The Changeling is a fantastic 1980’s haunted house film that holds up to today’s standards. George C. Scott plays John Russell, an aging composer dealing with the loss of his wife and daughter. Plagued with grief, John struggles to regain his life, eventually accepting a teaching position in the city. The Historic Preservation Society sends the personable Claire Norman (Trish Van Devere) to show John an expansive rental property that’s remained empty for the last dozen years. Exhibiting behavior common to horror films, our protagonist doesn’t even consider the home’s ominous appearance to be a deal breaker, and promptly moves in.
Still tortured by nightmares about his family, Russell begins working on his chops, finding some amount of success and peace. Like many films of this nature, peace is short-lived, and John experiences some unexplained phenomena. Clearly an intelligent man, John combs the home for logical explanations, but finds none. Claire becomes actively involved and the two discover the home has a bit of history after all. The home piques his interest, sending him further into the haunted mystery, further than anyone expected him to go.
While the film doesn’t showcase any groundbreaking filmmaking, The Changeling is an inspiring standard for films relying on palatable tension and suspense. Crane shots track down long, dark hallways, across shadowed exterior shots, allowing director, Peter Medak, the chance to demonstrate his formal approach to an emotionally dark film. Medak never fails to get the best from George C. Scott. The film has a gripping story, Scott’s inspired work elevates the film to a new level in my opinion.
The Changeling is a classic old school haunting film that every horror fan needs to see at least once. Practical effects, great acting, and perfect location set the film apart from several of the same era. Queue this up the next time you’re home alone and have a storm brewing. Good times.