31 Days to Scare – The Changeling



The Facts:

Synopsis: A man staying at a secluded historical mansion finds his life being haunted by the presence of a spectre.

Stars: George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere, Melvyn Douglas, Jean Marsh, John Colicos

Director: Peter Medak

Rated: R

Running Length: 107 minutes

TMMM Score: (10/10)

Review:  There are horror movies that give you a few nice frights and then there are the horror movies that truly scare the wits right out of you, imprinting on your psyche a memory of a certain chill that can’t truly be met by more standard fare.  The Changeling is that elusive experience one doesn’t come by often in genre films of the horror variety.  It’s a twisty, classy affair that could have wound up as schlock had it been produced ten years before or ten years after.  No…what we have here is a workhorse of a scare machine that bides its time until your guard is down and that’s when it hits you where it hurts so good.

After losing his wife and child in a tragic car accident, a composer rents a mammoth turn of the century mansion in wintery Canada so he can immerse himself in his work and try to move on with his life.  As played by George C. Scott, an actor known for his gruff/grizzled characters, a soft side to the actor emerges and makes the character understandably empathetic as you watch him go about his daily life in this massive abode.

Peace and quiet are not on the menu, though, as strange occurrences within the house quickly lead him down a path chock full of mystery and hair-raising turns.  Séances, hidden rooms, and buried secrets all play a factor in Scott’s discovery of the house’s frightening past and a ghostly presence that seems desperate to communicate.  To give away any more would spoil a well-plotted and effectively executed horror/thriller classic.

Though the costumes and locations clearly indicate a certain time and place (in this case Vancouver in 1980) the elegant staging by director Peter Medak and cinematographer John Coquillon give this film a timeless feel and I thank God that no unimaginative studio head has thought to remake this gem (yet!).

Winner of eight Genie Awards (Canada’s equivalent of The Academy Awards) including Best Picture, The Changeling is a film that every horror lover should watch at least once a year if they feel they’ve lost that spooky feeling.  While summer 2013’s The Conjuring came awful close to the level of sophisticated scares that The Changeling has, it falls just a tad short in repeated viewings.  Not the case for The Changeling…do yourself a favor and get this queued up as the weather gets colder and Halloween draws near.