Watcher in the Woods – Disneycember

An actual SCARY movie from Disney? Doug takes a look at Watcher in the Woods.

About Doug Walker

Creator of 5 Second Movies, Nostalgia Critic, Bum Reviews and more.

27 comments

  1. Great review Mr. Walker, with me being a huge Disney fan and you saying how good this movie is, I am going to have to check it out sometime. And especially since this is a “scary” Disney movie which is something that hasn’t really been heard of before besides maybe “Something Wicked This Way Comes” which I also have to check out as well.

  2. I saw the DVD cover to this film at the stores. By looking at the over, I was wondering if this was really a scary horror movie despite having the Disney logo on it. It had a PG rating, which lowered my expectations a bit, and, of course, having the Disney logo lowered them a bit more. But I was still concerned about the cover, the title, and everything else on the DVD, especially seeing how it almost really looked like a real horror movie and it had the Disney name on it.

    Now that I have seen this review, I might just check it out to see how REALLY SCARY Disney can be…!
    Thanks, Doug!

  3. Sweet Sunshine this movie terrified me as a child! I had nightmares for WEEKS after watching it! My siblings would tease me about it, and my sister bought a stuffed dog just so she could name it Nerak. I had to go to Amazon and buy a copy of the book after the great review. I used to have one when I was younger, and I would read it constantly and scare myself again.
    Part of what scared me was the lack of resolution of the first ending; it was later re-edited to be more complete.
    There’s a third ending, too, which I love just as much as the second ending in the movie. But I like the second ending best of them all.

  4. Looks like I have a movie to add to my list.

  5. This movie terrified me as a kid. Now, not so much but I agree that the atmosphere, the sense of being watched all of it is very well done. That’s what I like in horror movies, not the gore or violence or jump scares, though they’re fine if done right, I prefer my scary movies to build a creepy mood, a feeling of dread that sticks with you long after the movie is over and this movie does it quiet well. The mirror scene in the funhouse was what stood out over the years that scared me the most about this movie. I remember liking this movie a lot, though being not entirely sure what the heck was going on in the end, and it wasn’t until I watched again as an adult that I was like, “Oh, OK.” because it’s so much more than a typical ghost story. I’d call it a sci-fi movie disguised as an old fashioned ghost story and even though the effects are cheesy by todays standards and yeah girl that plays Jan is so-so, but yes, I agree that it effectively builds an ominous atmosphere, something modern horror tends to lack, and the quiet moments work quite well. I’m so glad you reviewed this one. It’s one of my favorite nostalgic live-action Disney movies and definitely underrated.

    Another one I remember liking when I was a kid that no one I know of seems to have heard of is “Child of Glass” I haven’t seen it since I was a kid so I have no idea how well it held up or if it’s even that good, but I remember that while I didn’t find it as scary as “Watcher in the Woods”, it was pretty dark (it was about a boy who befriends the ghost of a girl who was murdered), but it was made during that era where people weren’t afraid of making dark, scary(ish) movies for kids.

  6. I remember asking my mum to rent this one back in the 80s, and she was happy to, liking spooky stuff herself. The chap in the rental place actually said the film was particularly scary for kids, and was my mum sure she wanted me to see it – to which she replied, yes, yes she did indeed want me to see it.

    I’ve never forgotten the film, which both me and my mum really enjoyed. I do recall we didn’t think it was *that* scary (but I was a hardened ghost-obsessed child, constantly reading anything ghost-related I could get my hands on at the library), but it does do the job well enough to be recommended.

  7. I watched this as a VHS my sister had taped off TV and I wasn’t suppose to watch it. It really freaked me out and I was scared of mirrors for ages. I just expected that blindfolded girl to be there. I did only watch the end part as it was taped over for some reason and I got the freaky ending. I got to see it years later and it didn’t freak me out as much but I finally did understand what was going on at least.

  8. I feel I watched this when I was younger but I don’t remember it till I was watching your review. I recognize a lot of those scenes and what’s funny is some time ago I found the DVD and bought it but haven’t sat down to watch it. It’s familiar but since it’s been so long I wonder how much I’ll remember as I watch it. Love Disneycember and can’t wait to see what’s next.

  9. I’ve never head of this movie but I’m not into scary movies so I won’t be seeing it.

    • It’s not that scary. It’s creepy, but nothing to scar you for life. The blind fold girl is the scariest part. Most of the movie is the anticipation of something happening and scary camera angles. I just wish the ending wasn’t so weak.

  10. I love this film! I saw it in the mid 90’s on the disney channel and it genuinely creeped me out. I scared my little sisters to death when I showed it to them. Very imaginative and scary, and hey, we get Bettie Davis too đŸ˜› As a person who grew up on Disney AND being a horror fan, it’s the perfect mix. Like one of those older horror films that are more psychological and timeless.

  11. I’ve got to check this one out now.

  12. As someone who’s seen this movie, I think Doug’s being a little too liberal with the praise.

    When I was a preteen, my dad pointed this out to me in the Blockbuster kid’s section and told me I should rent it, and so with no context whatsoever, I did. I watched it alone in my room on a weekend night. I never forgot it, but not because I enjoyed it. It was seriously one of the most bewildering, surreal experiences of my life. This movie pounds your brain with tedium until you can hardly keep your eyes open, and then out of nowhere, finales on one heaping spoonful of batshit crazy. It isn’t a good movie, but it is unlike any other movie I’ve ever seen.

    This is the kind of thing that’s fascinating to find on your own because it’s just such an anomaly, but far less easy to appreciate when it’s been recommended to you. I get the feeling that anyone who watches this because of Doug’s recommendation is going to have a giant WTF moment.

  13. I did actually scream during this film…but that was because in the middle of one of the possession scenes, there was a huge bang and the power went out in my neighborhood. Being already freaked out by the movie, and then sitting up in the dark all night…yeah, this goes down as one of the freakiest things I’ve ever experienced.

  14. Can’t say I’ve ever heard of this one, although that main actress looked so familiar, turns out she was in “For Your Eyes Only”.

  15. but chickens double d

    Great movie.

    Could you review Dragonslayer, Treasure Island, So Dear to My Heart, Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, Tall Tale, Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale, and some of the Muppets movies if you have time?

  16. I remember my teachers in 6th grade showing us this movie in class. I remember being creep out by it but not scared out of my mind. I was scared by many things as a kid but this movie did not effect me. I do not know if I would recommend it for young children but for kids 10 and older (or who do not scare easily) they should be fine watching this movie

  17. This movie scared the crap out of me when I was a kid, but the ending never really seemed to make sense and there were too many loose ends, which only made it scarier to me. When I got a bit older and found the book, I figured out why. The book ends much differently and resolves things in a way that you are no longer scared, which would be a bad thing for a scary movie that really wants you to be scared, so I see why they shoehorned a different ending in, even though it didn’t really fit with the rest of the story. The book did a great job of scaring you, then explaining everything so that you were able to sleep without nightmares.

  18. Just saw this last night, pretty good!

  19. I remember the old days when Disney put out its first line of home videos, and every movie you rented would have all these quick “old-trailer-like” previews that would normally include their old live action films. This was one of them, and oh boy did it scare me as a kid… I didn’t get to actually see it until we got cable for the first time and it was on Disney Channel. (Yeah…remember when Disney Channel actually showed their old movies on it?)

    In short, thanks for reviewing this. You’re exactly right…this movie has practically vanished from awareness of existence. And I’m glad to see someone else liked it and it wasn’t just my imagination.

    (P.S. Is that Bette Davis as the old woman?)

    • Yep that is Bette Davis.
      It’s really sad that Disney doesn’t play their old movies and TV shows on any of their channels anymore. Especially since they seem to be actively trying to make us forget them which is a shame because there are some forgotten Disney gems out there just like this movie.
      Two things need to happen: first Disney needs to stop trying to hide their more obscure properties and forcefeeding us their animated stuff over and over again. Second Disney needs to establish a round-the-clock movie channel like TCM except Disney movies. This would give disney the chance to show off their more obscure content to see how big a fanbase there is for it.
      When I take over Disney the first thing I’m doing…Is giving Elfago Baca, Swamp Fox, and Texas John Slaught proper tin case DVD releases. But after that I intend to release their more obscure movies on DVD for all to enjoy and start a proper Disney movie channel.

  20. I’ve never heard of this! I guess that’s why it didn’t appear on your reviews until now. Please do Swiss Family Robinson! That was a Disney movie, right? It’s my second favorite live-action Disney movie!

  21. I remember watching this as a kid with my parents, and them having to turn it off as i was shivering with fear at it!

  22. I’d totally forgotten this movie, then that brief image of the scene with them standing around the girl at the end brought it back. I think this might be the ghost movie I watched as a little kid and always sort of remembered in snatches but I was too young to remember the actual title. Huh. I guess I at least know it actually existed now.

  23. I remember watching this at a slumber party in second grade. When it got to the scene with the girl with the blindfold, my friend’s dad scared us all (on purpose) by knocking on the door loudly and we all were scared out of our wits.

  24. Just finished watching this movie. I like ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ better but this is still a terrific movie.

  25. Oh Doug, sometimes I wished you picked up on more silly pop culture nonsense. That being said…IS BETTE FUCKING DAVIS IN THIS MOVIE?!?!?! If you posted and pontificated on that, I swear you’d tap into such a HUGE subsection of ridiculous people (like me) who go APESHIT for stuff like that. That being said, I have NEVER heard of this movie, and now I’m dying to see it. This “let’s tone down the scary stuff for kids” BS has always bothered me. If you know your kid, you know if they like scary stuff or not – just like I know adults who HATE horror, but who aren’t pansies or pussies or other names that mean “womanly.” I always loved shit like this when I was a kid – horrified by it and yet always drawn to it. This would have been right up my alley, but I’ve never heard of it till now. Thanks FOREVER for this, Doug. Gonna find it online and watch the shit out of it!! xo

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