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The Watcher in the Woods (1980)

Bette Davis , Lynn-Holly Johnson , John Hough , Vincent McEveety  |  PG |  DVD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (186 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Bette Davis, Lynn-Holly Johnson, Kyle Richards, Carroll Baker, David McCallum
  • Directors: John Hough, Vincent McEveety
  • Writers: Brian Clemens, Florence Engel Randall, Gerry Day, Harry Spalding, Rosemary Anne Sisson
  • Producers: Hugh Attwooll
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 6.1 EX)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Starz / Anchor Bay
  • DVD Release Date: April 2, 2002
  • Run Time: 84 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (186 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00003ETIS
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #208,909 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Watcher in the Woods" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Deleted scenes including two alternate endings
  • Commentary by director John Hough
  • 20 page booklet with interviews, rare art work, stills and more

Editorial Reviews

Ghost story meets paranormal mystery in Disney's PG family spookfest, a rare kid-friendly scary movie that still manages to frighten. American girls Lynn-Holly Johnson (Ice Castles) and little sister Kyle Richards move into a secluded British manor cradled in a mist-shrouded forest, home to a ghostly guardian angel and a decades-old mystery that still haunts the place. Director John Hough (whose Legend of Hell House is a classic of supernatural suspense) delivers all the right shiver-inducing ingredients: flashes of light, whispers in the wind, eerie visions of a blindfolded little girl lost (the long-lost daughter of withered widow Bette Davis) reaching out from mirrors, as if trapped behind them. Though tame by today's bloody standards and a flop on its original release in 1981, this handsome little gothic ghost story has become something of a cult film for its suggestive direction, impressionistic imagery, and spooky sense of the unknown. Ages 9 and up, although more sophisticated younger kids should enjoy this. --Sean Axmaker

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
90 of 92 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scary for all ages January 13, 2000
Format:VHS Tape
I was lucky or unlucky depending on your taste in movies to see The watcher in the woods on the big screen, upon its release in 1981. I was 12 at the time, and thought oh yea a Disney movie with Bette Davis....real scary. Well let me tell ya I spent a good portion of this feature crouched down in my seat, hands at ready position to cover my eyes. It was very scary indeed. With all the elements any spook flic buff could want. Fog covered swamps, abandoned farm houses in the middle of nowhere, a strange old woman(bette davis) with a hidden agenda, and plenty of good old fasioned surprise scares and suspense. Best of all, you can watch it with the whole family. Thats right, this movie does not rely on gore or profanity to aid in its chills. Its just naturally frightning. So gather up the family,load up the sofa, turn out the lights and enjoy....if you dare!
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55 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars NERAK January 13, 2000
Format:VHS Tape
I think this has to be one, if not THE scariest of movies I have ever seen! This movie is non stop suspense! It strongly stands as a classic horror movie without all the blood and guts! It scared me to death as a little kid, but I kept going back and watching it over and over and over! For a while I was scared to look in mirrors, or if a breeze would blow through the wood when I was in them I couldn't (and still can't) help getting chill bumps sometimes. Many aspects make the movie scary - it's setting, the main plot, and mainly the music! I can still hear that song from the music box playing in my head. I think this is a brilliant film, and was impressed that Disney made it. Though it may scare the pants off your kids, I don't think it's inappropriate for them. It lacks todays standards of what makes a "good" horror film - blood, guts, extreme violence, nudity and horrid language left and right. Though the movie is scary, it still holds that Disney "wholesomenes." If your kids want to see a scary movie, let them watch this one. I watched it and I'm fine ten years later! Besides, the end of the movie explains what the heck was going on, and you understand that it wasn't some psycho monster lurking in the woods. The problem is resolved, and the ending is relieving and happy. It's a great thriller that keeps me coming back. It you haven't seen it YOU MUST!
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Based on the novel by Florence Engel Randall, THE WATCHER IN THE WOODS is a finely-crafted Disney thriller with Bette Davis and a great cast.

The story is about an English-American family (David McCallum, Carroll Baker, Lynn-Holly Johnson and Kyle Richards) who move into a creepy mansion in the English countryside. The estate also includes Mrs Aylwood (Bette Davis) who acts as a caretaker of sorts. Mrs Aylwood's daughter Karen mysteriously died in a fire many years ago and she has never really come to terms with her grief.

Once the new family moves in, strange things begin to occur. Eldest daughter Jan (Lynn-Holly Johnson - ICE CASTLES) senses something watching her, and starts seeing a blindfolded girl in mirrors. Younger daughter Ellie (Kyle Richards) adopts a little dog and calls it 'Nerak' ('Karen' spelled backwards). Everything that happens seems to lead back to Karen Aylwood and her mysterious death. Jan and Ellie join Mrs Aylwood in a race against time to stop the hauntings and hopefully find out what really happened that fateful night...

Bette Davis gives a mesmerizing performance as Mrs Aylwood (with Georgina Hale also fine as the younger Davis during the flashback sequence). David McCallum sadly doesn't get much to do as the father, though Carroll Baker impresses in her relatively-small role as the mother. Lynn-Holly Johnson (following her breakout role as Lexie in ICE CASTLES) is a knockout as Jan and Kyle Richards is just plain spooky as Ellie.

Filmed entirely on location in England, the tense and eerie atmosphere is perfectly carried throughout the whole movie. Also featuring Eleanor Summerfield, Ian Bannen, Richard Pasco, Frances Cuka, Benedict Taylor and Katherine Levy.
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38 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Something Is Watching. Something Unknown. September 16, 2004
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Perhaps the watcher in the woods is a female? If so, am I'm not saying it is, I wonder if she's got Bette Davis eyes? Get it? Watcher? Eyes? The Kim Carnes song? A bad joke? Yes it was, but I was stumped for a way to start my review, and inspiration seems to have failed me yet again...The Watcher in the Woods (1981), released by Disney, directed by Englishman John Hough, who also did Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) Return from Witch Mountain (1978), and a couple of episodes for television program Hammer House of Mystery, stars Bette Davis, Lynn-Holly Johnson, who also appeared in films like Ice Castles (1978) and the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only (1981) (the early 80's were pretty good for Johnson, but her career has since taken a detour in the land of the B movies), and Kyle Richards, who started out on the television show Little House on the Prairie, but then moved to major horror features appearing in The Car aka Deathmobile, John Carpenter's Halloween, and its' sequel Halloween II. Also appearing are Carroll Baker (Baba Yaga) and David McCallum, probably most known as secret agent Illya Kuryakin from the popular 60's television series The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

The film begins with an American family, recently re-located to England, looking for a home. McCallum plays the father, Baker the mother, and Johnson and Richards as the two daughters. They find a real deal in an old English manor, owned by a peculiar old woman named Mrs. Alywood (Davis), who happens to live in a smaller house on the property, and is very particular about who rents the larger house, but, on meeting Jan (Johnson), and her younger sister Ellie (Richards), she agrees to allow the family to rent the place.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Loved this movie at the beginning. It was very suspenseful. Really scarey until the end. As always, Betty Davis performs exceptionally.
Published 30 minutes ago by patty j coleman
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Classic movie!
Published 11 days ago by Megan Pierce
3.0 out of 5 stars NOT for Very Young Children!
This movie was OK in some respects but in others, it fell short.

The acting is rather stilted at times, for lack of a better word, in spite of an all star cast. Read more
Published 19 days ago by Geraldine
5.0 out of 5 stars Back When Disney Wasn't So 'Disney'
Have you ever seen this movie? It's from the days when Disney was a little risqué. I watched this when I was a kid and it was terrifying, I just watched it again last week... Read more
Published 26 days ago by Kay. Dee. Kay
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Classic Bette Davis.
Published 1 month ago by grandma bear
2.0 out of 5 stars It's ok....
Well.... Bizarre Movie. If you grew up watching this movie I guess that is why it would appeal to people.
Published 1 month ago by allison evans
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
It was good and suspenseful, but I didn't like the ending.
Published 2 months ago by bigdcowgal
3.0 out of 5 stars I think Hallmark channel--and though the film played like a...
I never saw this at the theater but certainly read all about it in Fangoria magazine. Later, I did get to see it on some cable station--for some reason, I think Hallmark... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Rodney A. Labbe
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Psychological Thriller
This is, in my opinion, one of Disney's great masterpieces. The other is "Something Wicked This Way Comes." Watcher is a wonderful psychological thriller. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars What a great film, It leaves me to imagine what they ...
What a great film, It leaves me to imagine what they could do with it today. It was also nice to have the alternative endings and see what the direction it really was taking had... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Elisha J. Harrison
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