Don’t Go Near the Park (AKA Nightstalker)(1979)
First Released: 1983
Director: Lawrence David Foldes
Current UK Status: Passed 18 uncut
Don’t Go Near the Park was first released in the UK by Home Video Productions in 1983, but fell foul of the Video Nasty scare in November. In July 1985, it was quite rightly removed from the list, although not much was seen of it until 2006 when the Anchor Bay DVD release was granted an 18 certificate with no cuts.
Very little is known about director Lawrence David Foldes, and between 1979 and 2003, he only wrote and directed six films. Don’t Go Near the Park was his first film, which he both wrote, produced and directed. Over the next thirteen years he made a further five films, most of which he wrote himself, but none ever made much of an impact. His films include The Great Skycopter Rescue (1980), Young Warriors (1983), Nightforce (1987), Prima Donnas (1995) and Finding Home (2003). Foldes never returned to horror after his debut, and instead made three sleazy action films, followed by a comedy (Prima Donnas) and finally a romantic drama (Finding Home). Judging by the insanity on offer in Don’t Go Near the Park, maybe the director aimed too high too soon, and found horror to be a tough choice of genre? Whatever the reason, his one and only horror is Don’t Go Near the Park, great fun but a complete mess of a film.
The film opens as strangely as it finishes: we get the impression we are in for a horror treat when out of nowhere the film turns all sci-fi on us as we go back in time to see lead characters Tra (Barbara Bain) and Gar (Crackers Phinn) in full on cavemen outfits being told off by their awfully loud Mother. Turns out they have been naughty, and Mother intends to punish them by damning them to an eternity of life as old people. The only thing that will keep them young is human blood, intestines to be exact, and the only way to break the curse is to have a daughter of their own, and when she reaches the age of sixteen, they can ritually kill her and bugger off to Heaven (or so they think). Now, as the Mother tells them of their curse, about two minutes in, we get a good indicator at just how bad this film is. She bellows her warnings as if speaking through a megaphone: her voice echoes and bellows, and seeing her kids looking scared by the curse has me believe that they were actually in pain because the old battle axe is so loud. The echoes distort her voice, and if you can figure out just what the hell she is saying then you be lucky!
Now, as we move on Tra explains, rather angrily, to Gar that she wants eternal life. I am assuming she means going to Heaven as the greedy old bag has already been on Earth for some ten thousand years, but this is just one of the many scripting errors, plot twists or just stuff in general which goes hideously wrong here. What we quickly learn is just how these two cursed old people will stay young, if only temporarily, and the first kill we see early on is actually quite cool. Gar grabs a youngster and rips their stomach open in broad daylight in the woods, and we witness as he tears open the stomach to remove the intestines. The effects, for their time, are actually quite good, the problem is the actor playing the dead person. A dead person doesn’t breath, and their eyes certainly do not flicker now, do they! However, it is all part of the fun of this ludicrous film.
We also learn, as Tra gets her victim, just how the intestines make them young again. Tra’ victim is found in a much more clever way than simply just grabbing them from behind a bush. Tra decides to steal a girls dog, which leads to the girl (rather attractive I might add) looking for said dog. She calls his name, and what is that name I hear you ask? Fucking ‘Starshine’!! “Starshine, Starshine, come here boy! Starshine, oh Starshine!!” Man, seriously whoever came up with that name needs their intestines ripped out! Low and behold though, Tra gets what she needs, and in a truly dazzling display of special effects (being sarcastic here) Tra sits still, completely still, for about ten minutes as she becomes younger. Different shots of the actress with different make-up and hair are added, one at a time as her figure changes. It might have worked had it been speeded up a bit!
Anyway, the film takes a turn for the more bizarre as for some unknown reason Tra and Gar (now called Patty and Mark) split up. Patty ends up on a rundown old ranch on the edge of the woods, while Mark’s journey takes him to renting a room from a gorgeous blond. He turns up at her door, starring with serial killer eyes, barely saying a word, and she asks “oh, you must be here for the room”, and in he goes, slams the door and never comes out. I think a quick call to the police is in order, but no this silly blond has other ideas. “I am going to sneak into his room while he is out, see what he is up to, and when he returns and catches me we will stare at each other for five long minutes while the camera switches between us, getting closer and closer to our faces. Then I will strip for this complete stranger” And she does, and in the blink of an eye they are married, and have a daughter! The narrative and timing of this film is all over the place!
As if by magic, Mark’s now sixteen year old daughter leaves home to escape her arguing parents and end up the victim of an attempted rape. While the scene is quite nasty, it is hard to get past the fact the actors are so incredibly bad. They scream and bellow gibberish as they tear open her shirt, and continue to tear open her shirt. Incidentally, one of these men is the director himself! Begging “Daddy help me”, Bondi (the sexy Tammy Taylor) clutches her giant pendant given to her on her sixteenth birthday, and for reasons unknown it glows and causes the van to take control, and crash itself. There is no explanation, it is yet another barmy idea you just have to accept. There is very little explanation going on here, and believe it or not, things are about to get even weirder.
Bondi ends up on the ranch where Tra, sorry, Patty, lives with two runaways: a young man, and a perverted, potty mouthed little boy who is the highlight of the film. In fact, his acting is better than anyone’s, and I challenge you not to laugh when he is either copping a feel of Bondi’s assets while she sleeps, or spits out swear words as if his life depended on it. Nothing is ever really explained about why they are there, but an investigative journalist seems to have some answers. However, as he explains the story to another young boy who looks almost identical to the perverted potty mouth, it is doubtful by this point that you will really care. Bondi has a bizarre dream where she is falling in darkness, after opening up coffins to reveal the people she is living with to be undead, you begin to wonder just how much weirder this film will actually get. The dream is a 100% WTF moment, and as the film quickly loses its narrative, there is even more to come!
Mark, the Father, has been absent for about half the film now, but returns in a truly horrendous and insane ending that really has to be seen to be believed. We have seen cannibals, cavemen, attempted rape, power from a pendant, dodgy tenants, people changing from old to young, and to finish it all off we now get… wait for it… Zombies!!! Yes, as the ritual to clear their curse begins, the dead awake, and yet even more hilarious is that as this ritual area begins to collapse, Mark and Patty not only begin to transform (time for the awful standing still nonsense again!), but guess what they can do now: shoot fucking laser beams from their eyes, big bright blue laser beams and if you have not given up hope yet, you will now! Laser beams!! Oh god it is so ridiculous you just have to laugh, you have to, there is simply no other alternative, laugh, laugh out loud and hopefully it will cure the pain of what is a complete mess of a film. The dead awake, and suddenly they begin ripping each other and the two cursed leads apart in a dazzling display of complete nonsense, complete with the same recording of zombie noises played on a loop.
Don’t Go Near The Park clearly wanted to be everything and anything in horror, and while you have to admire the directors spirit and determination, the film simply ran away from him. He forgot to tell his cast to actually act, the soundtrack is hideous and the pacing and plot are just all over the place. A final money shot is the icing on the cake on this silly film, but it is a good way to finish. You simply could not end on a serious note because it wouldn’t sit right. I am not sure that this film was intended as a comedy, but for the most part it is. Daft, over the top and, dare I say it, a hell of a lot of fun in places. Tammy Taylor is very pleasing on the eye too, so even if you are struggling to get through the many drawn out boring bits, at least there is some eye candy to see us through it. There is very little gore to speak of, and in fact it is only really the stomach ripping which actually may have upset viewers back in those days. I can’t say I would recommend this, but I would say that if you are a fan of the Video Nasty craze, then it is definitely one to watch.
Should Don’t Go Near the Park deserve to be on the Video Nasties list? Oh hell no, it is far too over the top and insanely stupid to ever be taken seriously, let alone cause offence!