Friday, April 8, 2011

The Watcher in the Woods (1980)


Disney was really flailing around in the late 70’s and early 80’s, unsure of how to proceed with their film offerings. We got some really unique films from that era, and this is one of them. Yes folks, Disney’s first attempt at family horror. And no, that doesn’t include “High School Musical”.


The Curtis family has just bought a creepy old house in the middle of the English countryside. Paul (David McCallum) wants some peace and quiet to work on his opera. His kids Jan (Lynn-Holly Johnson) and Ellie (Kyle Richards) take to the place quickly enough. But there is a mysterious force in the woods, something watching them and waiting. The caretaker of the home Mrs. Aylwood (Bette Davis) seems to know something about this. Is a ghost haunting the woods and is it the mysterious figure that Jan keeps seeing in mirrors? Soon omens start appearing all over and Ellie starts acting really strange. Can Jan figure out the mystery of “The Watcher in the Woods” before its too late?

Good Points:

  • When its focused on ghostly mystery, the story is engaging
  • Some great atmosphere with the woods and chapel
  • Has a few genuinely creepy moments

Bad Points:

  • The acting is sooo over the top
  • The script takes a left turn at the end that is laughable
  • The 3 mile zooms don’t add to the tension


At the heart of this story is a really creepy movie waiting to get out. But the acting and script just scuttle the whole thing. Bette Davis is the only one who keeps things grounded. In a way I can see what they were trying to do, but it just never comes together. Nostalgia may save this for some folks, but this is for Disney obsessed or the curious only. The alternate endings are a hoot.

Scores (out of 5)

Visuals: 3

Sound: 3

Acting: 2

Script: 3

Music: 3

Direction: 3

Entertainment: 3

Total: 2

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.

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