The Watcher in the Woods
Hey, it’s October, and you’re probably thinking to yourself: This is the month brought to us by pumpkin spice lattes and horror movies. If you are like me, and would sooner be eaten alive by a zombie than ingest faux autumnal flavorings mixed with caffeine, part of this month’s sanctioned joy is out. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a good thrill. And what sounds tastier than a remake of the 1980s cult classic The Watcher in the Woods, this time starring Oscar-winner Anjelica Huston in the Bette Davis role?
Sounds. Sounds is the operative word here. Coincidentally, the sounds are what tip you off to the fact that this Lifetime offering, directed by yesteryear’s plucky teenage witch Melissa Joan Hart, is going to be as subtle as a black cat crossing underneath a ladder made up of broken mirrors. Every time something creepy is about to happen in the charming English countryside where the Carstairs family rents Aylwood Manor for a summer, the wind starts howling, bird wings frantically flap, whispers get louder in the breeze, and an organ in the distance spews ominous notes.
And it seems that only sullen teenager Jan Carstairs (Tallulah Evans) is listening. The rest of the Carstairs clan, who clearly have never seen a horror movie, is determined to think Jan is just being dramatic when she starts looking into the town’s tragic past. (Side note: Are all pop culture Jans disenfranchised?)
The weirdo local who refers to the landlady Mrs. Aylwood (Huston) as a “devil dodger”? You’re reading too much into it, Jan! Little sister Ellie (Dixie Egerickx) slipping into a trance and writing N-E-R-A-K (As in, Karen spelled backwards. As in, Mrs. Aylwood’s daughter who disappeared 20 years ago) on a window? Whatevs, Jan! The hottie farm hand who doesn’t seem at all bothered that nobody he knows has ever stepped foot near the woods? Stop thinking country folk are strange, Jan!
So is this two-hour movie scary? Only for anyone who appreciates continuity, logical character development, and decent dialogue. It’s a wonder Jan isn’t wearing a neck brace by the end of the film from all the plot whiplash she has to endure. But that’s nothing compared to poor Huston, who deserves better than having to endure hearing lines like “So, if you’re not a witch who killed your daughter, where’s Karen?” Get that woman a stiff pumpkin spiced latte, STAT. C–