She Came from the Woods is Clearance-Worthy Crap Courtesy of Tubi Originals Horror Movie Review by Bob Freville
In 1987 on the last night of summer camp, a group of counselors accidentally unleashes a decades-old evil. As the situation turns bloody, they’re forced to decide what stories are worth telling and what secrets are worth keeping.
Director: Erik Bloomquist
Release Date: June 10, 2023 (only on Tubi)
She Came from the Woods is one of those movies that thinks it knows everything horror fans want because it’s spent time at a Party City around Halloween and, maybe, saw a few 80s slashers after Stranger Things made the Age of Excess cool again. Everything about this flick is corny, cliché, and predictable down to the throwback soundtrack that doesn’t even try for subtelty. “The Kids in America?” Really?
The dough-faced cast couldn’t look less period-appropriate if the filmmakers had tried. Even the always-welcome William Sadler (Bill & Ted Face the Music; VFW) can’t save this pile from being a huge waste of time. His performance is the only bright spot in this otherwise dreary piece that’s more bogus than bodacious.
The only thing worse than a tired 80s retread is a tired 80’s retread that’s too lazy to be period-devoted. And when I say period-devoted, I’m not shitting on a low-budget movie for not having enough bread to fill every frame with vintage cars. I’m talking about dialogue, character, and behavior.
She Came from the Woods is the latest in a string of 80s-set movies and small-screen series to throw modern slang, modern attitudes, and modern inventions around as carelessly as the “Nineteen Eighty Something” show The Goldbergs. I count many offenses here, the most prominent being a very out gay character (because we all know fly-over country was full of out and proud teens in ’87) telling a departing camper to get contact lenses (at a time when disposable lenses were just being introduced),
Accuracy and specificity notwithstanding, She Came from the Woods fails to leave an impression because it simply doesn’t have anything on its mind. Obviously, deep philosophical underpinnings are not a necessary ingredient for an effective horror film, but She Came from the Woods lacks strong atmosphere, strong characters, or anything even the least bit memorable in the scare department.
I suspect the Brothers Bloomquist (co-writer Carson Bloomquist and actor/co-writer/director Erik Bloomquist) knew this might be the case and decided to take the safe route by couching their horror in comedy. After all, one can easily dismiss any haters who don’t dig the horror elements by countering with, “It’s supposed to be a comedy.”
That would be fair enough were it not for one ineluctable fact: She Came from the Woods is painfully, cringingly unfunny. Not that it is humorless (everyone appears to be having a good time or doing a good job of pretending they’re having a good time). On the contrary, She Came from the Woods is one of those flicks like your uninvited uncle who tells lame jokes no one laughs at—it thinks it’s a lot funnier than it actually is and it manages to wear out its welcome as soon as it shows up to the party.
Camp Briarbrook is closing for the season and the horned-up camp counselors are eager to throw themselves a farewell bash because they’re the biggest party animals you’ve never seen, the kind that go in for long-winded speeches instead of smoking weed or playing Seven Minutes in Heaven.
Forty-two years ago, Nurse Agatha got kicked out of Camp Briarbrook after one of her homeopathic
remedies got a little too “itchy.” She resurfaced a few years later and got caught giving secret midnight medicine classes in the woods. The kids went ballistic and Agatha freaked. She took off running, tripped, and split her head open on a rock.
When the camp counselors found Agatha’s body, they recited an incantation until sunrise. You know, like normal teenaged counselors at a camp during the height of the Satanic panic were prone to do. Cut to ’87 and some dillhole (Spencer List) who wishes he was Jackson Rathbone somehow convinces all of his fellow counselors to stick themselves with needles (just say no, kids) in an effort to summon Nurse Agatha.
It isn’t clear why this mondo pud wants to resurrect the long-dead Nurse Agatha. Apparently, the promise of beer, drugs and poon was insufficient reward for this over-the-top chode. Still, everyone complies, sucking their blood up into some of the fakest movie prop syringes in history and screaming Agatha’s name at the Heavens. Again, your guess is as good as mine.
Meanwhile, the dillhole’s older brother, Shawn (Tyler Elliot Burke, one of few decent actors on board) misplaces the kids he’s supposed to be driving home after the camp’s school bus breaks down beside a cornfield (what else?). That’s when this puppy begins to purr, but even the assurance of action isn’t enough to keep She Came from the Woods from going totally off the reservation.
A distinction must be made between cliché and homage; just because a flick can recall every genre trope does not make it a viable work of art. A true homage pays tribute while blazing its own trail with something fresh. She Came from the Woods goes nowhere fast and keeps us there with it for 101 minutes of lifeless storytelling and plangent screaming.
:: Mild Spoilers Ahead ::
Erik Bloomquist is especially vexing as the dead-behind-the-eyes creep Danny who spends his time trying to hook up with Kellie (Emily Keefe), the prettiest girl at summer camp. When she rebuffs his lame advances, he does something so egregious it culminates in some significant bloodshed.
While surprising, the sequence doesn’t quite rise to the level of What The Fuck Did I Just Watch? Instead, Danny’s outburst and the resulting carnage plays like a weak rehash of 2000s Kids Gone Wild flicks like Larry Clark’s Bully. Again, nothing groundbreaking or particularly interesting here. We’ve seen it all before and we’ve seen it done far better.
The second act sound effects are worthy of a dollar store clearance bin, the music cues are derivative, and the jokes involving small children run amok just don’t land. About the only thing that made me laugh here was the mullet-headed asshole, Dylan (played with the requisite ick factor by Adam Weppler), stomping a kid to death before beating a hasty retreat.
It is telling that the most satisfying sequence in She Came from the Woods involves the protracted murder of the guy who directed this movie. And thankfully, Danny’s ill-timed passing draws Sadler’s Gilbert McAlister out of retirement. Alas, even that can’t say this flick from the trap of its tropes.
Anything that can go wrong will go wrong in spectacularly dull fashion (a peace officer’s truck breaks down just as soon as he arrives, kids go missing at the worst possible time, friends are found savaged, surrounded by mason jars full of blood. Again, you can get this level of pseudo-scary at a Spirit Halloween pop-up.
The third act exposition dump (courtesy of the brilliant but underutilized William Sadler) keeps the viewer engaged, but only on the most fundamental level. This is perfectly average made-for-TV moviemaking in action, not that there is anything wrong with that. As many a man with a small dick will surely hear throughout their lives, average is just fine.
As someone who has made a low-budget movie that turned out poorly due to creative oversights, technical setbacks, and the many unfortunate clusterfucks indie filmmakers perpetually encounter, I hate to say an unkind word about someone else’s work. I know how much work and sacrifice goes into making even the worst possible movie. Generally, I do not write negative reviews.
I say all this to stress exactly how much She Came from the Woods put me off. It is worth mentioning that I expressly requested to review this movie after finding out it was a Tubi original, Tubi being my favorite hub for free genre content. I should have known better after their utterly pointless Terror Train reboot and its equally arbitrary sequel. Some things deserve to remain dead—Nurse Agatha, parachute pants, slap bracelets and, yes, the 80s summer camp slasher.
Bob Freville is a writer, producer and director from New York. His LoFi vampire film Hemo was released by Troma. His X-rated bikersploitation novella The Filthy Marauders is available from The Evil Cookie Publishing. He is the writer-producer of the forthcoming Norwegian drug comedy The Scavengers of Stavanger. Look inside his head: @bobfreville