Sunday, September 12, 2021

Evil Seeds by Vanessa Morgan - Book Tour + Giveaway

Evil Seeds:

The Ultimate Movie Guide to Villainous Children

by Vanessa Morgan

Genre: Thriller, Horror, Drama, Movie Reference Guide

Something's wrong with the children. They're murdering classmates, torturing parents, speaking in tongues, drinking human blood, and practicing black magic. Your offspring is on the rise, their blood no longer innocent. There will be casualties, and you may be among them.

Featuring nearly 250 of the creepiest, weirdest, and most dangerous kids ever to inhabit the cinematic landscape and sourced from over 40 different countries, Evil Seeds is THE comprehensive movie guide to villainous children in all their incarnations: the supernatural horror of ghosts and demonic possession, twisted tales of twins and changelings, dark matters of witches and evil babies, visceral frights of werewolves and vampires, the lurid lore of golems and trolls, and shocking drama of murderous orphans, juvenile serial killers, survivalist youngsters, and disturbing family values.

From cult classics to obscure fan favorites, Evil Seeds proves there is no shortage of frightening children. So keep an eye on your little darlings, or they might just fix their sights on YOU.

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Director: John Hough

Cast: Bette Davis, Lynn-Holly Johnson, Kyle Richards, Caroll Baker

Country: USA

 Two children are being haunted by something in the woods.

 When producer Tom Leetch pitched the project to Walt Disney’s Ron Miller, he exclaimed, “This could be our Exorcist!” Then-ambitious, with the dark PG-rated The Black Hole under his belt, Miller couldn’t resist. Well, it isn’t The Exorcist. But just what is The Watcher in the Woods?

 It’s the story of the Curtis family, Americans come to live on an isolated English estate owned by a reclusive, witch-like Mrs. Aylwood (Bette Davis; The Nanny). The Curtis daughters soon find they’re being haunted by something in the woods; teen Jan (Lynn-Holly Johnson; For Your Eyes Only) sees, young Ellie (Kyle Richards; Halloween) hears, a being from beyond. Whispers and broken mirrors abound. Mother (Carroll Baker; Paranoia) and father (David McCallum; She Waits) are bewildered. The locals are terrified. As the fear mounts, we learn the distraught Mrs. Aylwood, not a witch at all, is desperate for answers to a 30-year-old mystery.

 Director John Hough had a solid horror pedigree; Twins of Evil, The Legend of Hell House, and (for Disney) both Escape to… and Return from Witch Mountain. Hough loved Brian Clemens’ (Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde) screenplay, based on Florence Engel Randall’s novel A Watcher in the Woods. But Disney, fearing it too dark, hired Rosemary Anne Sisson (Upstairs, Downstairs) to lighten the story. Harry Spalding (Curse of the Fly), and (uncredited) Gerry Day (The Black Hole) also had a go at the script. From their combined effort, Hough, and lighting cameraman Alan Hume and composer Stanley Myers, created a moody and stylish – but flawed – film.

To discuss The Watcher in the Woods is to discuss its troubling climax. A 100-minute preview, owing to its abrupt ending, tested poorly. Hough re-cut the ending (and the film to 84 minutes) and Disney released that version in April 1980. Critics and audiences savaged the new ending so badly that, within a month, Disney pulled the film from theaters. With a disaster on their hands, a scheduled (Easter 1981) re-release of Mary Poppins was moved up to fill Watcher’s commitments. Meanwhile, Disney needed a new ending. A SAG strike delayed photography until November when, with Hough unavailable, an (uncredited) Vincent McEveety (Star Trek) was brought in to direct. Special effects whiz Harrison Ellenshaw (Something Wicked This Way Comes) and an army of artists were hired – at a tremendous expense – to shoot a less-frightening pre-title opening and a new ending. This third version opened on 9 October 1981 to lukewarm reviews and complaints about the film’s ending.

 The fault, in truth, lies not with the filmmakers or Disney but with the source material. Randall, apparently unsure whether she was writing horror or science fiction, wrote both and succeeded with neither. It’s a spooky novel with a nothing ending. A 2017 remake for British television, starring Anjelica Huston as Mrs. Aylwood, suffers the same weakness. The Watcher in the Woods was NEVER going to be Disney’s Exorcist. It is – like many film horrors – a disappointing whole with plenty of creepy ‘evil kid’ moments that make it a pleasure to see all the same.

 Doug Lamoreux

Vanessa Morgan is the editor of the movie reference guides When Animals Attack: The 70 Best Horror Movies with Killer Animals, Strange Blood: 71 Essays on Offbeat and Underrated Vampire Movies, and Evil Seeds: The Ultimate Movie Guide to Villainous Children. She also has had one cat book (Avalon) and four supernatural thrillers (Drowned Sorrow, The Strangers Outside, A Good Man, and Clowders) published. Three of her stories have been turned into movies. She has written for myriad Belgian magazines and newspapers and introduces movie screenings at several European film festivals. She is also a programmer for the Offscreen Film Festival in Belgium. When she's not working on her latest book, you can find her reading, watching movies, eating out, or photographing felines for her blog Traveling Cats.

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