An entertaining homage to 80s slashers, “She Came From the Woods” is best enjoyed with friends and a fun game of ‘guess the genre reference’.
Taking its cues from every successful (and some unsuccessful) genre release from the 80s, She Came From The Woods from writer/director Erik Bloomquist (co-written by Carson Bloomquist) is a familiar but enjoyable tale that doesn’t expect an awful lot from you except to sit, grab your favorite beverage and snack of choice, and switch off for the next 100 or so minutes.
There is a typically dark introduction to the character in the pre-credits section as a young girl is menaced by a figure unseen.
We then segue into the summer of 1987 to a family-run junior camp, Camp Briarbrook, populated with recognizable character tropes. There is the dependable older sibling and the younger, irresponsible one, plus assorted camp staff who range from aggressive to sensitive. This seems to give us a set of characters that would not be out of place in your typical Friday the 13th or similar slasher.
It’s the final night of camp, and the youngest brother, Peter (Spencer List), decides to get the staff together for a farewell bonfire and the requisite ghost story, where he regals them with tales of the disgraced Nurse Agatha, who met a tragic ending a few decades earlier at Camp Briarbrook.
As the story goes, a group of young campers recited an invocation on the night of Agatha’s death, which Peter encourages the counselors to chant along with him. Rumor has it that repeating the invocation could bring back the spirit of Agatha (a la Bloody Mary), but it never works, of course — likely just an urban legend used to scare kids. However, Peter assures the group that he’s discovered the missing ingredient needed to lure the vengeful spirit: blood.
A little injury, through a simple needle prick, should give Agatha the incentive to return and “heal” them.
As horror fans, we know this will inevitably go horribly wrong.
And it does, as the spirit of Agatha starts to take over, leading to the gnarly death of a couple of counselors.
Meanwhile, the older brother, Shaun (Tyler Elliot Burke), manages to break down on a bus with the entire cohort of young campers, who mysteriously disappear while Shaun checks under the hood.
Back at the camp, Peter and Shaun’s mom, Heather (Cara Buono) calls the cops. While they wait for help to arrive, Heather recounts her time as a young girl at Camp Briarbrook, where she experienced the cruelty of Nurse Agatha firsthand, as well as Agatha’s death and the disturbing ritual that followed.
Officer Jerry (Michael Park), an old friend of Heather’s, responds to the call. But when he learns the counselors brought back Agatha, he quickly flees and leaves them defenseless.
The missing kids return, and it’s clear they are under Agatha’s evil influence. Then one of the counselors, Dylan (producer Adam Weppler), goes from an unlikable dirtbag to a grade-A asshole, which comes as no surprise.
This leads us to the main body of exposition, where we learn exactly what happened at the camp 20 years earlier, as explained by Heather’s dad, Gilbert (William Sadler).
Formulating a plan for the final encounter, the remaining counselors make their way to find Agatha and end the curse once and for all.
First off, She Came From the Woods is honestly quite fun.
With its infectious choice of background music (Kim Wilde, get in!) to having camp counselors who look a little too mature, this is not a film intent on delivering high art. And that’s more than ok.
It recognizes it’s not here to win awards but to win over the hearts of horror nerds. It won’t become a modern masterpiece, but it may just earn its way to cult status and a featured spot in an all-night horror-thon.
Each of the players attacks the parts with gusto. There is plenty of blood, and the initial setup quickly gives way to the main action. It also does a fine job of subverting some familiar tropes.
While the pacing is excellent for most of the film, it could have benefited from a bit of trimming during the middle section; we do lose some of the plot’s momentum during the lengthy bout of exposition.
Unfortunately, after a compelling build-up, the film limps to its anti-climactic conclusion. That’s a real shame, as it could have finished on a high note, which would have taken this from good to great.
However, the film succeeds more than it fails.
It’s well shot, it sounds good, the gore is solid, and the performances really raise it above the average direct-to-video type fare.
Also, She Came From The Woods would make for a wickedly fun movie night with friends once it lands on VOD.
I encourage you to play a game of Horror Bingo and see who can recognize the most references to other genre classics. You can also turn it into a drinking game. But be warned, that could get dangerous!
Ultimately, it’s not hard to overlook this film’s shortcomings and have a great time with it.
She Came From The Woods received a limited theatrical release in early February, and no news of its digital release has been shared. But keep an eye out for this one and carve out a little time for some old-school slasher fun.