Lucien’s Retro Review: The Watcher in the Woods

Watcher in the WoodsYou ever have something that is nowhere close to an original idea, but the presentation of it is so interesting that it feels new all over again?  That’s this movie.  The weirdest part is – it’s from Disney.  That’s why this movie gets a lot of flak, I think.  A well-made suspense thriller from Disney.  Who would have thought of that?  This isn’t a supremely awesome film.  It is, however, one that will keep you guessing right up until the very end, with some very good production choices that take what is a tired cliche and actually make it fun to watch.  And this is coming from me in the 21st century.  Maybe that’s why this film works so well.  It’s an old idea that feels so new, all in the execution.  We have seen it done to death so many times now, that this film deserves to be known.  However, I have gotten WAY ahead of myself.  Let’s talk about it.

As I said, this is not even remotely close to a new idea.  The premise is – a family moves into a strange house in the middle of the woods.  Gee, there’s a new thought.  There is a supernatural force that is watching them, and messing with them.  Wow, I wonder whats going to happen next.  The older daughter of the family begins to unravel a mystery about the presence that is haunting them, and comes across a very interesting thriller that becomes more and more tense as the plot goes on.  In fact, the more they learn about what is happening, the more interesting it gets.

Everything that is fun about this movie is in the execution.  First, I love the soundtrack!  The opening for this movie has some static shots, with probably the most tense music that I’ve heard since Under the Skin.  The guy they got to do this clearly knew his stuff.  I wonder how much other work he got.  Here’s hoping it was a lot.  Though, maybe not.  As I understand it, this movie was a big critical failure, and has been so forgotten by people since.  A shame, really.

Then there are these awesome tracking shot!  After the credits, one of the first things we see is this shot of the car.  It’s moving and we are watching it go through the woods.  Well, that’s not very unique, is it?  What’s more, it looks poorly done.  I mean, what idiot cameraman did they get to do this?  What’s this?  The car’s gone.  The camera’s still rolling!  This is a perspective shot!  Someone is watching them!  Who is this person?  What do they want?  Where are they going?  That sets the tone for some truly eerie shots of these people being watched, but what becomes a more and more haunting force as the plot unravels.  Each time this creature was watching these people, it feels disturbing.  This movie has almost no jump scares.  It relies entirely on atmosphere and mood to sell the fear.  How the fuck did this end up in a Disney movie?!  No wonder people had problems with it.  This is Disney we’re talking about.  The happy, friendly company.  That they could make a suspense movie with this much atmosphere is so impressive.

Though, there are some bad parts.  The main character can have some hilarious moments of overacting.  I tend to watch movies that have overacting and add narration of my own.  It’s a fun thing to do, especially when you have friends to do it with.  Says something, about me, doesn’t it?  Sad-making.  In any case, as the film goes on, the overacting became less noticeable.  Partly because you kind of felt why the girl was so worked up.  What is the deal with this girl that she is seeing?  Why does this force in the woods want them there?  Why did they blindfold that girl?  But yeah, if you are the kind of person who finds overacting so annoying, I don’t blame you.  This movie has it in spades.

Then there are the cliches.  Yeah, this movie has them.  But as bad as they are, there is something I noticed about them – they are uniquely done!  For example, the family is trying to flee.  Well, this is pretty original, huh?  Gee, I wonder if something is going to stop them.  Is it a fallen log or vehicle troubles?  They set it up like the latter, but then the film goes out of its way to do something else.  That happens a lot.  Every time you see a cliche coming, this movie finds a way to twist it around and make it into something more.  This movie bends the rules of its genre, and it is genuinely fun to watch.

And thus comes my last talking point – the plot.  There is a real mystery that is unraveled in this film, and that is the thing that keeps your interest.  It keeps getting better and better!  One of the jokes I made when narrating to myself (because I’m cool and sane like that) was “the plot thickens.”  Then I realized – holy shit, it actually does!  The plot gets very thick, with the mystery growing more and more as the films goes on, with it eventually blowing up in a huge way.

This is nowhere near a perfect film.  But it did keep my attention, in a way that few other films that I’ve seen lately have.  It’s been a VERY long time since a supernatural thriller has been good without the need of jump scares, gore or stupid overused elements.  Given that I have been playing a game lately where you take all the elements of horror and slap them together, it makes sense that I would love a film that harkens back to an older style, but does it right.  If you are the kind of person who likes a scary movie that doesn’t rely on BOO! to get you afraid, along with a mystery that will keep you going, I think that you’ll find something to like here.  I leave it to you to see what you do with that advice.

Final Verdict
7 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

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