Disney’s The Watcher In The Woods

Disney used to do a lot of cool, creaky old live action films back in the day, awesomely retro SciFi/horror/adventure type stuff, and while not as timeless or important to me as others of its type, The Watcher In The Woods is still an atmospheric enough piece with beautiful UK locations, eerie sound design and a solemn, spooky performance from Bette Davis. She plays the widowed owner of a massive Victorian mansion in the English countryside who rents part of her home out to an American family for reasons that I still can’t quite figure out, but it has something to do with her daughter who died on the grounds under mysterious circumstances decades before. It isn’t long before the eldest daughter (Lynn-Holly Johnson) starts t have strange visions, hears things on the edge of the woods outside the property and dreams of a ghostly blindfolded girl who cries out for help. This all escalates into an impressively supernatural yet still down to earth series of plot revelations anchored by Davis and her intense eyes and well acted by everyone. The youngest daughter is played by Kyle Richards who we remember as Lindsay Wallace in John Carpenter’s Halloween which packs in some further horror pedigree. I’ll admit I wasn’t as won over by this film as I thought I would be, but I think I built it up too much. I have been searching for this one for years, it’s far too expensive to buy on Amazon and Disney plus neglected to add it to their stable for some reason (they’re notorious for that vault-hoarding bullshit) so my only hope was thrifting. I did eventually score a DVD and was beyond excited but it just didn’t grab me like some films of its kind do. Terrifically eerie sound design and atmosphere for days, but the story felt like it could have been tighter, more focused and amped up.

-Nate Hill

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