are nice and add some extra gore and sleaze (the shower scene) for the kids. There are some fun previews and a decent photo gallery.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Great movie. One of the true weird ones. Strange and compelling and occasionally incredibly stupid. Just keep in mind: The extras will bring it down to earth. If that’s what you want, go for it. But, there are some films that put you in a different place. This is one of them. Ignore the extras and just watch the movie if you want to stay in that world. The DVD’s excellent presentation of the film itself makes it a breeze. A sleazy breeze. (A Sleeze?)