The Watcher in the Woods by Florence Engel Randall

Published November 11, 2012 by Chick-Lit Cafe

There’s no denying that The Watcher in the Woods is one of the darkest, spookiest Disney movies ever made. The old, paled-faced Bette Davis shrouded in black, the isolated estate surrounded by dark woods, the clairvoyant little girl – everything about it gave me the willies back when I was a kid. Oh heck – who am I kidding? This movie still gives me nightmares! 

So when I stumbled upon the book at an obscure used bookstore, I couldn’t believe my luck. Who knew there was a literary version of this creepy cult classic? Considering the book is always better than the movie, I knew I was in for a treat. Boy was I mistaken. 

Let me break it down for you like this. Here are three reasons why I loved the movie and how the book failed to deliver.   

Spoiler Alert! Karen’s Otherworldly Disappearance:  In the movie, Karen’s disappearance was caused by a group of kids playing around with the occult. Aligned with a solar eclipse, the ritual opened a door to another dimension, causing poor Karen to be spirited away to the great beyond. Spooky stuff, my friends.  

In the book, however, it was all one big alien-conspiracy acid trip. This book was written back in the early 80s – the tail end of the “dazed and confused” era – so I’m wondering if the author was chasing the white rabbit while writing about alien stalkers. The philosophical ramblings also had me scratching my head at times.  

The Foreshadowing: The little hairs on the back of my neck still stand on end when I think about the funhouse scene where a blind-folded Karen appears in the mirror maze mouthing the word “help.” Or when the little bratty sister falls into a trance and writes the name “Karen” backwards on a dusty window. And who can forget the motorcross scene where a message from beyond saves Jan from getting reamed by a flying motorcycle?

These spooky elements are few and far between in the book. Aside from a couple broken mirrors and a psychedelic TV scene, the author didn’t really get too creative with foreshadowing.   

The Ending: WTF? That was the question running through my mind as I polished off the last couple pages. There’s a plot twist hidden in there somewhere, but I just didn’t get it. The movie did a fine job tying up the story with a neat little bow, but the book left me with more questions than answers. I think someone got sucked into a wormhole through space and time, but I’m not quite sure. Shit man, I don’t even know if the alien was good or evil! If you fully grasped the convoluted turn of events, please post a comment and fill me in!

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5 comments on “The Watcher in the Woods by Florence Engel Randall

  • If you ever get around to reading it, let me know if the ending didn’t boggle your mind! On Goodreads, it looks like people either love it or hate it. So I guess the ending made sense to some people…maybe you have to chase the white rabbit to get a grasp on the author’s far-out concepts!

  • This movie is truly one of my favorites. Never even knew it was based on a book…but I think an ending that deals with aliens ruins the story. I much prefer how Disney ended it. 🙂

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