In the late 1970s Walt Disney Studios entered one of their most unusual periods, eschewing their standard family films for darker and more risky projects. The period saw the company experiment with science fiction in The Black Hole and Tron, dark fantasy in Dragonslayer and Return to Oz, and even light horror with The Watcher in the Woods. Generally speaking, these films were not commercially successful – although many of them have developed strong cult audiences over the following decades. It should be noted that these were all generally high quality, entertaining films. It simply seems that for the movie-going audience the dissonance between the wholesome Walt Disney brand and the strange, dark content was too great with which to cope. The company’s live-action fortunes did not recover until the release of Ron Howard’s Splash in 1984.
Of the 17 live-action features released by Disney between The Black Hole in 1979 and Return to Oz in 1985, far and away the best film is Something Wicked This Way Comes. It is not a lightly creepy supernatural story for children, like the company’s earlier film The Watcher in the Woods (1980). It is a genuine horror movie; the first such film produced by Disney and the last until the walking corpses boarded the Black Pearl in Pirates of the Caribbean (2003).