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The Watcher in the Woods (1980)

When a family moves to a country home, the young girls experience strange happenings that have a link to an occult event years past.


John Hough, Vincent McEveety (uncredited)


Brian Clemens (screenplay), Florence Engel Randall (novel) | 2 more credits »
1 win & 4 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview:
Bette Davis ... Mrs. Aylwood
Lynn-Holly Johnson ... Jan Curtis
Kyle Richards ... Ellie Curtis
Carroll Baker ... Helen Curtis
David McCallum ... Paul Curtis
Benedict Taylor ... Mike Fleming
Frances Cuka ... Mary Fleming
Richard Pasco ... Tom Colley
Ian Bannen ... John Keller
Katharine Levy Katharine Levy ... Karen Aylwood
Eleanor Summerfield Eleanor Summerfield ... Mrs. Thayer
Georgina Hale ... Young Mrs. Aylwood


When a normal American family moves into a beautiful old English house in a wooded area, strange, paranormal appearances befall them in this interesting twist to the well-known haunted-house tale. Their daughter Jan sees, and daughter Ellie hears, the voice of a young teenage girl who mysteriously disappeared during a total solar eclipse decades before... Written by Michael Ducharme <ducharme@escape.ca>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


As You've Never Seen It Before See more »


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »


Official Sites:

Disney's Official Site





Release Date:

9 October 1981 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Watcher in the Woods See more »


Box Office

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.75 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Academy Award Nominee Quinn Cummings was offered the role of Ellie but declined See more »


When the mother gets scared about what is happening to her daughters and decides to flee, you can see a hose behind the car providing the rain just before they drive onto the bridge. See more »


Jan Curtis: Mom said she'd only be a minute.
Paul Curtis: Yeah, well that means ten.
See more »

Alternate Versions

The alternate ending begins with Jan calling Mike and telling him to gather his mother and Tom Colley to reunite with John Keller and have the ceremony to get Karen back. Then when she meets up with Mrs. Aylewood, and more dialogue than in the theatrical version is featured-depicting witchcraft and more talk about the demonic possessions Ellie experienced. Then, when she goes to John Keller, to get him to the church, there is more dialogue between the two of the belief that Karen died. Then, the same ending that the first one was is present, but instead of cuts of Ellie running in the woods, it is in fact Jan and Ellie's mother running in the woods-and the same manor that the young Mrs. Aylewood ran the night Karen disappeared. Then the demon comes and takes Jan away-like the original, only this time it shoes the dimension which the demon lives, and what Karen is trapped in time-which looks like a diamond rough. Jan goes into the time gap and embraces Karen then the two disappear to earth's dimension, and the rest picks up where the original ending left off. There is more footage taken out, and more footage thrown into this ending (a scene where John Keller is apologizing for Jan's disappearance to her mother). See more »


References The Haunting (1963) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Well crafted thriller from Disney
24 February 1999 | by SJBearSee all my reviews

"The Watcher In The Woods" is a well crafted thriller from Walt Disney Productions. Originally released in 1980, the film had a rather abrupt ending after which extensive credits for an "Other World" sequence followed. The only problem was that there wasn't any "Other World" sequence in the film and Disney finally admitted that the sequence wasn't finished when the film was released and hoped that no one would notice the credits! When the film was reissued several months with the sequence (really a special effects nightmare) it only made matters worse. Almost a year later the film was re-issued yet again with the ending that is now seen. Through all these problems the film is still one of those rare Disney gems that, to this day, remains overlooked. Bette Davis is well cast as Mrs. Alywood, whose daughter disappeared under mysterious circumstances 30 years earlier. She owns a stately English manor which is rented by an American family over the summer. The eldest daughter Jan (Lynn Holly Johnson) begins to notice strange things happening in the home and in the woods surrounding the manor. She also has an uncanny resembelence to Mrs. Alywood's daughter Karen. Slowly the pieces of Karen's disappearance fall into place and Jan along with the three townspeople that were present when Karen disappeared, try a desparate attempt to bring her back from beyond. The film is not well suited for young children (hence its PG rating) but older kids as well as adults should enjoy it. It's a good horror/mystery film without blood and gore.

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