Friday, 25 August 2017

The Watcher in the Woods

Disney movies used to be a bit scary, a bit action-y, a bit Out There. It's arguable that the House of Mouse lost its way after Walt's cerebral cortex (allegedly) went into liquid nitrogen storage. For whatever reason the late Sixties saw the Disney Corporation start to experiment with live action movies that tackled more adult matter. Nothing too sexy or violent, of course, but still. There was sci-fi such as Return to Witch Mountain, Vernian adventure in Island at the Top of the World, and your actual horror in The Watcher in the Woods (1980). I mean horror in the sense that any kid watching it (like me) was bound to be a bit scared.

The film has an excellent cast - as well as Bette Davis there's the excellent Scottish actor Ian Bannen. The main problem with the movie is that it can never quite decide if it's going to be supernatural or sci-fi, and as a result the ending seems a little botched. The movie also seems to have signalled the end of Disney's experiment with more grown-up family fare. But now there's a remake on the way.

I await the new version with interest. It's notable that in both cases the British setting is deemed to give a touch of class to the ominous Gothic tone. Quite an old-fashioned concept, and an odd one to me, as Poe, Hawthorne, and Bierce are at the heart of a strong US Gothic tradition. But, hey, Limeyland is kind of exotic, I guess.

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