When composer John Russell (George C. Scott) loses his wife and daughter in a car wreck, he seeks solace by renting a secluded estate outside Seattle. But the mansion is haunted by the presence of a child who died there more than 80 years ago. Now, Russell must find out who that child was — and why there seems to be a cover-up about his existence. Peter Medak directs this chilling horror classic that inspired many filmmakers.
Rating: 9 out of 10
It’s very easy to lose and forget films among the barrage of large budget, heavily-advertised Hollywood films and Director Peter Medak’s elegantly frightening film “The Changeling” is possibly one of them. It was 1980 and there was no shortage of demented slashers chasing down nubile coeds in the woods at our local theaters. It was this bombardment of mega-crap that made this eerie haunted house story, set in a Victorian style Mansion in Washington state, stand out to me.
George C. Scott turns in a very earnest and emotional performance as a gruff-voiced music composer who relocates to Washington after losing his family. The Mansion, shot beautifully by John Coquillon, becomes a twisted, cavernous fiend. There are strange, loud noises, running faucets, creaking doors, secret rooms, windows that explode and — my favorite — the haunted wheelchair! Medak weaves a complex tale of murder, deceit and even politics with no slasher or monster in sight. He provides us with very realistic terrors that grip us emotionally. If all that wasn’t enough he supplies us with one of the most unbelievably frightening seances ever put on film. However, the ending felt rushed and abrupt and its conclusion did not compliment all the creepiness before it.
The Changeling is that rare ghost story that transcends the horror genre with a sublime, haunting performance by Scott. There is precise direction by Medak, spooky and involving camerawork and more than a few great scares that will have you yelping like a schoolgirl.