24 November 2014

The Watcher in the Woods (1980)
83 min.
Directed by John Hough, Vincent McEvetty.
With Bette Davis, Carroll Baker, David McCallum, Lynn-Holly Johnson, Kyle Richards, Ian Bannen, Benedict Taylor, Richard Pasco, Katherine Levy, Frances Cuka.
Based on a novel written by Florence Engel Randall and published in 1976, this muddled ghost-science fiction concoction from Disney fails to impress.

Helen and Paul Curtis (Baker, McCallum) and their two young daughters Jan and Ellie (Johnson, Richards) take up residence in an old English manor.

But soon all kinds of strange phenomena begin to occur: Jan sees visions and lights in the woods...she nearly drowns in a pond...and Ellie is possessed by an unknown spirit.

Turns out the Curtises are being haunted by the long dead daughter of their next door neighbor, Mrs. Aylwood (Davis). Seems the young girl was abducted some 30 years ago by an interstellar alien...and now she wants to come home.

Game performances (from leads Johnson and Davis) and solid production values try in vain to hold the story's center together, which dissolves to sci fi confusion at climax.

Watcher in the Woods was intended to be low key kiddie ghost fare. And on that level, it succeeds modestly.

But even kiddie fare should be engaging and make sense - neither of which you can say about this half-cooked dish.

Alternate available endings do little to strengthen the film's overall thrust.

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