Navigation

The Watcher in the Woods

The Watcher in the Woods
Kyle Richards

Kyle Richards

Screen Time: 50%
Role: Ellie Curtis
Age: 10 years old

 

The Watcher in the Woods

1980
Rating: 8 (1 votes)
Directed: John Hough
Country: UK, USA
Language: English
Genre: Family, Mystery, Thriller
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081738

Summary

When an American family moves into a beautiful old English house in a wooded area, strange, paranormal things happen. One daughter sees, and the other daughter hears, the voice of a teenage girl who mysteriously disappeared during a total solar eclipse decades before.

Movie Reviews

An attempt by Disney to lift itself out of the doldrums following a creative and commercial downturn in the 1970's, THE WATCHER IN THE WOODS takes its plot from a Young Adult novel by Florence Engel Randall in which an American family takes residence in a creepy old house in the English countryside. Almost immediately, the eldest daughter (21 year old Lynn-Holly Johnson) experiences weird visions linked to the disappearance of a teenage girl under mysterious circumstances many years before.

The film has visual style to burn (cinematography and set design are especially eye-catching), and there's a couple of terrific PG-level scares, but all the technical gloss in the world can't make up for a listless pace and repetitious plot line, and Johnson's one-note performance transforms a strong, resourceful heroine into little more than a whining goody two-shoes. Worse still, co-stars Bette Davis, Carroll Baker and David McCallum are given almost nothing to do, and there's much evidence of editorial tampering during some of the opening scenes.

Originally slated to conclude with an ambitious visual effects sequence, the version which premiered in 1980 was basically unfinished and led to scornful reviews which doomed it from the outset. Realizing their mistake, Disney pulled the film and reworked the ending, without the participation of several key personnel (including director John Hough!), most of whom had moved on to other projects.

This revised print - running 16 minutes shorter than the 100m original - made it into theaters the following year, sporting a 1981 copyright, and is the version which has prevailed ever since. For a detailed report on "Watcher"s troubled production history, see Paul Talbot's superb article in 'Video Watchdog' 88.