The Watcher In The Woods

This film will always hold a special place in my heart - it was 1984, I was four years old and my family had just bought a VCR! "The Watcher In The Woods" was on television that same evening and we decided that it would be the very first thing we would tape... mainly as an experiment, to see if the VCR was working!

However, I watched that film with my mother and older brother and was enthralled out of my mind! I thought it was the most spectacular thing I'd ever seen, not to mention TERRIFYING! I think I had some trouble getting to sleep that night.

I watched that video countless times, until my brother used it for something else. The film had never been released on retail video and it wasn't until 1994 - ten years later, now aged 14 - that I found a secondhand rental copy for sale.

The film didn't have QUITE the same impact as it had originally, but I still found it to be an imaginitive and intelligently spooky film. It had originally been made by the Disney company as an attempt to break away from their run-of-the-mill happy family flicks, which had become increasingly unsuccessful and was intended, along with titles like "The Black Hole", to rejuvinate the studio.

As a mild horror movie for children, in a slate of planned "PG" style pictures, the film had positively bombed at the box office upon its release in April of 1980 and was actually pulled from cinemas to be re-edited (I've included more info about this in the trivia section) and released again. However, today the film has quite a huge cult following!

The story takes place in England, starring legendary Bette Davis in one of her last major screen roles. She plays creepy old recluse Mrs Aylwood, who rents her large country home to the American Curtis family. The eldest daughter, Jan (Lynn-Holly Johnson), immediately senses an unseen presence in the woods that surround her new home, watching her; while her little sister, Ellie (Kyle Richards), hears mysterious voices calling her from the woods.

Jan forms a bond with Mrs Aylwood and learns that her daughter Karen vanished without a trace 30 years earlier - but is it Karen haunting the woods... or something else?


"The Watcher In The Woods" is an intriguing horror story, which will enthrall kids and hopefully entertain adults. The look of the film is magnificent - the cinematography of scenes in the myseterious woods is very impressive and the music score is decidely eerie.

As the two sisters, haunted by the film's title character, Lynn-Holly Johnson and Kyle Richards give strong performances and carry the film throughout. Although she is effective as Mrs Aylwood, Bette Davis is not given an awful lot to do - although she still manages to steal her every scene! In the roles of the girls' unsuspecting parents, both Carroll Baker and especially David McCallum are unfortunately wasted.

It may not be to everyone's taste, but definitely an Eighties classic in my humble opinion!

Notice any mistakes? Review

Strengths: Imaginitive, intelligent and creepy.

Weaknesses? Confusing for very young viewers.

Our rating: 8 out of 10

Review Written by Barnaby Marriott:  Contact  |  More Reviews by Barnaby Marriott
The Watcher In The Woods