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The Watcher in the Woods, on Lifetime
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This 2017 TV movie is a reimagining of the 1980 feature film of the same name (which I first saw in 2015). Well, both films are based on a 1976 book, which I haven't read, so I can't say how closely either film adheres to the original story. But at least I can compare and contrast the new TV movie with the older movie.

As in the original, an American family moves into a large old house in England. The main character is a 16-year-old girl named Jan. She immediately senses something strange about the nearby woods, and her little sister, Ellie, walks toward the woods in a sort of trance. Jan stops Ellie from going into the woods, at which point Ellie snaps out of the trance and just thinks Jan was trying to scare her. Throughout the film, both Ellie and the girls' parents think various things that happen are just Jan trying to scare Ellie, though that never really made any sense to me. Anyway, the house they've moved into belongs to a woman named Mrs. Aylwood (Anjelica Huston), whose daughter Karen had disappeared 36 years ago. (Most of the things I've read about this remake say it was 20 years ago, but in the movie they definitely say 36 years. I assume that's because the writer wanted the disappearance to be in 1981, the year the original movie was re-released, following a brief initial release in 1980. Which I guess is kind of a nice touch.) Jan continues to be troubled by strange things happening, most notably seeing a blindfolded girl in a mirror, whom she later realizes is Karen Aylwood. Immediately after seeing this vision, the mirror cracks. And, um... Ellie gets a new doll, which she names Nerak (in the original, Nerak was a puppy). And Jan befriends a local boy her age named Mark (who was named Mike, in the original movie). Mark fills Jan in on some local legends concerning the woods, and the Watcher in the woods, and while Mark, like most locals, is scared of the woods, he doesn't really believe in the legends. (It's a feeling I can understand, because I've always said that while I don't believe in Nessie, I wouldn't want to go swimming in Loch Ness.)

Anyway... we eventually see a flashback to June 21, 1981, the night of an annual festival held in the small town. Karen invites her three friends to join her in the woods to watch an eclipse. In the original film, one of those friends was Mike's mother. But while Mark's mother knows a bit about what happened, she wasn't one of Karen's friends in this version. This time, there's a woman who everyone thinks is a bit crazy, because of the things she says happened that night 36 years ago. So... she tells Jan and Mark about that night, and unlike the original, which involved a fire in an old church, in this version the four friends gathered at a strange tree in the woods. Which I thought was nice, because it tied in with the whole theme of the woods being haunted, or whatever. This story also ties in to an event in the 1300s, during the Black Plague, but I don't want to spoil how that relates. I did think it worked, though. Anyway, Jan and Mark continue the investigation into what happened to Karen, to try and figure out what's going on in the present, and possibly get Karen back. I don't want to reveal any more than that, except that the film climaxes on the night of the same festival, in 2017, as the one from 1981.

I thought the ending of this movie was better than the ending of the original, in that it was more consistent with the supernatural nature of the movie as a whole, instead of the sudden switch to some ridiculous sci-fi in the original. But other than the few things I've said I liked about this remake, I'd definitely have to say the original was better. You know, better acting, more atmospheric, slightly scarier (the remake wasn't scary at all), and generally just... less modern. Not to say this version had any elements that couldn't have happened 30 years ago (there are no computers or cellphones or anything like that), but the remake just looked and felt like something that was made in the 21st century, somehow. Maybe the picture was too clear and bright, maybe something in Jan's demeanor seemed like a teenager from this decade. I dunno. I mean, it's not important, anyway. Whatever, I'm glad I got to see the movie, even if it was a bit disappointing, overall. But I suppose it's also a good thing that I never had a chance to be nostalgic about the original movie, since I never saw it as a kid, and when I did see it, I didn't like it as much as people who did see it when they were kids. And again, I do think the remake has its good points. And... I don't know what else to say.

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