TBT Review: ‘The Changeling’ Shows What it Takes to Scare
First of all, no we’re not talking about the Clint Eastwood film. It’s a good movie but not the film I’m talking about. This is the ghost story film starring George C. Scott from 1980. “The Changeling” is about a man suffering from a great tragedy who decides to move into a big mansion to work on his musical composing, soon he begins to notice dark and supernatural things going on in the house and must uncover what happened.
Cinematics (Plot, Acting, Cinematography, etc.) – 5
The plot is told in a well done, efficient way. Nothing amazingly original or anything but just done in the right way. It is a film that does abides by the rule “what you don’t see see is scarier than what you do see.” You very rarely see the ghost and most of the film is done with just sound effects and creating a proper scary mood. They weren’t able to find a suitable house for filming so they had to make this film mostly on sets but you’d never be able to tell, they’re so convincing. Tie it all up with a very old fashioned but still very atmospheric score by a mister Rick Wilkins, whom it seems hasn’t done a lot of scores but he really does knock it out of the park with this film. You may notice that this is a rather vague review and the reason is because this is a film that works best the less you know about so by all means just go see it.
Of course not always seen as the most important thing are the characters in a horror film but in my opinion, they’re often more important. Here I believe is one of the best main characters for a horror film played by one of our best actors, George C. Scott. With his backstory we the audience already have sympathy with him thanks to what happened to his family. But even on top of that what we see of this man throughout the film is a real stand up kind of guy. The reason I think he’s one of the best horror leads ever is that he’s different than most. Watching so many horror films the characters are always scared and having to work through their fears to get through the plot. Nothing wrong with that but it makes this performance feel really fresh. George C. Scott and the character he plays (John Russel) is a grown-ass man and approaches the situations as such. For me it’s kinda nice to see that in a film, it makes me want to take the journey of discovering the mystery with him. The rest of the cast all do fine, no real other stand outs but all good. My only real complaint with the film is the voice of the ghost, it just doesn’t sound in keeping with the tone of everything else.
Entertainment Value – 5
I can’t say that this film will scare a lot of young viewers especially if they don’t have a lot of patience but I can say that it does contain some very creepy and memorable scenes. However the movie is just classic ghost story territory. In that it is more about the mystery and like the great mysteries this holds your interest from the start and each new bit of information makes you want to see what comes next. Luckily the reveal of the mystery is worth all the build up.
I made reference to how most people know of Clint Eastwood’s “Changeling” but aren’t aware of this film. However this is an influential film; from “The Others” to the recent “Crimson Peak”. Also dozens of filmmakers have stated to be big fans of this movie, for example Martin Scorsese rates it as 5 of his 11 scariest movies ever. So if nothing else you may be interested in watching just for that.
Rewatchability – 4.5
I’ve seen this movie a number of times, normally get it out during the Halloween season. As stated before it can be a bit on the slow side for the beginning but once it gets going it’s worth it. Watch it at night with the lights off and preferably with no one else home and just let the mood and atmosphere take you.
The quiet menace of "The Changeling" is what all the great ghost stories have. An amazing example of what it truly takes to scare someone.