Summertime is around the corner. That means it’s time for beaches and camping. Of course, if you’re a horror fan, summer means summer campground horror. From Friday the 13th to The Burning to Sleepaway Camp, camping doesn’t just mean archery, poison ivy, and naughty counselors. Released earlier this year, nostalgic 80s throwback She Came From the Woods just arrived on free streaming platform, Tubi. From director Erik Bloomquist (Night at the Eagle Inn), She Came From the Woods brings horror fans back to the last day of summer camp in 80s fashion. Though it may not reach the same heights as come of the movies it fondly recalls, critics seem generally impressed with the results.
It’s the last day of the summer of 1987 at Camp Briarbrook and all the kids are on their way. For the counselors, it’s one more night with the camp to themselves to party and make out. But when one counselor shares a local urban legend and leads his friends in a mock ritual, they unknowingly awaken a decades-old evil. Some legends are real – and this one refuses to stay buried.
She Came From the Woods Doesn’t Allow Nostalgia To Take Over Its Own Story
If director Erik Bloomquist and his brother co-writer Carson Bloomquist get one thing right, it’s the balance between homage and delivering a fresh take on the familiar. From its opening scenes, She Came From the Woods looks and feels like an 80s campground slasher. After the introductions to the cast and character dynamics, the Bloomquist’s give us the familiar campfire ghost story that sets things in motion not unlike Madman. Still the story’s blending of slasher elements with the supernatural and bits of dark humor sets this one apart. Case in point, the movie’s first killing comes as a genuine surprise and Bloomquist’s execution serves to elevate the shock value.
Still the story’s blending of slasher elements with the supernatural and bits of dark humor sets this one apart.
Though there’s plenty of satisfying slasher gore, She Came From the Woods is never particularly scary or suspenseful. Bloomquist paces the action quite well, even with an expository monologue included at about the halfway point. If it’s not a scary, She Came From the Wood is a satisfying adventure of a horror movie. There’s also bits of stylistic flourishes here and there that further set this slasher hybrid apart. However, Bloomquist struggles occasionally with more action-oriented scenes, framing things too closely or editing too quickly. As a result, audiences may have trouble making out what’s happening in some scenes.
She Came From the Woods Has a Good Cast, But Missing a Compelling Villain
One area where She Came From the Woods stands out, particularly from other recent neo-slashers, is its attention to characters and the accompanying performances. At the heart of the story is the McCalister family – owners and counselors of Camp Briarbrook. Cara Buono (Stranger Things), Spencer List, and Tyler Elliot Burke join veteran character actor William Sadler (Demon Knight, VFW) as the McCalister’s. Expect some surprises with who lives and who dies. Adam Weppler’s performance as one of the most despicable camp counselors in recent memory will certainly have you cheering on his potential death. And horror fans will recognize Clare Foley (The Changed) from Sinister and the CW Gotham series.
Expect some surprises with who lives and who dies.
What’s missing from She Came From the Woods is a really convincing villain to go along with the supernatural slasher fun. Too much of what we know about the ‘witch’ is told to us rather than shown on the screen. At least Bloomquist adopts a unique way of relaying the decades-old history of the movie’s villain. But our antagonist doesn’t really show up to the final scenes and plays a very small role in what transpires. That lack of presence for so much of the movie likely undercut some of the suspense. With very little humor in this horror comedy, She Came From the Woods leaves some potential on the table.
She Came From the Woods a Fun Return to 80s Camping Slashers
Maybe not everything works in She Came From the Woods. Horror fans will be right in pointing out that the title witch hardly factors into things. And the Bloomquists’ plotting, particularly the rules governing their resurrected baddie, aren’t always clear or consistent. Nonetheless, this mix of 80s slasher, supernatural horror, and bits of comedy gets most things right. Decent blood and gore, a likeable cast, and a handful of surprises ensure this homage to summer camp horror movies doesn’t get stuck in nostalgia. Bottom-line, 80s horror fans should feel free to add She Came From the Woods to their summer viewing list.