Stars: Cara Buono, Clare Foley, Spencer List, William Sadler, Michael Park, Tyler Elliot Burke, William Sadler, Adam Weppler | Written by Erik Bloomquist, Carson Bloomquist | Directed by Erik Bloomquist
A mysterious figure terrorises a camp full of teenagers in She Came From the Woods, a supernatural horror from director Erik Bloomquist, who also co-wrote the script with his brother, Carson Bloomquist. Creepy, suspenseful and suitably gory, it’s a genre-savvy throwback to the summer camp slasher genre.
Set in 1987 (so no pesky mobile phones), the film takes place during the last night of the summer holiday at Camp Briarbrook, run by kindly Gilbert McAlister (William Sadler) his adult daughter Heather (Cara Buono) and her two teenage sons, irresponsible Peter (Spencer List) and sensible Shawn (Tyler Elliot Burke).
When Peter persuades the other teen volunteers to perform a ghost story ritual (a ridiculously simple one – prick your finger and shout “Agatha!”), he unwittingly unleashes the vengeful figure of Nurse Agatha Good (Madeleine Dauer), a murderous former colleague of Gilbert’s. As Agatha’s body-count creeps ever higher, the McAlisters and the teens have to figure out how to defeat the supernatural menace before everyone dies.
The Bloomquists’ obvious affection for the summer camp slasher is immediately apparent, thanks to strong production design work, a distinct set of familiar characters (the practical good girl, the bully, the screw-up, etc) and a smartly chosen needle-drop or two, including an early outing for Kim Wilde’s Kids in America. Similarly, the plot feels refreshingly original for the genre – it even has significant franchise potential, complete with catchy repeat-the-word ritual, a la Candyman.
As for Agatha herself, the idea is that she manifests more fully with each kill, so it takes a while before we see her properly and the end result doesn’t disappoint. This also allows for a variety of creepy kills – the first one is essentially a stirring up of powerful emotions (with an unhealthy dose of toxic male entitlement thrown in), while a subsequent scene involves Agatha effectively possessing all the younger children at the camp and turning them into murderous little monsters.
As the above suggests, there is plenty of jet-black humour in the mix and Bloomquist keeps a strong hold on the tone throughout. Admittedly, She Came From the Woods is a little rough around the edges in places, but both the scares and the emotional moments land as intended.
The performances are solid across the board and the characters are each given enough depth so that you actually care whether they make it or not (spoiler alert – there’s a surprisingly high body count). The exception is Adam Weppler, who slightly overdoes it as over-compensating bully Dylan, like he’s wound up to 11 while everyone else is on 6. That said, he does get a rather splendid horror movie moment, which compensates for his excesses elsewhere.
However, the stand-out is the ever-reliable William Sadler, who lends the film some serious horror gravitas while effortlessly nailing his emotional exposition speech.
In short, She Came From the Woods is an engaging summer camp horror that delivers plenty of shocks and scares and should please fans of the subgenre. There’s also more than enough talent behind the camera to make the Bloomquists’ next movie an eagerly awaited project.
She Came From the Woods screened as part of this year’s Arrow Video London Frightfest. You can also check out our review of the short on which this film is based right here.