Friday, February 10, 2023

The Good, The Bad, and The Verdict: "She Came From the Woods" (2022)

by Joseph Perry and Mike Imboden

In our “The Good, the Bad, and the Verdict” film reviews, Joseph and Mike give their thoughts on a slice of cinema. For this installment, it’s Mainframe Pictures'  supernatural slasher, She Came from the Woods, the latest genre flick from Erik Bloomquist (Ten Minutes to Midnight). The horror-comedy, releasing only in theaters today (February 10th), stars Cara Buono (Stranger Things), William Sadler (Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey), Spencer List (Fringe), and Clare Foley (Sinister).

In this ode to '80s horror, a group of counselors accidentally unleash a decades' old evil on the last night of summer camp. As the mayhem and madness turn bloody, the staff of Camp Briarbrook are forced to confront what stories are worth telling and what secrets worth keeping. 

Mike prefers slashers, Joseph prefers supernatural chillers and they both have had this one on their radar since its festival run last year. Can She Came from the Woods deliver a horrifying hybrid that satisfies both guys?

The Good
Joseph: Eighties horror throwbacks have been plentiful these past few years, and the quality ranges from unwatchable to great. I put She Came from the Woods near the top of the heap. Mike’s probably going to assume that this is because of the supernatural element at play; that’s partly true but mainly it is because the overall intent is so earnest and respectful of the heyday of the summer-camp subgenre of fear-fare cinema, eschewing winking in-jokes — the few references to predecessors that we do get earn well-deserved laughs — and slavish attention to props and set design for a smart screenplay, characters that build on the subgenre’s tropes rather than reaching for low-hanging comedy fruit, and nice drama that gets viewers engaged and caring for the protagonists. The direction is top-notch and the cast members deliver heartfelt performances. You won’t be wanting for backstory with this film, as you receive such information multiple times. Bonus points for what could be considered a minor spoiler, delivering a surprising early denouement to one of the main characters.

Mike:  Having read the barest minimum about this before deciding I wanted to see it, I don’t remember knowing this was set in the 80s, but it’s quite obvious from very early on that it is.  Fortunately, unlike many set-in-the-80s horror flicks, this doesn’t slap you over the head with a potpourri of nostalgia nuggets and instead does a great job of simply capturing the average look of average people from the era. 
The acting is solid and the story is interesting with a good flow to the reveals and backstory.  Unlike some movies that pile a bunch of exposition on a plate and shove it under your nose, She Came From the Woods gives you just enough to know what’s going on until you need to know more, never once overwhelming you with too much world-building or so little that you’re left perplexed by what is happening.
She Came From the Woods bills itself as a horror-comedy and, for the most part, the comedic bits stick the landing, the best (to me) being some of the juxtaposition humor.
The Bad
Joseph: Although the backstory of the villain is well constructed, I thought that her maniacal laughing was a bit on the vaudevillian side, and her presentation left a bit to be desired in the makeup department. 

Mike: On the flip side of the comedy that worked for me is that which didn’t.  Too many times things were just too absurd or not timed very well to offset something serious.  Comedy is tough to do and what works for some won’t for others, so I can’t really ding this too much on that accord. The only other quibble I have is a couple of bad edits that give a couple of  moments a slightly disjointed feel.  
The Verdict
Joseph: I have been familiar with the work of the Bloomquist brothers  since their 2021 one-two punch of Night at the Eagle Inn and Ten Minutes to Midnight, so I had high hopes for She Came from the Woods. They delivered, and more, as this one is an early contender for my list of top 10 horror films of the year. 

Mike:  This was a lot of fun and was definitely worth the wait. Is it a supernatural thriller or a straight-up slasher?  Is it a hybrid? Or is it all misdirection for something totally different?  To say one way or another would probably spoil things to a certain extent as I believe a fair amount of the fun to be had is not knowing everything until it’s provided to you as I mentioned up with The Good. The earnest performances and the  simple-yet-effective plot make for a film that is definitely worth a watch.

SHE CAME FROM THE WOODS from Mainframe Pictures is in theaters starting TODAY, February 10, 2023.

She Came from the Woods
Directed By: Erik Bloomquist
Written By: Erik Bloomquist, Carson Bloomquist
Starring:  Cara Buono, William Sadler, Clare Foley, Spencer List, Michael Park
Run Time: 101 minutes
Rating:  Not Rated
Release Date: February 10, 2023 (limited)

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