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Picks and Pans Review: The Watcher in the Woods

updated 06/02/1980 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/02/1980 AT 01:00 AM EDT

In the control of, say, Brian de Palma or John Carpenter, this might have been a gripping horror film. Coming as it does from Walt Disney Productions, it's a supernatural tale that's as silly as it is scary. Wholesome Lynn-Holly (Ice Castles) Johnson is a teenager who begins to "see things" after her family rents an isolated mansion from batty Bette Davis. The house is surrounded by some splendid woods where the Watcher unleashes gusts of wind and dazzling bolts of light. Director John (Escape to Witch Mountain) Hough does create an atmosphere of benevolent menace, and there are several jump-out-of-your-seat frights. He utilizes his cast less well: Carroll Baker and David McCallum are wasted as Lynn-Holly's parents, and Johnson herself tends to substitute all-purpose shrieks for emotion. Davis, in her 50th year in movies, is wonderfully wicked. But she can't compensate, especially for the contrived ending of this Disneyville Horror. (PG)

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