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Walt Disney's the Watcher in the Woods Movie Review

Updated on August 11, 2023
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Brenda is an Ottawa native with a small eBay store. As Treasures by Brenda she sells a variety of new, used and vintage merchandise.

The Watcher in the Woods
The Watcher in the Woods

For Halloween This Year, We're Going To Watch The Watcher In The Woods...

The Watcher In The Woods was Walt Disney's 1980 attempt to move beyond its usual type of film and into the horror movie genre. Based on the novel of the same name written by Florence Engel Randall, it is a suspense-driven rather than a gore-driven scary movie and may be just what you are looking for if you are looking for a good movie to share with tweens who want to watch a scary movie at Halloween or at any time during the year.

The Watcher in the Woods was a mild horror film which suffered some production issues, most notably an unsatisfactory ending. Disney withdrew the movie, reworked the ending and released it again a year later. At the time of its release, it was not particularly successful but it has gone on to gain a bit of a following.

Considered both creepy and well-photographed, I have seen it referred to as 'gothic light.' I do think that the cinematography, though dated and seemingly low budget, is suitably eerie for a spooky movie. I do love the old English feel of this movie, which was shot entirely in England. There is definitely no blood and gore in this horror movie but there is a lot of atmosphere.

There are two versions of The Watcher In The Woods DVD available, the one shown here as issued by Walt Disney and one issued by Anchor Bay. If you are interested in the special features and want to see ALL THREE of the movie's endings, you will want to buy the the Anchor Bay version. If you are simply interested in the movie itself, the less expensive and more readily available Walt Disney version is the one you will be wanting.

If you like a good 'wholesome' ghost story, you will enjoy this movie but remember that it is a WALT DISNEY HORROR MOVIE and as such is not really overly scary and nor was it an award-winning movie.

Fans of Bette Davis will also want to check out The Watcher In The Woods which was filmed when Davis was in her 70s.


A Child-Friendly Scary Movie

Official Watcher In The Woods Movie Trailer

Official Description of The Watcher In The Woods

"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 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 delivers all the right shiver-inducing ingredients: flashes of light, whispers in the wind, eerie visions of a blindfolded little girl lost 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." - Sean Axmaker

The Watcher In The Woods Facts:

  • CAST: Bette Davis, Lynn-Holly Johnson, Kyle Richards (II), Carroll Baker, David McCallum
  • DIRECTOR: John Hough, Vincent McEveety
  • STUDIO: Walt Disney Video
  • RUN TIME: 84 minutes

The Watcher in the Woods Anchor Bay Edition with three different endings!
The Watcher in the Woods Anchor Bay Edition with three different endings!

Viewer Reviews of The Watcher In The Woods

"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 you 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 flick buff could want. Fog covered swamps, abandoned farm houses in the middle of nowhere, a strange old woman with a hidden agenda and plenty of good old-fashioned surprise scares and suspense. Best of all, you can watch it with the whole family. That's right, this movie does not rely on gore or profanity for chills. It's just naturally frightening. So gather up the family, load up the sofa, turn out the lights and enjoy....if you dare!" - Mike Coe

"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 today's standards of what makes a 'good' horror film -(blood, guts, extreme violence, nudity and horrid language). Though the movie is scary, it still holds that Disney "wholesomeness." If your kids want to see a scary movie, let them watch this one." - Jennifer

"When I stumbled upon The Watcher in the Woods while searching for her (Bette Davis') classic titles on Amazon, I knew I had to see it. I was a kid when this flick hit movie theaters in 1981, but don't remember a thing about it and my Mother doesn't remember it, either. We were stunned at just how good it is. Subtle, spooky, with great acting and fitting music, The Watcher in the Woods relies on plot to drive viewers to the end - not blood and gore." - Angela Wilson

"As a family movie Watcher in the Woods has a fun and cozy vibe about it. It never gets very scary, except for Bette Davis whose presence is probably most genuinely intense thing about the movie...Fans of Saw might do well to stay away, but those who like other Disney horror/action like Something Wicked This Way Comes, should love it. - Harriet Truman

The Watcher In The Movie Rated

What age is Watcher In The Woods recommended for?

Some consider this movie too intense for young children because of the suspense and surprises, which may just be too much for them. Amazon recommends it for children aged 9 and up and feels that more sophisticated younger kids might enjoy it. Other references to age that I have seen indicate that it may be too intense for pre-teens.

The Watcher in the Woods VHS Edition
The Watcher in the Woods VHS Edition

Order Your Copy Of Walt Disney's Release Of The Watcher In The Woods

The Watcher in the Woods
The Watcher in the Woods
This version of the movie contains only the final ending.
The Watcher in the Woods [DVD]
The Watcher in the Woods [DVD]
This Anchor Bay version and contains all three of the Watcher in the Wood movie endings.

"What Cannot Be Explained Must Be Explored..."

© 2010 Treasures By Brenda


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