She Came From the Woods Movie Review
Written by Kalem Klub
Released by Maiinframe Pictures
Written and directed by Carson Bloomquist and Erik C. Bloomquist
2017, 12 minutes, Not Rated
Ehad Berisha as Mike Reynolds
Justin Andrew Davis as Ben Burns
Peyton Michelle Edwards as Lauren Davis
Kristen Anne Ferraro as Natalie Gaines
Olivia Helaine as Ashley Gardener
John Pope as Peter McCalister
Eric Consolazio as Bear
It's the last day of summer at Camp Briarbrook, and its teenage counselors decide to spend their downtime engaging in a Bloody Mary-style ritual involving a camp-nurse-turned-woodland-witch called Esther. As can be expected, it doesn't turn out well.
This is nothing we haven't heard before. But like all good campfire stories, the trick is in the telling. For their newest short She Came from the Woods, directors Erik and Carson Bloomquist have claimed to draw inspiration from Are You Afraid of the Dark?, and it shows. In any other setting, its dialogue-heavy opening would feel like little more than your run-of-the-mill exposition dump. But what are campfires if not for storytelling? There's little time to get invested in the whole cast, so the short wisely devotes character development where it counts: to the titular She lurking in the forest. The early exchange among the characters serves to mount a sense of looming dread before they're inevitably struck down one by one by Esther's curse. It gives the story substance while leaving just enough to speculate on, as the survivors realize that Esther is much more than mere legend.
Its condensed running time—clocking in at just about 12 minutes—also necessitates sudden turns in momentum. By the time our leads realize that tempting fate has dire consequences, they're dropping like flies a little past the midway point. But these deaths feel earned, especially after the film has spent its first half building up the suspense surrounding Esther. That's because the Bloomquist brothers do a good job at matching a relatively straightforward story with taut pacing. The film doesn't lose its steam, not even right up to the end when everything comes to a head; it hits the right horror beats that at times makes it feel almost like a slasher, albeit with a supernatural twist. Upon closer inspection, She Came from the Woods is a bit of a mish-mash of different concepts—it certainly seems to take its cues from the likes of Candyman, Sleepaway Camp, and Friday the 13th as well—but manages to pull it off smoothly.
It's not genre-bending by any means, but maybe that isn't the point. There's something to be said about a film that knows its tropes well enough to wield them for effective scares, instead of becoming cliché. She Came from the Woods embraces these recognizable shorthands in horror, so that it also plays out like a nostalgic callback to the classics. There's a sense of instant familiarity to this film for anyone who's ever spent time at camp, swapped stories of similar boogeymen as kids, or just has good taste in classic horror of the '70s and '80s-it even looks like something straight out of the Betamax era.
This isn't the Bloomquist brothers' directorial outing, having previously helmed other shorts like Ghost Tour and The Cobblestone Corridor. She Came from the Woods is a fine addition to their body of work—a well-crafted, bite-sized horror that I'd wager could hold its own against other feature-length contenders.