6.3/10
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92 user 33 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:

A Masterpiece Of Suspense! See more »


Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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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

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.75 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The movie in its initial American release in April 1980 had its season canceled by the Disney Studios in May 1980. This was so the movie's ending, which had been the subject of much criticism by film critics and public audiences, could be re-worked, with re-shoots, new special effects, and additional photography conducted. See more »

Goofs

In the alternate ending, when the alien ascends with Jan in its arms, the wires used to cause ascension are clearly visible. See more »

Quotes

Ellie Curtis: Boy, Mrs. Aylwood sure is creepy.
Paul Curtis: How comforting to know we're the "right sort of people."
Ellie Curtis: I've seen the iciest of old ladies melted by your charm.
Mrs. Thayer: I think it was your daughter who did the trick.
Ellie Curtis: Me?
Mrs. Thayer: No, dear, not you.
[to Jan]
Mrs. Thayer: She had a daughter about your age.
Jan Curtis: Had?
Mrs. Thayer: Mm, lost. Many years ago. Perhaps you reminded Mrs. Aylwood of her.
See more »

Alternate Versions

A scene was re-shot where Jan is screaming hysterically when they return home after the family car goes off the bridge. Helen tries to calm her down, and when all ends fail, slaps her. Disney thought it too violent and intense, thus re-shooting the scene where Jan's mother shakes her. See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
72yo Bette Davis in a Disney Family Suspense-Thriller
18 October 2007 | by semioticzSee all my reviews

It's an interesting contrast to experience Bette Davis in a Disney family suspense thriller--maybe the scariest Disney flick ever made. If anyone could have been more mysterious & bewitchingly secretive, I can't imagine who. I have the 1998 VHS that has a cover with a marvelous photograph of Davis on the back.

Florence Engel Randall's plot in her novel, "A Watcher in the Woods," goes like this: The Curtis family, Helen (Carroll Baker), her husband Paul (David McCullum), & their 2 daughters, Jan (Lynn-Holly Johnson) & Ellie (Kyle Richards), rent an old English manor from it's owner, Mrs. Aylwood (Bette Davis), who lives in the guest cottage. The lady of the manor seems to be haunting, mean & eerily eccentric.

Jan experiences some paranormal events immediately after moving into the manor. For one thing, she can't see her own reflection in a bedroom mirror. Then, Jan begins to strongly sense that someone is watching her in the woods. Neither Helen nor Paul are keen about the girls spending time with Mrs. Aylwood. But, as Jan becomes more scared & curious about who or what is in the woods, the pre-teen begins investigating, starting with Mrs. Aylwood.

After Jan goes into Mrs. Aylwood's cottage to talk with her about the mysterious phenomena that she's noticed, the secret of the woods starts to be revealed by Mrs. Aylwood. Although she's very reluctant to talk about it, Mrs. Aylwood tells Jan the story about her pre-teen daughter's disappearance in the same woods 30 years ago.

The supernatural cinematic effects are well done. Bette Davis' subdued performance as a mysterious older woman makes the show a spine-tingling thriller. The suspense builds to a climax that is not predictable. The settings are spot-on & befitting for a haunted mood.

Keeping in mind that the genre of this movie is a family suspense suitable for children, I found it to be excellent.


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