The weather is warming up and summer is upon us. And though many of us may be long past our school years, the anticipation for summer and the break it brings from studies may still linger fondly in our memories.
For many across the pond, the summer break brings with it the promise of summer camp and six weeks packed full of singing around the campfire, skinny dipping in the lake on a dare, and telling ghost stories that keep you up at night with your bunkmates. The notion of summer camps has brought with it the perfect setting for horror films – Friday the 13th, The Burning, and Fear Street Part Two, to name but a few – where happy campers are preyed upon by a maniacal killer intent on dashing their summer fun.
The latest addition in the campy subgenre is Erik Bloomquist's She Came From The Woods, taking viewers on a blood-soaked nostalgia trip with a twist on the usual antagonist that leads to adequate scares and a dark sense of humour that runs throughout.
The film packs us off to Camp Briarbrook, where it's the last day of summer and the campers and counsellors alike are getting ready for one last big blowout to see out the season before owner Gilbert McCalister (William Sadler) gets ready to hand over leadership duties to his daughter Heather (Cara Buono) and her two sons, Shawn (Tyler Elliot Burke) and Peter (Spencer List).
However, bored with the planned festivities, a group of counsellors decide to slink off into the woods to perform the annual tradition of ‘summoning' the spirit of an evil witch that haunts the surrounding woods. Legend has it that 40 years prior, the witch, a nurse named Agatha, would experiment on campers with bloodletting experiments before she was killed and buried in the woods. When the group accidentally unleashes her vengeful spirit, they must juggle keeping their campers safe while figuring out a way to trap the malevolent spirit once more.
From the opening scenes of She Came From The Woods, you know you're in for a good time as you're plunged straight into the hazy everyday of camp life filled with all the familiar characters – the jocks, the popular girls, the misfits, and the overbearing adults that seem unbelievably oblivious to the mayhem around them. While the premise may be generic, it is effective in engaging a viewer with relatable characters before the night descends into bloody chaos.
It's hard to feel a sense of real peril through the film, but this subgenre is all about the kills and She Came From The Woods delivers a series of gory moments that will have you wincing as you watch. While the humour may fall flat at times, the narrative features a good mix of frights and comic relief that is sure to see this flick become a comfort horror for many fans of the genre.
There may be many familiar tropes throughout She Came From The Woods, but Bloomquist goes in an interesting direction with the protagonist as we are plunged into the world of witchcraft and possession, leading to one delightfully creepy scene where a horde of possessed children chase one unlucky counsellor through a corn field.
She Came From The Woods is simply a great time. It's a film that you can watch and rewatch, eagerly awaiting the more brutal moments and giggling along to the one-liners littered throughout. While it may be a little rough around the edges, it is a unique spin on the classic summer camp horror that carves out a new direction for itself with fresh appeal for a modern audience.
She Came From The Woods was released on digital platforms on 26th June.