Director: Lawrence D. Foldes
Dark Sky Films/MPI

Scholars of really, really bad movies take note! PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE, ROBOT MONSTER and MANOS THE HAND OF FATE have nothing on a little wonder known as DON’T GO NEAR THE PARK. Shot in California (mostly in scenic Griffin Park, which embodies the famous Bronson Caves) reportedly for over $100,000 (though it looks like it cost a fourth of that), the film’s director was barely 20 years old at the time, and it’s a confusing slapdash of science fiction, fantasy and horror ingredients gone wild in what resembles the most amateurish student film. One of the titles banned in the U.K. on the infamous “Video Nasty” roster, this is 80-something brain-numbing minutes that will have you in mesmerized bewilderment from beginning to end.

Opening with such boastful screen notices as "This film is fiction, though it is based on actual occurrences which happened over the centuries," DON’T GO IN THE PARK unwinds the tale of two tribe people named Gar and Tre (Crackers Phinn and Barbara Monker, two actors hiding under ridiculous pseudonyms for sure) residing in a cave some 12,000 years ago. Because of their cannibalistic and incestuous ways, the hag-like matriarch of their tribe warns them that they will never die, physically aging ten years for every year of their life, so in order to appear youthful and continue to exist, they tear open the stomachs of defenseless victims and feed on their squishy innards. Move forward to the 20th Century, and Gar (now going under Mark) is still alive in a California park eating fresh intestines, and decides to go find a wife to have a child in order to sacrifice at age 16, in order to end his blood-thirsting curse. In a swift series of surreal events, Gar walks into the home of a young blonde (scream queen Linnea Quigley in an early role), takes up residence there, mesmerizes her into marrying him, and they conceive a baby girl who eventually grows into the 16-year-old Bondi (Tamara “Tammy” Taylor). Due to the fighting between Gar and the mom, who is jealous of the attention he gives her, Bondi runs away from home on her 16th birthday and is saved from being inside a crashing van filled with girl molesting pot-smoking perverts (two of which are played by the director and the screenwriter) with the help of an ancient amulet, given to her by dad. Bondi eventually takes refuge at a ranch run by the other ancient cannibal Tre (who now resembles a trick-or-treating witch with an eyepatch) and befriends a crazy-haired kid named Nick (Meeno Peluce from the original AMYTIVILLE HORROR and the short-lived “Voyagers” series) and a teenager called Cowboy (Chris Riley) who becomes her boyfriend. Further nonsense ensues until the climatic showdown in a cave between Bondi, the agent tribe couple and their victims who arise as heavily made up zombies. Flabby screen veteran Aldo Ray bursts through a barricade of phony boulders to save the day!

If that plot doesn't make any sense to you, it’s not surprising since DON’T GO IN THE PARK is all over the place and far more complex plotwise than a cheapo effort like this can possibly sustain. If you can picture cave people in dime store Halloween face paint and fabric store furs, hammy acting where cast members talk over each other, hokey nightmare sequences, rubbery gore effects of the BLOOD FEAST variety, erratic editing, overbearing library music that plays during even the most mundane scenes, you’ll understand what makes this one of the best of worst or worst of the worst. Top-billed Aldo Ray is in the film for a matter of minutes as nice guy reporter who helps the wayward kids, and this was made at the time of his string of bottom-of-the-barrel efforts (for those of you starving for more Ray on DVD, Dark Sky will be unleashing THE GLOVE in the near future). Rotted corpses and coffins were made by the late great Robert A. Burns, but nothing here looks as convincing as what he created for THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Filmed in 1979, DON’T GO IN THE PARK was originally called SANCTUARY OF EVIL, but obviously the title was changed to cash in on slasher case of the early 1980s (“Curse of the Living Dead” and "Nightstalker" were later alternative titles).

Dark Sky’s DVD of DON’T GO IN THE PARK proves how good low budget films can look when transferred properly. Letterboxed at 1.85:1 with anamorphic enhancement, the image is very sharp, and colors are rather vibrant and outstanding. The black level is good as well, with some minor digital artifacting during several dark scenes. The mono audio is also crisp and clean. Optional English subtitles are also included.

This full-fledged “Special Edition” includes an entertaining commentary with director Lawrence D. Foldes and star Linnea Quigley, moderated by David Gregory. Having raised the money for this after producing MALIBU HIGH for Crown International, Foldes dominates the commentary and has a lot to say, looking at this film as “skeleton in the closet” in terms of his career, but appreciating the following it endures. Quigley tells an amusing anecdote about throwing up before the premiere screening, being a nervous young actress at the time. Aldo Ray’s professionalism behind the cameras despite his alcoholism, as well as being blackballed by Hollywood for appearing in what came to be SWEET SAVAGE, is also addressed. A section of extended and deleted scenes are also included, and are for the most part integrated back into the actual scenes they were removed from. Included here is more gore, more nudity (including a full-frontal shot of Linnea), more characterization, and flashbacks not seen in the feature. One eye-popping sequence excised from the feature has Bondi and Cowboy making love in a wooden bath to the mellow sounds of a James Taylor wannabe! There’s another short segment of gore outtakes without sound that display longer takes of Burns’ ghoulish creations, as well as more spurts of the red stuff. Also included is a still gallery, a TV spot and two trailers (one with Spanish subtitles). Judgint from the trailers, the advertising campaign really tried to promote it as some sort of zombie gut-munching epic! (George R. Reis)