Are you ready for a story from my childhood?
When I was a seven-year-old in second grade, our elementary school had a tradition of showing a movie to all the students on the day before Christmas break. That year someone on the faculty must have picked out a random Disney movie without previewing it. There we all were in the gym with the lights out seeing "The Watcher in the Woods". Disney really shouldn't have ventured into the business of scary movies; it was very misleading. Only a few minutes into the show, children were crying and asking to go back to class. It really jumps into being creepy from the very beginning. If you've ever seen the movie, you might remember the scene where the little sister jumps up at the side of Jan's bed wearing a green monster mask. This was so startling that most of our audience screamed. At that point, they stopped the film and announced that all the Kindergarten and first-grade classes would be going back to class immediately and the rest of us had the option to do so. I didn't want to look like a wimp, so I stayed through the whole scary thing. As a result, I had nightmares for months!
This past March, Kent and I were at a game night. We played a game where everyone was asked the same question and then we took turns trying to match people to their anonymous answers. One question was, "What is the scariest movie you have seen?" Five of the 12 people there said "Watcher in the Woods". We had all been scarred by it in childhood. So last weekend, one of my fellow gamers pulled out the DVD and said it was time to watch it as adults to get over our fears. It was still pretty creepy. I was surprised how vivid a lot of the scenes were still in my mind. I kept saying, "Is this the part where...?" And it always was. I guess having replayed those scenes dozens of times in my dreams kind of seared them in my memory. I'll admit to once or twice viewing a scene through my fingers last week, though the whole experience wasn't as bad 26 years later.
Then the healing came. We discovered two alternate endings on the DVD menu. They are pretty similar to each other, but not at all like the ending in the original movie. What happens is so bizarre scary that when it's over, you just laugh! I still wouldn't show it to a kid because they do make it scary. But an adult will recognize how far off they get from the feel of the rest of the movie. Both endings show the watcher that was in the woods, and it's just weird. Also, Karen is freaky looking. We kept staring at her trying to figure out if they dressed up a guy for the part. (I'm still not sure.) Anyway, if you need some healing, you can see the shorter of the alternate endings here.* (You may want to turn off your speakers to ease yourself into it. The sound isn't really necessary anyway.)
BTW, it's probably the worst Christmas movie ever! And one of my friends said her elementary school in Idaho also watched it for their pre-Christmas break movie. Shame on Disney!
*Note: Okay, I am a wimp. I decided I didn't want to directly link a scene in my post that starts out so dark. But you can find it pretty easily on YouTube. Here's the spoiler: the watcher is an alien. It/he kind of looks like the one on "Independence Day" but with raggedy, ghosty-looking arms. Apparently, the eclipse caused the alien and Karen to switch places and trapped them in the wrong dimensions. In the longer alternate ending, the alien takes Jan to a giant spaceship where she finds Karen and brings her (17-yr-old Karen) back home. The ending scene is Jan and her sister with happy music in the background and Jan is so happy that Karen and the watcher are both home now. Like I said, it's very incongruous with the rest of the movie, which I imagine is why they went with the creepy ending where Karen comes back as an adult and there's really no explanation about what happened that fateful night 30 years earlier.