(The Disneycember logo is shown, before showing clips from various 80s and 90s scary TV shows)
Doug (vo): Growing up in the 80s and 90s, we had a lot of various specials that always acted like they were gonna scare us. We had Tales from the Crypt, Are You Afraid of The Dark, Goosebumps, all sorts of various shows that kept explaining how they were gonna scare the crap out of us. And don't get me wrong, I like these shows, I think they're really creative, but there's always one problem to me: they were never scary! Even when I was a kid, I was thinking to myself, "Where's the scary stuff? Where's the stuff that's gonna fuel my nightmares? Where's the stuff that's gonna keep me up?"
(Now we are shown clips from The Watcher in the Woods)
Doug (vo): Watcher in the Woods is that movie. Yes, it's Disney, and, yes, it's technically family-friendly, but it works like any great scary horror film. A lot of atmosphere, a lot of build-up, a lot of mystery, a lot of great shots, and a lot of creepy as well as clever imagery.
Doug (vo): The story is a family is looking in Britain for a new house to move into. They, of course, find a big, creepy place that, of course, has this terrible backstory, an uncomfortable landlord and all sorts of supernatural things happening around it. Both the daughters in the family seem to have strange things happening to them. The youngest is almost being taken over like a puppet, and the older has a tendency to feel the presence of people that were once there before or just feel all sorts of uncomfortable things. Slowly but surely, the truth about the disappearance of a certain girl named Karen comes to light, and the daughters are trying to figure out if it's the ghost of Karen that's trying to get in contact with them, or something else.
Doug (vo): What I like about this film is that there's very few things that actually separate it from a kids scary film and a regular scary film. In fact, I think this film has a lot more atmosphere and scares than most scary films. The only difference is there's no gore, murdering or swear words in it, as well as the pacing is a little quicker than that of a usual scary movie, but, again, they wanna keep the kids' attention. But apart from that, they treat it pretty adult. Notice how many quiet moments are in this. Yeah, remember that? You could have family films that had quiet moments; there didn't always need to be a ton of music or talking. This is called "establishing mood", and it's done great here.
[The different styles of shots used in the film are shown]
Doug (vo): The shots are also great. I absolutely love how they make these woods both beautiful and creepy at the same time. The cinematography surprisingly kind of has an Evil Dead feel to it. Obviously not as over-the-top, but just as clever with its setups.
[The film's opening shot is shown, showing the family's car driving towards the house in the woods]
Doug (vo): My favorite shot is right in the opening: it's just a car pulling into the place. Well, that's no biggie. (The camera begins to move a bit) Oh, well, that shot was kinda sloppily done. (The camera starts to move around into the woods, implying it's a person) Wait a minute, why are we still rolling? Oh, my God. This is a point of view shot! What's watching them?! What's going on?! Okay, it's not a big scare, but at the same time, it kinda catches you off your guard. It's setting up something you didn't know was being set up, and that's what a good scary film should do. The funny thing, too, is that there's a lot of point of view shots in this film, but just when you're about to get sick of them, they do something new with it.
[Two point of view scenes about to be mentioned and described are shown]
Doug (vo): For example, here's a shot of her just going through the woods, yeah, yeah, something's watching her, we've seen that a million times. But then at some point, she goes inside and, wait a minute, it's still out there. Why would they show this shot if something wasn't gonna happen? And it does. And it was properly built up and properly delivered. And just when you think a shot like that can't make you uncomfortable again, there's another scene where she's being followed. Well, okay, again; we've seen it a million times. But wait a minute, now it's inside? We didn't know it could go inside. Every time we've seen it, it's always been outside! Every time they do something with a point of view shot, they add something new to put you in a new state of uncomfortableness. It doesn't downplay anything because it's also gonna be shown to kids, no; it wants to scare the kids, because that's why you're seeing a scary movie! I always hate it when those other shows had to clean it up and not make it too creepy. This goes all out there and tries to scare you without actually psychologically harming you. Kids can be drawn in to smart things and scary films can be smart.
[The main character, Jan Curtis, is shown]
Doug (vo): The only downside I have of this film is that the acting from the main character is not very good. It's really hokey and awkward and kind of reminds me of the girlfriend from Airplane.
Jan Curtis: But I did see something in the mist at the pond. That's why I fell in.
Doug (vo): But even then, I don't mind too much because the whole film has such a strange feel to it that even the acting in its weirdness actually kind of blends in. The whole film's style is so uniquely its own that you kinda get used to it, and maybe it kinda adds to the weird feeling that you have throughout the entire movie.
Final thought Edit
Doug (vo): I don't wanna give away too much as part of the fun is being scared and surprised by it, but, I will say, it's very well done. I kind of don't know why more people aren't talking about it. I mean, it's a legit scary film from Disney, how often does that happen? I mean, we got scary moments from other films that scare us because we're kids, and, yeah, some of them go really far, but this is actually intending throughout the majority of the film to scare you, and it's actually effective. Are scary movie fans just put off that the Disney logo is in front of it? Are Disney fans put off that it's a little too dark and not as obvious for kids? I don't know, but it definitely deserves a lot more attention. Okay, I don't think it's gonna send anyone out running and screaming, but at the same time, it just creates this mood and this environment that just feels strange and dark and creepy and, I don't know. Personally, I just love it. I wish more scary films aimed at kids tried this hard. I don't know if it's a censorship issue or if people are just too afraid to push the limit, but there's gotta be more movies like this. I can tell you for certain I found a new film to watch every Halloween. The atmosphere, the environment, the story, the characters, the scares, I'm just in love with this film. It's definitely worth checking out with the lights off, when you're all alone, and you feel like somebody's watching you.
[Another "point of view" scene, showing Jan walking alone through the woods, is shown as we fade out]