6.3/10
5,257
93 user 35 critic

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.

Directors:

John Hough, Vincent McEveety (uncredited)

Writers:

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

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Cast

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
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

As You've Never Seen It Before See more »


Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In the Anchor Bay DVD commentary, John Hough states that Bette Davis wanted to play both Mrs. Aylwood in the present and thirty years ago. The crew shot scenes with her wearing makeup to appear younger, but she was clearly older than the character the script called for. After the cast and crew saw the dailies, Hough told Davis in private that the scene just didn't work; no one would believe her as a woman in her forties. To her credit, Davis looked Hough in the eye and said, "You're Goddamned right." See more »

Goofs

When Jan goes to see Mr Keller she leans her bike against the right hand door post, but when she leaves she collects her bike from the opposite door post. See more »

Quotes

Paul Curtis: You know how old mirrors are. I never made a move yet without something getting broken.
Ellie Curtis: Hey, that's seven years' bad luck!
Paul Curtis: Nonsense. I broke a mirror the day I met your mother.
Helen Curtis: I'm not sure that makes your point, darling.
See more »

Alternate Versions

Two endings were shot for the film: the original ending depicted the three adults in the circle. Instead of Ellie coming in, possessed by the spirit, a black demonic creature comes up the aisle and envelopes Jan. They ascend and disappear into thin air. Jan's mother then comes in and wonders where Jan is. When she can't get a word out of them, she starts to worry to the extent. Then, out of nowhere, Jan re-appears with Karen, still the same age as she was when the incident in the film first took place, and she takes Karen to see her now aged mother. They run in the lawn and embrace each other, with Jan in the background, crying with Joy, then Ellie asks where the Watcher went to. Jan replies "Home, where ever that is." Thus the credits come. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Riverdale: Chapter Sixteen: The Watcher in the Woods (2017) See more »

User Reviews

 
Disney meets Lovecraft, sort of.
15 June 2012 | by Hey_SwedenSee all my reviews

"The Watcher in the Woods" was made at a time when Disney was getting ambitious, making PG rated films and dipping its toes into different genres; other efforts, of course, include "The Black Hole", "Tron", and "Something Wicked This Way Comes". Co-written by Brian Clemens ('The Avengers', "Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter") based on the novel by Florence Engel Randall, it tells a story with a very atmospheric feel. As others have said, it has the appeal of a fairy tale. An American family comes to live in an isolated English country estate owned by a lonely recluse, Mrs. Aylwood (screen legend Bette Davis). In no time at all, the two daughters, teen aged Jan (Lynn-Holly Johnson) and younger Ellie (Kyle Richards) are besieged by other worldly forces, and Jan realizes something must be done to resolve the case of Mrs. Aylwood's daughter Karen, who'd disappeared many years ago when she was Jan's age. Director John Hough and crew make this something worth watching with their moody and stylish presentation. Sometimes some cheesy effects get utilized, and they do tend to stick out a little too much. The reasonably compelling, and never too complicated, story does a good enough job of pulling the viewer in, along with especially strong lighting by Alan Hume and camera-work by Jack Lowin and Malcolm MacIntosh. Right from the start these individuals help to create a very weird feel to the proceedings. Carroll Baker and David McCallum don't get a lot to do as the parents, especially McCallum, but the other adults are all fine, including Richard Pasco as the frightened Tom Colley and Ian Bannen as the cantankerous John Keller. Ms. Davis is wonderful as the distraught old lady who realizes that she could finally find out the truth behind her daughters' disappearance, while Johnson, despite being appealing enough, really overdoes it in terms of her characters' hysteria. What's interesting is how many times the ending was altered during the history of this film. It was originally shown at 100 minutes, with an abrupt ending, then given an elaborate special effects based finale, then reworked again for the films' re-release the following year. The alternate endings are available on the DVD for fans to check out. It's not particularly memorable, but it's pretty enjoyable while it lasts. Seven out of 10.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Official Sites:

Disney's Official Site

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

9 October 1981 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Watcher in the Woods See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$5,000,000

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$5,000,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.75 : 1
See full technical specs »

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