Monroe teen makes her acting debut in ‘She Came from the Woods’

Hayley McLaughlin, 13, of Monroe on the set of the horror movie, "She Came from the Woods."

“She Came from the Woods”, a horror movie written by brothers Erik and Carson Bloomquist, has a strong Monroe presence, from cinematographer Mike Magilnick to sisters Hayley and Kaelynn McLaughlin.

Set in 1987, the movie, whose cast includes Cara Buono from the popular Netflix show “Stranger Things”, features camp counselors who try to survive the last night at Briarbrook Summer Camp after summoning the evil spirit of Nurse Agatha, who they thought was just a harmless urban legend.

Hayley McLaughlin with “Stranger Things” actress Cara Buono.

Hayley, 13, who will be a Jockey Hollow Middle School eighth grader next fall, stars as one of the Deep Woods Players, a young singing group that becomes possessed by a witch while leaving the camp.

“We were the last bus and it just kind of spiraled from there,” Hayley said during an interview at CeCe Bubble Tea Café in Shelton with her father Sean and younger sister Kaelynn. “We were always in a group. We were chasing a lot of people.”

One of their would-be-victims, Ehad Berisha, who stars as a counselor named Mike, ended up being a real-life hero during the shooting, when the Deep Woods Players chased him through a cluttered basement.

“I tripped on something in the basement and almost fell face-first into a glass table, but he caught me,” Hayley said of a near mishap off camera.

“She Came from the Woods” appeared in approximately 300 theaters nationwide and can now be streamed on Tubi, which bought the rights to the movie. Sean McLaughlin said an uncensored director’s cut of the movie will soon be released on Blu-Ray.

While Hayley does not have a speaking part, she said her group did a lot of screaming for the soundtrack.

Kaelynn, 8, who will be a Fawn Hollow Elementary School third grader in the fall, helped with the voice tracks.

“Kaelynn’s line was ‘Go Martha!’ That was the lead role,” McLaughlin said of Tess Santarsiero, who played the leader of the Deep Woods Players.

McLaughlin and his wife Nikki also have a son Ryan, 16, a Masuk High School junior.

The McLaughlin sisters got involved with “She Came from the Woods” through Larry Dwyer, a family friend whose daughter, Jaelynn starred as a Deep Woods Player, and son Owen did backup tracks.

Mike Magilnick frames a shot for “She Came From The Woods”, capturing the expressions on the faces of actors Adam Wepler and Ehad Berisha who found “something unpleasant.”

Hayley said working on the production made her appreciate everything that goes into making a film.

“It was very weird because some things we shot weren’t in the movie,” she said.

Other times, Hayley said she didn’t understand why things were done until seeing the final product.

Among the many roles needed to make the movie possible was cinematographer. Mike Magilnick, a Monroe native and member of Masuk High School’s Class of 2008, ensured the overall look and visual style brought director Erik Bloomquist’s vision to life.

The Sun caught up with Magilnick for an interview in February.

A new experience

Sisters Kaelynn McLaughlin, 8, and Hayley, 13, with their father Sean at CeCe Bubble Tea Café in Shelton.

Dwyer hosts Connecticut Cult Classics at the Strand Theatre in Seymour every two months, showing movies like “Nightmare on Elm Street” and John Carpenter films like “Escape from New York”.

Dwyer also does an Indy Film Night, in which he has shown some of the Bloomquists’ movies and got to meet and befriend the brothers, opening up opportunities for the Dwyers and McLaughlins to appear in their movies.

McLaughlin, Ryan and Hayley were extras in the movies “Founders Day” and “Intermedium”. Hayley said “She Came from the Woods” was the first time she was more than an extra in the background.

“It was fun actually, because I didn’t have experience with it, so it was new to me as well,” she said.

Hayley said her favorite part of the experience was working with the cast and crew. “I think how everyone treats each other, they were all very welcoming and they helped make memories,” she said.

The filming was done at Channel 3 Kids Camp in Andover.

McLaughlin said animated scenes are in the end credits for “She Came from the Woods”, adding it includes an animated Hayley.

The Deep Woods Players pose for a photo at Camp Briarbrook.

“I’m very proud of Hayley … I’m proud of both of them,” McLaughlin said of his daughters. “They took directions well and to see the fruits of their labor …”

Erik and Carson Bloomquist praised the work of the youngest cast members.

“I think we’d both say that this movie would have been impossible without the energy and commitment from the kids,” Erik said. “I think we’re very lucky that we were able to film it when we did before growth spurts happened. Some of our favorite memories are staying up until midnight with these kids — a big part of what made it such as adventure.”

“Erik and Carson are extremely professional, but they know how to work well with kids,” Hayley said of the brothers. “They know how to have fun with us, but also how to calm us down for the scenes. They make it fun for the kids.”

“They’re really nice,” Kaelynn added.

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