She Watches from the Woods (CFF) and She Generally Liked What She Saw
Title: She Watches from the Woods
First Wide Release: TBD
Director: Beau Ballinger
Writer: Beau Ballinger
Runtime: 79 Minutes
Starring: Meredith Garretson, Paulina Lule, Wylie Small
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here (Release Date TBD)
This film’s review was written after its screening in the Chattanooga Film Festival 2021.
After bouncing around from one mental hospital to the next, June (Meredith Garretson) returns home to visit her dying mother, Tammy (Wylie Small), and come to terms with her tragic past. Her supportive girlfriend, Maeve (Paulina Lule), backs her all the way until she finds June slipping into old patterns as she begins to obsess over the circumstances surrounding her sister’s death. Rattled with guilt yet determined to clear her name, June uses this visit as one last chance to get to the bottom of who (or what) killed her sister before that same force strikes again.
She Watches From the Woods is a solid horror mystery complete with an interesting, if underdeveloped, mythos and affable characters.
A mostly familiar hometown horror film, She Watches from the Woods gets a pass for its derivative horror for its solid technique. Aside from a few moments of levity, the film is largely dark and brooding and boasts dread-filled atmosphere that borderlines on suffocating. And yet, many scenes are filmed a bit further away than usual. It almost feels like you are watching June’s unravelling. Close ups are reserved for when June is going through particularly painful memories and episodes. It feels voyeuristic which is a nice juxtaposition for a film centered on a woman returning to her hometown to process both generational and acute trauma.
I appreciate June’s character arc, and the queer representation that comes with it. June is shown to be torn between being haunted by her past and her desire to move on. Her mother’s entry into hospice complicates things because she feels it is necessary for her growth to reconnect before her death. And along the way, June’s partner Maeve is supportive in every way. This does relegate Maeve to not doing much beyond wanting for and waiting on her girlfriend. Tammy is relegated to the loving mother role until her dying breath. At the end of the day, June’s journey is what we are promised. The cast does a fine job with this material and make their relationships genuine.
While I did enjoy this film, it certainly has its flaws, especially within the story. Some aspects don’t feel like they are solved naturally. It feels like supernatural aid is being given in a horror film that sees a supernatural entity causing the misery. The mystery behind it feels familiar without adding anything new to the conversation. Surely, there is more to be said about the history of this curse and why it is continuing. And there is, it’s all implied though. We are left with mostly clues for the audience to piece together, which may frustrate some viewers.
I am not a fan of the ending whatsoever. It feels cheap and doesn’t make much narrative sense. It’s fine if the ending of a film is ambiguous but it still needs to add some element of closure which She Watches from the Woods does not do. Additionally, the subplot with the detective and Josh is truthfully just weird and completely out of place tonally. It either should have been dropped altogether or beefed up a bit to play a bigger role in the story.
I can tell that not everyone vibed with this movie, but I personally dug it. It’s not the most polished or complex film but it delivers on its spooky premise and offers up another eerie tale of small-town horror. Aside from some plot holes and odd choices here and there, Ballinger conjures up a solid atmosphere of persistent and all-encompassing dread that won me over in the end. I must say that while I enjoyed it, it might not be for everyone. I’d say give it a chance when it comes out and hopefully by then audiences warm up to it. You don’t have to watch from the woods to enjoy this supernatural aquatic adjacent horror film.
Overall Score? 6/10