A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Watcher in the Woods is a 2017 remake of the 1980 young adult suspense movie. Like the original, there are some mild scares and horror imagery. Perhaps the most disturbing for younger viewers is a scene in which it appears that a teen girl is drowning in a pond, apparently held down with a walking stick by an elderly matriarch rumored to be a witch. Images in the mirror of a girl blindfolded and then the mirror cracking into a perfect X also occur, and the youngest girl makes a strange imaginary friend named "Nerak." If anything, the few changes this movie made from the original -- which was also pretty tame for a horror movie -- make the movie even less scary than it was before. "Hell" is used once.
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What's the story?
In THE WATCHER IN THE WOODS, the Carstairs family have just arrived from Cleveland to live in the Welsh countryside for the summer. After looking for a place to live, they settle on Aylwood Manor, despite the sense of foreboding from some of the residents of the village, a sense of doom that not even the real estate agent can hide, as well as the rude welcome from Mrs. Aylwood (Anjelica Huston). Almost immediately after moving in, strange events take place. The bedroom mirror in the girls' room cracks in a perfect X; teen daughter Jan (Tallulah Evans) has visions in the mirror of a girl who appears blindfolded and kidnapped. Meanwhile, the youngest daughter, Ellie, has given her doll the mysterious name of "Nerak." As Ellie tries to piece together the mysteries, she befriends some of the villagers, including fellow teen Mark (Nicholas Galitzine), who tell her of Mrs. Aylwood's daughter, Karen, who disappeared in the woods next to Aylwood Manor 30 years ago while playing a spooky game with her friends. After Jan nearly drowns in a pond in the woods, Mrs. Aylwood saves her, but it appears, when family arrive on the scene, that Mrs. Aylwood was trying to drown her with a large stick. But Jan defends Mrs. Aylwood's innocence to the authorities, and begins to formulate a plan as Mrs. Aylwood informs her of the woods' chilling history involving a medieval doctor and the Black Plague.
Is it any good?
This remake of the 1980 thriller based on the 1976 book loses much of the creepiness of the original by sanitizing the content. The religious overtones and pagan rituals are dialed way down and replaced with the clichéd scares of sudden bursts of suspense music and M. Night Shyamalan-style whispering amidst drab color palettes. They couldn't even have "Nerak" (the name of the girl who disappears spelled backward) be a puppy like the original, opting instead for a doll. The village weirdos aren't as weird. And while Anjelica Huston does a respectable job of filling the venerable shoes of Bette Davis (who played Mrs. Aylwood in the 1980 original), there just isn't enough to work with.
The original wasn't even that great of a movie to begin with. And while at least there is a kitsch value to the original, this remake of The Watcher in the Woods lacks that charm and leaves a bland collection of done-to-death horror clichés in its place.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about remakes of old movies. Why do you think remakes like The Watcher in the Woods get made? Why are they usually not as good as the original?
This movie is also based on a 1976 novel. What would be the challenges in adapting a book into a movie?
How does this movie compare to other suspense movies?
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