Watcher in the Woods is a scary movie for kids directed by John Hough who made the two successful Witch Mountain movies.
Disney isn’t all sweet and light. In the 1980s, they cranked out two very dark and eerie films – Something Wicked This Way Comes and Watcher in the Woods. When Watcher was released to theaters, it even carried a disclaimer saying it was not for small children.
Watcher in the Woods tells the story of a family who moves to an isolated home on the edge of the woods owned by creepy Mrs. Aylwood (Bette Davis). From the opening stalking-through-the-woods sequence, it’s clear that this isn’t your normal Disney fare. It’s soon revealed that Aylwood’s daughter, Karen, went missing three decades ago, and that the Curtis family’s daughter, Jan, bears a strong resemblance to the vanished girl.
Jan quickly finds strange goings-on in her new home. She feels a presence in the woods that’s watching her. She keeps catching glimpses of a blindfolded girl, silently crying out for help. In two of the film’s eeriest scenes, Jan stands before a mirror that casts no reflection of herself, just an image of the ghostly girl.
But Jan’s not the only one tuned into the strange occurances… Jan’s baby sister Ellie starts hearing whispers, falls into trances and names her new puppy Nerak which is “Karen” spelled backwards.
Originally, the movie had a different opening sequence. It featured a girl in the woods playing with a doll. The Watcher sneaks up behind her and scares her. She drops the doll and runs away. The doll flies into the air and bursts into flames. Then the main titles play over the melting doll’s face. This disturbed too many kids and Disney had to change it.