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The Watcher in the Woods

230 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

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


Special Features

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

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: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (230 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00003ETIS
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,580 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Watcher in the Woods" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

101 of 103 people found the following review helpful By mike coe on 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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61 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer on 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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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Byron Kolln HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 14, 2005
Format: DVD
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lonnie E. Holder HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 19, 2004
Format: DVD
It seems unlikely that "Watcher in the Woods" would be made for theatrical release today. While the movie may be frightening for younger audiences, it is but spooky for older audiences and the ending has a little bit of weakness, even with the re-vamping indicated by the alternative endings provided on the DVD.

Lynn-Holly Johnson, whose most notable roles were in "Ice Castles" with Robbie Benson and the Bond film "For Your Eyes Only," little sister Kyle Richards and their family move to a beautiful English country home when their father, played by David McCallum of "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." and "The Invisible Man" television series fame, is transferred to England. The family soon encounters ever-eerie Bette Davis as an appropriately scary old lady who does little speaking but looks at the new family intently (and an intent look from Bette Davis in her latter years was always scary). It takes a while for Lynn-Holly Johnson to learn why Davis, playing Mrs. Aylwood, looks at her so intently.

It takes very little time for strange things to start happening to little sister Kyle Richards, who was also on the television series "Little House on the Prairie." Kyle writes "Nerak" on a window and names her dog the same, not realizing that Nerak has a very special meaning to Mrs. Aylwood. Kyle writes on mirrors and says strange things. Lynn-Holly Johnson hears strange voices and has visual hallucinations, which are also eerie and just shy of being scary.

The suspense in this movie is increased slowly but steadily to the climax, when we learn the secret of three people who met in an abandoned church many years earlier, and even then we wonder at the plot twist Disney put into the end of the picture.

The pre-digital age special effects are seamless and effective.
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