The Changeling is a Canadian supernatural horror film directed by Peter Medak and starring George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere, and Melvyn Douglas. The film uses ghosts and haunted house tropes to deliver its psychological terrors. Released in 1980, The Changeling is imbued with classic 70s horror vibes where the scares are often in the mind of the viewer. (Spoilers follow)
Scott plays the main character John Russell, a composer from New York City. Russell moves to Seattle, Washington, following the deaths of his wife and daughter in a traffic accident while on a winter vacation upstate. That tragedy is a crucial backstory that suggests Russell’s psychic sensitivity to a lost child.
Russell encounters paranormal activity in the old house he rents viz. strange noises, moving objects and ultimately full-blown visions. Russell actually sees an apparition in his bathtub!
There is one particularly creepy moment where Russell finds his deceased daughter’s favourite ball tumbling down a staircase. Shaken, Russell disposes of the ball in a river but when he returns home, the ball turns up once more – tumbling down the staircase! Brrrrr.
The Changeling like most haunted house horror movies also involves a mystery, often a murder mystery. The basic question being – how did the ghost die and why is it haunting this house? This begins Russell’s quest to get to the bottom of this mystery.
As Russell discovers more, he realises that the truth behind the haunting is a very tragic one – aren’t they all? Although of course, there are dangers and spooky thrills on the journey, for Russell, helping his house ghost to find peace and obtain justice serves as a resolution of his own traumatic loss as well.
The Changeling is light on gore but heavy on atmosphere. And that’s why it still stands up well to this day. Highly recommended! Comments at our Facebook page.
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