She Came From The Woods (2022)
February 10, 2023 12:29 PM - Subscribe

[TRAILER] In 1987, a group of counselors accidentally unleash a decades’ old evil on the last night of summer camp. As the situation turns bloody, the group is forced to confront what stories are worth telling and what secrets are worth keeping.

Starring Cara Buono (Karen Wheeler from Stranger Things, Clare Foley, Spencer List, William Sadler, Michael Park, Tyler Elliot Burke, Adam Weppler, Ehad Berisha, Giselle Torres, Dan Leahy, Sienna Hubert-Ross, Erik Bloomquist, Emily Keefe, Tess Santarsiero, Declan Foley, Coulter Ibanez, Cory Asinofsky, Cody Boccia, Madeleine Dauer, Juliana Davies, Emily Rafala.

Directed by Erik Bloomquist. Written by Erik Bloomquist, Carson Bloomquist. Produced by William Sadler, Cara Buono, Erik Bloomquist, Adam Weppler, Carson Bloomquist.

71% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Now playing in theaters. JustWatch listing.
posted by DirtyOldTown (2 comments total)
This one interests me because of the split in the reviews, which tilt toward: formulaic and terrible; OR, take a beloved formula, dusts it off and stands it on its feet again to fun effect.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:30 PM on February 10, 2023

I wanted to like this so much.

Very fun idea: filmmakers who obviously loved first wave slashers but were born at the wrong time to play in that sandbox take their swing. Easy sell to get me into the theater on that.

They did plenty of things right, too. They came up with a fun idea that would have slotted right in with the films of that golden age. They wrote it with a least a bit of interest in and respect for their characters, which wasn't always the case back in the day. They did a fair bit better on representation than was typical for that era. They left out the gratuitous T&A and dialed down the performative booze and drugs. They corralled a half-decent budget, some game stars (William Sadler, Cara Buono). They did enough with the period details to set the era nicely without ever giving in to corny nostalgia. They even left (some of) the children in the camp and subjected them to the bloody chaos, which was something the films of the era nearly always chickened out on.

But dang, I wish they'd taken more notes on the visual style of the better slashers. Maybe it was just budget that held them back, but I kind of doubt it. I mean, yes, this was clearly shot on digital. And that doesn't help. But it's the 2020's and that is how budget films are generally made. Fair enough. But the lighting tops out at serviceable and is often crap. The music is like stock music level. Outside of some cool ideas contributed from the script (the hanging jars of blood, for instance) there's very little that has any cinematic flair at all. And there are so many closeups and medium shots that it's like a TV show. The killer kids are more laughable than scary. Even after they dig Agatha out of the ground, they're all still clean and smiling and we get way too many good looks at them. (Although how could not see them when the whole thing is lit like a YA drama...) Worst of all, there isn't a single creative or memorable kill.

Remember the first Friday the 13th? It's pretty entertaining. It has a flimsy, predictable story, it's sexist, it's trashy, and it's crass. In short, basically everything She Came from the Woods gets right, Friday the 13th gets woefully wrong. And it's still far, far more fun. Why? Lots of reasons, though the short answer is: it's just better directed. Sean Cunningham cribbed lighting and framing ideas from Bay of Blood. Even his poor man's version of that is pretty cool. Better still, Cunningham works around his low budget by using a bunch of practical lighting, making for interesting-looking shots around the lake lit by floodlight or light leaking through cabin windows. In general, he just uses dark far more effectively. Even if you think I'm being overly generous to Cunningham on his direction, I will bet you'd agree that the kills are memorable and Tom Savini's FX positively kick ass. And the score by Harry Manfredini is iconic.

If the newer film had taken some notes from that picture, or even other films from the era (how about some Sam Raimi shakycam?) it would have worked better. More and better use of dark, more camera movement. Let things get grungy and gross-looking as the terror ramps up.

And man oh man, I wish after the kids had dug up Agatha, they'd have been covered in mud. Maybe even blood from all of her blood rituals. And even then, had barely been visible, just creeps darting around the edge of the frame. That would have been scary.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:20 PM on February 11, 2023

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