The Watcher in the Woods (1981)
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
No Top Critics Tomatometer score yet...
This Disney Studios attempt at entering the horror genre is a British production based on the chilling novel by Florence Engel Randall. An American family, headed by composer Paul Curtis (David McCallum) and his wife Helen (Carroll Baker), is renting an old mansion in England. The mansion's owner is Mrs. Aylwood (Bette Davis), who lives in a small guest house on the property. The mansion is surrounded by dense, forbidding woods. The Curtis children, Jan (Lynn-Holly Johnson) and Ellie (Kyle Richards), explore the forest. Mrs. Aylwood is continually searching the woods for her daughter -- whom she lost there 30 years ago. Over time, the children come to be haunted by the spirit of the daughter, Karen (Katherine Levy). The film was originally released in 1980 with an ending that included a huge alien from another planet. The studio pulled back the film after test audiences laughed at the special effects, and re-released the movie in 1982 with a new ending that circumvented the alien. … More
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Critic Reviews for The Watcher in the Woods
The acting and writing are barely professional but the art direction, especially Alan Hume's stunning camerawork, gives the pic a gloss.
When it became obvious that the film's mix of cutesy sentiment and vague scariness wasn't working, the company ordered whole sequences to be rewritten, re-shot or re-edited, then imposed a stupid ending that explains precisely nothing.
This tepid ghost story fails to focus on either its story or its target audience.
About as scary as a bagel that's been left out on the counter overnight. Okay, maybe it's a raisin bagel. I'll give you that much.
Creepy later-Bette Davis tale.
Decent but unsophisticated ghost story, best suited for young adults.
Fans of old-fashioned, atmospheric ghost tales will forgive the film's obvious faults, but even they will have a hard time generating much enthusiasm for the movie.
Audience Reviews for The Watcher in the Woods
I think it's fair to say that Disney was just trying to jump on the horror bandwagon with this movie. That totally brings down the integrity of this. At least it is based on a novel. Although the story is somewhat chilling, only kids will be scared, and not by much. It might be better to read this instead because the story is good. I just wish this movie was better.More
The Watcher in the Woods is a surprising film for a Disney film. The film quite chilling, and scary at times. For a ghost story, the film works well enough to entertain. The Watcher in the Woods has gotten so many bad reviews, which is a shame because there is a good horror film here. The film is not the best, but as a ghost tale, it's effective enough to chill you and creep you out. I enjoyed the film despite the fact that some of the actors were annoying (Lynn-Holly Johnson). This film is underrated and if you're looking for an effective, chilling horror tale to watch during the Halloween season, The Watcher in the Woods is a good choice for a night of chills. For a Disney film, The Watcher in the Woods is a surprising dark film and you'd never guess that Disney produced it. The terror is effective, and director John Hugh knows how to steadily build up the plot to an electrifying climax. I thought that Johnson was a decent choice to play the lead, even if she's not perfect. I felt that her character was good, but a tad bland. The Watcher in the Woods is a good horror film that is underrated, and if you're looking for a chilling ghost story, then this is the film for you. This is an underrated film that has some effective chilling moments on-screen, and the film definitely is a must see despite its flaws. In the end, The Watcher in the Woods is a fun horror film to watch.More
Mediocre scare flick, rather dark for a Disney film but not really very frightening. Lynn-Holly Johnson is an appallingly bad actress ruining every scene she's in. Old pros McCallum and Carroll Baker are wasted. Poor Bette Davis is spared nothing, made to look perhaps the worst she ever did on screen except in Baby Jane where at least she was supposed to look bad. She's still the most compelling presence in the film in her brief scenes.More
It's hard to fathom what Disney were trying to do with this messy horror picture; "The Watcher in the Woods" is more likely to upset rather than enchant young children, and older, more discerning viewers will probably find it as toothless as it is incoherent. It was infamously chopped about and re-shot by the studio and, consequently, makes very little sense. Although there's a good deal of subjective, "Watcher's-eye-view" camerawork, disappointingly we don't ever get to see the creature itself. However, the atmosphere is reasonably potent and there are a couple of spookily effective moments. Bette Davis makes a late-career appearance, but she's only on hand to look vaguely sinister and contributes little more than a cameo. Interestingly, the film cribs a couple of elements from "The Shining", namely ESP and backwards writing. Undoubtedly, the worst thing about the movie is the awful lead performance of Lynn-Holly Johnson, who some people may remember being equally bad as the figure-skater in "For Your Eyes Only".More
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