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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
As a "haunted house" tale with plot twists involving occult rituals undertaken by kids, there isn't much in the way of positive messages.
Positive Role Models
Characters are essentially archetypal representations of the characters typically seen in "family moves into an old home that seems haunted"-type stories and are too narrow to be seen as positive role models.
Violence & Scariness
A girl is thrown off a horse and, though uninjured, also causes a truck to veer out of control into an accident. A motorcycle explodes after the driver loses control, and it flies into the air, nearly killing one of the lead characters. A girl nearly drowns; a suspicious elderly woman appears to be holding her down in the water but actually rescues her. Mild horror suspense throughout: Mirrors and glasses break; abrupt cuts from a suspenseful scene to a close-up of a demon in a haunted house; a black cat jumps on a character.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Champagne drinking. A man is accused of being drunk.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Watcher in the Wood is a 1980 Disney movie about an American family that moves to an old home in the English countryside where bizarre paranormal events start to occur. Though there is mild suspense and overly familiar horror movie tropes throughout -- glass and mirrors break for seemingly no reason, and there are abrupt cuts from a potentially scary scene to a close-up of a demon in a haunted house in an amusement park, for instance -- there also are scenes in which it appears an elderly woman is drowning a young girl and one in which a girl is thrown off an out-of-control horse that also causes a truck accident. The occult themes could be problematic for faith-centered families, as could a scene in which a church is on fire. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The scares in THE WATCHER IN THE WOODS make this a rather jarring departure from the typical live-action Disney films of the 1970s and '80s. But the movie is still as dated as the lead teen character's feathered hair and designer jeans. Many of the actual attempts to scare the audience feel gratuitous and forced, having very little to do with the actual story.
Aside from the occult themes, the movie doesn't veer too far from the typical "new family in a house that appears to be haunted" tropes that so often characterize these types of movies; glasses and mirrors break for no reason, the owner of the house is eerie and suspicious, animals lose control of themselves, objects move and explode, and so on. And the special effects, decades after the movie was made, aren't really all that special. It's difficult to imagine modern kids finding this movie anything but corny. The similarities to The Shining (backward writing on mirrors and windows by a seemingly possessed girl, for example) make it uninspiring viewing for grown-up horror fans as well.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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