The Watcher in the Woods (1980)

Directed by: John Hough & Vincent McEveety

Written by: Brian Clemens, Gerry Day, Rosemary Anne Sisson & Harry Spalding
Florence Engel Randall (Novel)


Bette Davis .... Mrs. Aylwood
Lynn-Holly Johnson .... Jan Curtis
Kyle Richards .... Ellie Curtis
Carroll Baker .... Helen Curtis
David McCallum .... Paul Curtis
Benedict Taylor .... Mike Fleming
Frances Cuka .... Mary Fleming
Richard Pasco .... Tom Colley
Ian Bannen .... John Keller

Release Date: Theatrical: April 17, 1980

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An American family named the Curtis' moves to the UK to a mansion in the forest as a mysterious force seems to lurk around and grabs the attention on a teenage girl named Jan (Lynn-Holly Johnson) as well as her younger sister Ellie (Kyle Richards) who happsn to say strange things by talking in her sleep.
Near tragic accidents happen to them in the wooded area as well as Jan spotting hallucinations on a girl blindfolded and calling for help.
Plus they have encounters with a mysterious old woman named Mrs. Aylwood (Bette Davis) who seems to know the going on's in the wooded area as she tells Jan about her daughter Karen disappearing a couple decades ago during a ceremony at a run down cathedral during the eclipse by an unknown force.
Jan is forced to bring Karen back making her family not escape from the area until everything is back to normal.


The film has a perfect opening in which there's lots of shots on creepy old looking trees in the forest with the sun shining on them leaving it off to a nice impression. Plus there's a good feel to the wind blowing the leaves on the ground as well as camera shots spying on people which for sure gives you the chills.
There's a perfect situation with the lead character Jan Curtis looking out the window spotting a flash of light near the forest as well as a good close up shot on her hand next to it with a crack on the window as this is a nice near jumping moment and pretty suspenseful. Also a good creepy approach with Mrs. Aylwood talking to her which was a nice moment put in making this elderly woman seem mysterious for sure when we hear for what she has to say to Jan.
A perfect chilling moment with Mrs. Aylwood talking to the woods telling it that the American family going to stay which was perfectly well done when we watch this.
In another situation there's a good moment when Jan is putting up a mirror and doesn't spot a reflection adiing more nice mild horror touches to the story as well as her placing her fingers on it which creeps you out and having a big bad feeling that something will happen. While it does there's a cool shot on a ghostly looking girl blindfolded adding more nice flavor to all of this and neat special effects here.
Nice camera shot on Jan lying in bed showing a space to where we'd expect to be scared and that moment happens with her cheeky sister Ellie playing a trick on her which works in well since this moment was too still and silent. A great touch here before any more creepy moments happen in the story.
A perfect setting when Jan goes in to check up on Ellie as she's talking in her sleep in a trance which has a nice mysterious moment. Also a good discussion between the two of them when Ellie asks if she can sleep in her room and bringing her stuffed elephant to keep them from talking in their sleep and having bad dreams. While watching all of this it looked totally natural with two siblings enjoying each other's company.
A real mysterious moment when Ellie is in a trance holding a puppy and printing the name Karen on a misty window as well as her telling Jan she whispered it in her ear which she never did as this draws in your attention that there's a force behind all of this.
A good spine chilling incident when we spot a local resident named Mary Fleming talking to Jan and Ellie's parents and then spotting the misty window with the name on it and being frightened about it adding more suspense and mild horror into the story. This situation looked incredibly effective.
Perfect camera shots on Jan running in the forest to find her sister with neat misty effects as well as later on a nice still situation on Jan walking on top of a log near the lake as well as a nice jumping moment and a good camera shot on a flash of light striking near her as this for sure gives you the chills big time. Plus neat intense moments when we spot on what happens to Jan during this situation.
A great discussion on Jan telling Mrs. Aylwood on what she spotted the blindfolded girl in the mirror as this was strongly put together when she tells Jan about her daughter disappearing which was well remembered in the story here since it was greatly written by how each other reacts to all of this.
Many terrific shots on dirtbikes racing as well as Ellie going towards an area and callling to Jan to come see something quick and later on watching a good suspenseful explosion of a bike falling. Plus a nice moment with Ellie later on telling Jan she didn't want her but her new puppy she named Narek did as this leaves another good missing clue to the case on Karen leaving this a good strange touch to everything that we see in this scene.
A great dark feel when Jan goes to a closed down cathedral and spots a ghostly figure of Karen blindfolded in an open coffin as well as a terrific shot on a man in the dark creeping up towards her as this showed nice timing for some unsolved mysteries.
There's a nice strong discussion with Mike Fleing trying to talk to her Mom about Karen and she acts hesitant discussing it as this was perfectly put in making you wonder more on what really had happened.
Another perfect moment is when Ellie's horse panic's and keeps running as well as a good shot on a vehicle driving by while the horse is about to charge towards the road making you wonder if something terrible is going to happen here. It for sure makes you watch to see on what happens next.
Great camera shot zooming in and out when Jan is at a carnival in a maze of mirrors spotting Karen crying for help which looked perfectly ghostly and a Twilight Zone type of appeal too.
There's a perfect situation when Jan talks to aan eccentric drunk named Tom Colley about Karen which seemed pretty creepy by what he has to say along with a great flashback sequence involving the ceremony with Karen as there's perfect camera shots throughout this as well as things seeming ghostly and suspenseful with the thunderstorm occuring here. All of what happened here looked powerfully suspenseful and frightening.
A nice uplifting moment when Mrs. Aylwood invites Ellie for some tea which shows a nice change to this character. Plus a nice effective moment when she talks to her about talking in her sleep as well as showing her a music box and going in a trance with great close up shots on this. Adds more flavor to the story indeed.
Plus perfect moments with the Curtis family trying to drive away on a stormy night and their car stalls on a bridge as Jan gets everyone to flee from the vehicle knowing that something is going to happen which adds some nice frights here along with a good touch that a force is preventing them from escaping as this is a nice traditional moment in a ghostly type of horror flick.
Nice add on with Jan silently talking out her window to tell whatever is out there to not hurt them as well as good moments with her Mom acting upset about this and their intense interactions together.
Also perfect moments when Ellie asks for a telescope to see the eclipse as well as revealing flashbacks from the movie leading to clues as what to do in order to bring Karen back which gives you goosebumps for sure.
Then things really spice up big time when Jan gets the people to repeat the ceremony with her blindfolded in which alot of powerful situations start to happen as well as us spotting Ellie briefly possessed speaking in a different tone as to why Karen disappeared and what to do. Alot of this was very memorable and exciting to watch with perfect lighting effects surrounding this moment.
Bottom line is that this is an excellent Disney film as it goes to show some horror films are suitable for a family. I saw this in elementary school on Halloween and was almost too scared to watch it and someone told me not to think about being scared. I was still a little scared. Years later I loved it and is one of my favourite films.
Has good effects, the cast works well off of one another, quite ghostly and haunting and it is heartwarming during the end of the film.
It was only rated PG cause it can scare little kids but otherwise this film is suitable for all ages. Check it out

The acting is terrificly done by a great cast. Bette Davis (Mrs. Aylwood) was the most effective one in the movie with her ghostly actions as a bitter but upset woman who misses her daughter since that terrifying incident. She does a nice job speaking seriously towards someone and coming across as believeably creepy by what she does. Also does a good job showing her emotions in another scene when someone tells her about who she thinks may be her daughter making this really come to life big time. In another part of her performance shows a perfect calm and warmness to her speaking showing a perfect versatality here. Plus does a good job asking and pleading during another situation. She was perfectly energetic and believeable here too. Shows more great energy by showing a worried reaction on what someone is planning to do as this was memorable in her performance here. Also was convincing with her British accent too making you think that she is from that background. She stole the show with her performance here.
Lynn-Holly Johnson
(Jan Curtis) has the perfect looks and talent as the teenage American who tries to discover who Karen is and has alot of good pizzaz to her part which is a plus. She shows a nice softness to her speaking with a great mellow type of behavior showing a perfect likeness to what she does. Shows off some good energy when she gets firm at times and showing good emotions while doing this. Was perfect when she acts anxious for the spooky moments and bringing this all to a great hype here. Was terrific when she tries to stress situations just rolling with this big time. I found her to be the second best one out of the whole cast.
Kyle Richards
(Ellie Curtis) who plays her younger sister is very charming to her role as I loved her work in Halloween and Eaten Alive as well but she stands out way more in this film. Shows a nice mischievious and curious attitude as well as coming across as someone who is full of life just really getting into this. She shows a ton of spunk within all of this. Also does well by acting expressionless while in a trance as well as doing a good job shouting out and going crazy in one scene drawing this in perfectly.
Carroll Baker (Helen Curtis) shows off a perfect role as a family woman showing a good sharp behavior and acting kind hearted. She seemed to know what she was doing while getting into a discussion as well on getting short when she doesn't believe in what is happening showing a perfect gruffness. She drew in alot of inspiration within all of this and knew her role inside out.
Benedict Taylor (Mike Fleming) played a good heartthrob in the film as a local English teenage boy next door. Also had the typical clean cut looks into this as well as the attitude too. He shows great energy to his part. Does a nice job while trying to talk to someone about some incidents showing some nice enthusiasm here. He also was great whenever he had to act protective along with showing a great anxious attitude near the end of his role. Shows alot of decent characteristics.
Frances Cuka
(Mary Fleming) does wonderful as a scared and disturbed woman trying to shake off her past with what happened to Karen. Shows terrific frightened expressions in alot of situations. Also does a nice job with her frightened speaking when she tries not to talk about a subject too. Brings her intensity to a perfect high pitch during the final ceremony in which she knew her stuff by acting believeably terrified.
Richard Pasco
(Tom Colley) portrays a great eccentric drunk in the film too. Does well coming across as a dark figure as well as showing a nice expressionless behavior during one of his first performances along with his blocking reaching out his hand. Also was great acting scared by having an almost wimpy type of speaking too. Shows off wonderfully with his frightened and disturbed attitude while discussing a situation and showing off some nice charisma to all of this.
Ian Bannen
(John Keller) proves that he has great strictness and aggression to his role in the film.
He knew his stuff when being short on certain situations along with being believeably blunt too. Also has the right rough and serious looks to his part which really shines off here. Plus acted believeably intelligent too. Her portrayed a great former leader of his ceremony. Shows off a nice hard voice too whenever he speaks which was another bonus to his role.

The music is strongly and classically composed by Stanley Myers making every sequence extremely effective. He is the man. He shows good violin music which has some low and high sounds sounding good, soft and clear. Plus we have perfect clarniet and flute composing as well. Along with all of this there's nice hearbeat sounds for the still suspenseful scene's in the story giving it a perfect effect. We hear the odd light piano playing which also sounds effective. Along with the odd harp plucking sounds which stands out nicely. Plus there's some peaceful chiming music necessary for the calm moments as well.

Mrs. Aylwood: Did you hurt yourself?
Jan Curtis: Oh, it's just a little cut. I thought... I thought I saw something out there in the woods.
Mrs. Aylwood: What sort of person are you?
Jan Curtis: That's hard to say. Just average, I guess.
Mrs. Aylwood: Are you adventurous? And kind? Are you kind?
Jan Curtis: I... try to be.
Mrs. Aylwood: And sensitive...? Do you sense things?

Mrs. Aylwood (Talking to the forest): She's going to stay.... Is that what you wanted?

Ellie: Jan!!! Come quick!!!!

Ellie (After seeing a bike crash and explode): Did you see that???
Jan: What did you want?
Ellie: I didn't want you, Narek did.

Mrs. Aylwood: Whatever happened to Karen could happen to you!

Mrs. Aylwood: God be with you child