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The Watcher in the Woods (2017)

TV-PG | | Horror | TV Movie 21 October 2017
Mrs. Aylwood is a distraught mother since her daughter, Karen, vanished in the Welsh countryside 30 years ago. When the Carstairs family move into the Aylwood manor for the summer., strange... See full summary »


Melissa Joan Hart


Scott Abbott (teleplay), Florence Engel Randall (based on the novel by)




Cast overview, first billed only:
Anjelica Huston ... Mrs. Aylwood
Tallulah Evans ... Jan Carstairs
Nicholas Galitzine ... Mark Fleming
Dixie Egerickx ... Ellie Carstairs
Rufus Wright ... Paul Carstairs
Melanie Gutteridge ... Kate Carstairs
Melanie Walters ... Helen Taylor
Rebecca Acock Rebecca Acock ... Karen Aylwood (as Rebecca Aycock)
Ioan Hefin ... Tom Colley
Benedict Taylor ... John Keller
Crisian Emanuel Crisian Emanuel ... Mrs. Fleming
Di Botcher ... Mrs. Thayer
Steven Elliot Steven Elliot ... The Watcher
John Cording ... Old Gent
Pal Aron Pal Aron ... Constable


Mrs. Aylwood is a distraught mother since her daughter, Karen, vanished in the Welsh countryside 30 years ago. When the Carstairs family move into the Aylwood manor for the summer., strange occurrences begin to unnerve the family and Jan begins to suspect that they are linked to Karen's disappearance. As Jan unravels the dark past hidden by the townspeople, she delves further into the mystery and deeper into danger, but now it might be too late to escape the Watcher in the Woods. Written by Official site

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TV-PG | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


The movie was heavily promoted at the New York and San Diego Comic Cons in 2017, where the director, producer and other crew members were on hand, and the first 12 minutes of the film was previewed. See more »


Version of The Watcher in the Woods (1980) See more »

User Reviews

Sabrina directs a haunting TV mystery flick
22 October 2017 | by WuchakkSee all my reviews

RELEASED TO TV IN 2017 and directed by Melissa Joan Hart (yes, Sabrina, the teenage witch), "The Watcher in the Woods" details events in Wales when a family from Cleveland, Ohio, move into a country manor for the summer while the mysterious owner, Mrs. Aylwood (Anjelica Huston), lives in the guest house. The teen daughter, Jan (Tallulah Evans), readily discerns something weird is going on, which is linked to Mrs. Aylwood's missing daughter, Karen (Rebecca Acock), from 36 years earlier. Jan investigates the mystery with the aid of a neighbor stud (Nicholas Galitzine) and her younger sister (Dixie Egerickx).

I haven't read the book, but I have seen the troubled 1980/1981 Disney film (with three different endings). Unlike the Disney production, this is a TV movie and therefore lacks that one's blockbuster polish; it's also way more subdued. The question is, does it work on that level as a young adult mystery with low-key horror elements? It did for me, but then I can handle TV budget productions. If you remember the TV movies "Bay Coven" (1987) with Pamela Sue Martin or "Satan's School for Girls" (2000) with Shannen Doherty, this version of "The Watcher in the Woods" is along those lines in tone and production quality, although it's superior to the second one. Unlike the 1981 flick, which included a dilapidated chapel and an alien element (rolling my eyes), this rendition follows the book more closely.

One of the best things about this version is Tallulah Evans as the fetching Nancy Drew-like protagonist; she looks like a young Amanda Bynes, but with a better figure, which the movie wisely accentuates (don't worry, no sleaze; this is a family-safe movie). The story contains quality human interest with Jan's relationship with the guy, her sister and, finally, Mrs. Aylwood.

The unraveling of the mystery is interesting, particularly the link to the Black Death in Britain circa 1348 and the corresponding folksong "Ring around the Rosie." The explanation is more intelligible and interesting than the Disney film but, to be expected, not as entertaining (the extraterrestrial element). The authentic quaint British village locations are another plus, as is the balance between normal daylight sequences and haunting dusk/nighttime sequences. Another reviewer said there's no mood or mysterious ambiance. Hogwash. Unlike other haunting mystery flicks, this version of "The Watcher in the Woods" refuses to be one-note with its atmospherics. The haunting parts are augmented by a fitting piano-oriented score.

As far as the final act goes, it's tough to pull off these kinds of supernatural sequences with a straight face. Filmmakers have to be careful with these types of scenes or they become more laughable than spooky. The ending of "Bay Coven," for instance, could go either way, depending on the person. For me, Melissa & crew pulled it off, which is different than saying the movie's flawless. It's not (for instance, the maw-of-the-tree effects are pretty lame), but it's a low-budget production made for Lifetime, after all, and you can nitpick any flick.

THE FILM RUNS 87 minutes and was obviously shot in Britain, but I can't find info on the precise locations. WRITERS: Scott Abbott based on Florence Engel Randall's novel.

GRADE: B/B- (6.5/10)

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Release Date:

21 October 2017 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Watcher in the Woods See more »

Filming Locations:

Wales, UK

Company Credits

Production Co:

Hartbreak Films See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

16:9 HD
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