The Watcher in The Woods

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

A 1980 live action Disney film, The Watcher in The Woods is a supernatural mystery about a family that moves into an old British manor. Shortly after, the two daughters attract the attention of what appears to be some kind of ghostly presence lurking in the woods surrounding their house.

The movie is notable for being a well-done example of a suspenseful thriller while still being accessible to kids (although younger children may find it too scary), and also managing to be quite different from the typical Disney fare of the era. The film makes good use of atmosphere to develop a sense of tension and urgency as the plot unfolds.

Tropes used in The Watcher in The Woods include:
  • Another Dimension: Where the Watcher is from, and where Karen went.
  • Creepy Child: Ellie, when she's possessed by the Watcher.
  • Dark Secret: Karen's disappearance.
  • Don't Go in The Woods
  • Executive Meddling: The film's original ending was to have The Watcher be an insectoid being who takes Jan to its spaceship in order to help Jan reverse the swap between Karen and the Watcher. However, Disney wanted to rush the film's release to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Bette Davis' film career. Hence, the effects of the UFO sequence weren't finished in time for the film's release, resulting in an ending that was unintelligible. In turn, Disney pulled the film from release, and instead of finishing the effects needed for the UFO sequence, made a new ending altogether with a different director (although part of the original ending does appear in the film's trailer).
  • Haunted Heroine: Jan and her younger sister Ellie.
  • Haunted House Historian: Mrs. Aylwood.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Bette Davis plays the caretaker of the haunted house (and Karen's mother)), while David McCallum plays Jan and Ellie's father.
  • Initiation Ceremony: When Karen disappeared, it was while being initiated into a "secret club" by the other children.
  • Large Ham: John Keller's the one character who overacts in every scene he appears.
  • Mirror Scare: Jan sees a blindfolded girl in a mirror, then again in a pool of water, and finally at a carnival's house of mirrors attraction.
  • Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: Tom Colley, and also Mrs. Aylwood.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: There are a lot of tense moments when nothing really happens, but you know something is there, watching.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: Nerak.
  • Total Eclipse of the Plot: Plays a key role.
  • Trapped in Another World: During the eclipse thirty years ago, Karen and the Watcher switched places when a portal was opened between their dimensions, and they need Jan's help to reverse it.