The Watcher In The Woods Review

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When American family the Curtises move into an old English house in the woods, their two daughters, Jan and Ellie, start witnessing strange apparitions out there among the trees. Then Ellie starts hearing the voice of a young girl who disappeared years before.


The only known sighting of a Disney horror film, this effective (for a while) things-that-go-bump-in-the-woods shocker has a appropriately twitchy quality to its clichés until it utterly unravels in the heavily reshot and confusing ending. Until then, we get plenty of elusive blue lights, mystery voices, mirrors without reflections, and exact triangular cracks in windows. Something weird is going on.

Well, when your rented house is owned by as cranky and gothic a creature as Mrs. Alywood (a weary and ancient Bette Davis in her final role) that shouldn’t come as much of surprise. Anyway, moving into a lonely house in the middle of some dark woods is just asking for it. And, to be fair, John Hough (who would be fired from post-production) does a decent job at standard spooky atmospherics.

When not consumed by irritating histrionics, pretty Lynn-Holly Johnson and Kyle Richards are effective foils for the ghostly goings-on. Johnson’s Ellie is the central figure convinced someone, or, indeed, something is watching from the woods (the clue is in the title) and when she hears of the strange disappearance of Mrs. Alywood’s daughter thirty years makes the Scooby Doo like assumption that both things must be connected. It does slow down a bit too much for endless walking hither and thither scenes in the woods, as we ebb toward the grand reveal, but the mystery proves strong enough to hold you.

Such a shame then that the ending is a shambles, a wash of extraneous special effects intending so spruce up the potential flashiness, that serve only to confuse rather than dazzle.