SHE CAME FROM THE WOODS movie poster | ©2023 Blue Finch Films Releasing

SHE CAME FROM THE WOODS movie poster | ©2023 Blue Finch Films Releasing

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Cara Buono, Clare Foley, Spencer List, Michael Park, William Sadler, Tyler Elliot Burke, Adam Weppler, Ehad Berisha, Giselle Torres, Dan Leahy, Sienna Hubert-Ross, Erik Bloomquist, Emily Keefe, Cory Asinofsky, Cody Boccia, Madeleine Dauer, Declan Foley, Coulter Ibanez, Tess Santarsiero
Writers: Erik Bloomquist & Carson Bloomquist
Director: Erik Bloomquist
Distributor: Blue Finch Films Releasing/Mainframe Pictures
Release Date: February 10, 2023

SHE CAME FROM THE WOODS is, refreshingly, a horror movie that doesn’t require the characters to wander around in states of idiocy, ignorance or denial in order to make the plot work. This already puts it ahead of the game in its well-populated subgenre of summer camp gone profoundly awry.

A little girl with giant bows in hair runs through woods at night, climbs up to where there are jars of blood hanging from trees, doesn’t seem bothered, then sees bloody razor blades, then sees someone standing over her and screams.

We eventually find out the who and why of this prologue, but first, we cut to camp counselor Ben (Dan Leahy) being shot with a rubber-tipped arrow. He tells the surrounding youngsters. “If you want to make the audience believe, you have to make the threat feel real.”

This primes us for a direction that SHE CAME FROM THE WOODS doesn’t take. It’s not all an elaborate prank, but rather, a supposed prank that, oops, turns out to be real.

It’s the last day of summer at Camp Briarbrook. We can tell it’s the ‘80s from the hairstyles and the soundtrack (a synopsis gives the year as 1987). The camp’s founder, Gilbert McAlister (a pitch-perfect William Sadler), runs the place with his adult daughter Heather (Cara Buono). Heather’s two sons, responsible Shawn (Tyler Elliot Burke) and irresponsible Peter (Spencer List) are among the counselors.

Peter was supposed to fix the engine on the bus meant to carry the preteen campers back to town. Instead, he’s busy with his girlfriend, fellow counselor Lauren (Clare Foley), and setting up a new angle on a ritual the counselors do every year once the youngsters have left.

Once the ritual is completed, it doesn’t take long for things to get bloody and crazy. While Peter at first doesn’t want to acknowledge it, the other counselors quickly realize that the twist on the ritual has invoked a supernatural menace.

Director Erik Bloomquist and his co-writer Carson Bloomquist marry a couple of different kinds of summer camp horror movies together. Most of us won’t successfully predict who will die first, or last, or who’s going to step up or freak out.

The exposition gets a bit heavy in the third act, but it’s delivered with a sense of deep emotion and works pretty well dramatically.

There are a few absurdist laughs in SHE CAME FROM THE WOODS, but it’s mostly played straight. The movie is both an homage to and an improvement on a lot of real ‘80s horror movies, done in similar style, but scripted with a bit more thought. It proves that you can have characters do sensible things like insist that nobody go off alone and check to see if corpses are really dead without derailing the storyline. There are scares, there is gore, and some clever twists as well. The ambitions here are modest, but they are mostly fulfilled and fulfilling.

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