She Came from the Woods Has Great Gory Effects, But Too Many Characters

Photo courtesy of Mainframe Pictures

Targeting 1980s supernatural slasher nostalgia, Erik Bloomquist’s She Came from the Woods is a love letter to the heyday of summer camp horror. Those campfire killers like Crystal Lake’s Jason Voorhies, Camp Blackfoot’s Cropsy, or Camp Arawak’s Angela are part of some of my favorites in the slasher subgenre (and go-to flicks for a night of movie watching on the projector in the summertime). Enter Briarbrook on the last day of the season. With the kids going home, the counselors prepare to partake in a party to celebrate, complete with the summoning of the camp’s original ghost story villain: Agatha. 


Poster for She Came from the Woods shows faces in the tree line and Agatha being summoned above a fire in the center
Image courtesy of Mainframe Pictures

At the heart and introduction of She Came from the Woods are the McCalister family that run Briarbook, Mom Heather (Stranger Things Cara Buono), her son Peter (Exploited’s Spencer List), his brother Shawn (Tulsa King’s Tyler Elliot Burke) and their grandfather Gilbert (The Mist’s William Sadler) who have their fair share of drama going on. Peter and Shawn have a tumultuous relationship where Peter is a little uninhibited and Shawn is an extremely reserved. It’s like the relationship between the Hackett brothers in the NBC series Wings, a reference no one born after 1997 will get or appreciate. There’s also the secret news that grandpa Gil is retiring and a secret Heather is hiding about the origins of the Agatha story.  

After the sun sets and the children are en route back to their parents, Peter decides to start the party, making the counselors (including Sinister’s Clare Foley, Reboot’s Dan Leahy, and Bloomquist himself) prick their fingers and ritually bleed, asking Agatha to come for them. Everyone buys into the camaraderie. It’s just nonsense, after all. Then things go sideways, and one counselor viciously attacks another before an unexplained phenomenon turns a bus full of kids into vicious little psychopaths. The body count rises, and so does a once-dead Agatha. 

No stranger to the genre, Bloomquist is the director behind Ten Minutes to Midnight and Night at the Eagle Inn, two pretty fun films for genre fans looking for an easy watch. She Came from the Woods fits Bloomquist’s usual style, yet this one feels less cohesive than his earlier films. In terms of scope, She Came from the Woods is a much larger sandbox with many more characters. Unlike his earlier films, She Came from the Woods uses multiple locations. Where Ten Minutes to Midnight took place in a radio station office, and A Night at the Eagle Inn… well, you can guess, the docks, the woods, a cornfield, and a few different camp buildings compounded with at least a dozen created personalities make the film more ambitious and complicated than Bloomquist’s previous efforts.  

Ben stands in a dark cabin in She Came from the Woods
Photo courtesy of Mainframe Pictures

Despite a few CGI moments, the film is at its best when it’s showing off its joyously-magnificent practical special effects. The on-screen gore is why She Came from the Woods is easy to keep watching. Though it presents a winning premise with a setup catered to irreverent humor and situations suited to throw meta shade at the genre, She Came from the Woods plays it mostly straight. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and it may work for some audiences who get really into it. But, if you’re like me, you were billed a horror-comedy experience, and the film substantially lacks laughs.  

Several moments in the early portion of She Came from the Woods had me rolling my eyes, especially regarding the male characters. The film is set in 1987, and some language and situations reflect that era. Still, outside of Dan Leahy’s character, Ben, every male was notably penned with an aggression scale surpassing most attendees of anger management classes. It’s especially abhorrent and noticeable in how they talk to and about women. Maybe Bloomquist is riffing on that era of film, which featured tough guy Lotharios getting girls. Even Agatha’s backstory is born from one man’s actions that she’s seemingly revenging. The trouble is that, if it is the case, it isn’t made specifically clear, and Agatha’s victims aren’t always men. 

Despite these gripes, She Came from the Woods has its moments. There are a couple of well-timed jump scares, plus a genuinely sinister moment with the kids on the bus. The imagery of a tree with mason jars full of blood hanging like ornaments is an exceptionally fascinating sight. William Sadler is also a highlight in this or any film, but his limited, almost legacy-style character is sadly a scene-stealing scarcity in the film. Finally, the film’s finale is a lot of fun. There are references to Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street thrown into the film. Even the poster looks a little like the Scream V poster, and the look of the movie is tonally similar to Fear Street: 1978. However, for me, She Came from the Woods misses the mark.  

a girl lies on a stretcher bleeding from her head and mouth in She Came from the Woods
Photo courtesy of Mainframe Pictures

Maybe I expected too much going into the film, the trailer is cut very well, and I was more than a little excited to watch it. Having enjoyed Night at the Eagle Inn, I was happy to see Bloomquist’s name attached here. However, I found myself adrift rather quickly into the film because many of the characters were unlikeable, and there are so many that we’re meant to care about right away. I get that you need to have victims in a slasher movie, but I feel like I could write a dating profile for every character in the film. That isn’t to say that the cast doesn’t do a suitable job with the material. The cast is young and hip and crushing it. But the onslaught of names, faces, and plights elongates the exposition and steals momentum from the one-hundred-and-one-minute film. 

Ultimately, She Came from the Woods is fine. It’s an on-par, middle-of-the-road experience aligned with the consensus of watchers of other Bloomquist movies. The frustrating thing about that is that Bloomquist has a lot of talent. It isn’t difficult to see why he made the Project Greenlight top 200. His films have heart and produce excitement, especially when he makes films in the genre. You can see pieces of his creativity in every film he’s made. Yet, after directing five films since 2020, Erik lives like a man possessed by working, leading me to wonder if he’s building up to a breakout passion project or falling into the trappings of the B-movie kings, where we can soon expect a cult movie a month. Though the latter could be fun, I hope for the former.  

She Came from the Woods hits theaters on February 10.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Written by Sean Parker

Living just outside of Boston, Sean has always been facinated by what horror can tell us about contemporary society. He started writing music reviews for a local newspaper in his twenties and found a love for the art of thematic and symbolic analysis. Sean joined Horror Obsessive at it's inception, and is currently the site's Creative Director. He produces and edits the weekly Horror Obsessive podcast for the site as well as his interviews with guests. He has recently started his foray into feature film production as well, his credits include Alice Maio Mackay's Bad Girl Boogey, Michelle Iannantuono's Livescreamers, and Ricky Glore's upcoming Troma picture, Sweet Meats.

Brother, Father, and Mother pray at the dining table in Daughter

Daughter Picks Apart Traditional Family Roles

A girl looking intense

The Park Trailer Riffs on Lord of the Flies