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Changeling, The

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Release Date: 
HBO Home Video
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Peter Medak
George C. Scott
Trish Van Devere
Bottom Line: 

 This really is a magnificent film. And it's very highly recommended to all fans of supernatural tales. George C. Scott delivers an excellent performance as John Russell, a middle aged composer. The film starts with a disturbing sequence as we see Russell's wife and daughter killed in a road accident right in front of his eyes. This horrific incident serves different purposes:
- Straight away, you have an incredible amount of sympathy for Russell's likeable character. (If you don't, go see a psychiatrist).
- It explains exactly why Russell chooses not to leave the haunted house that he moves into (the supernatural experiences and his investigations keep Russell's mind from constantly dwelling on his grief over the brutal loss of his family).
- The viewer actually wonders (initially) if the spirit in the haunted house might not be that of his young daughter, adding significantly to the mysterious (and creepy) elements of the story.
What's so unusual and impressive about The Changeling is that it should be so genuinely terrifying without the use of any gore whatsoever. Also, it's a rare occurence to see a supernatural film with such a sometimes subtle yet highly effective score. Quite often, these films are constantly overscored (The Omen being the perfect example). That musical subtleness during some of the supernatural scenes actually makes them far more effective and chilling. Occasionally the overscoring factor does come into effect but since it's certainly never overused, it does genuinely shock you when it occurs.
I can honestly state that this is the most spine tingling and hair-raising film that I have ever watched as an adult. As I get older, genre films have a much lesser impact on me so I have to give it full respect for that accomplishment. If this site's reviews also carried a "scare" gauge, The Changeling would be carrying an "off the chart" rating! I actually only saw this film in my late twenties, it had somehow passed me by. That was a shame since I think that this film is even better than Friedkin's similarly classic Exorcist feature. Better late than never though!
So after the death of his family, Russell moves away from his empty apartment to teach music to university students in another Seattle. He rents a very large house which has stood empty for the last 12 years. Cue the foreboding low-angled shots of the house's exterior and the very creepy and effective high-angled shots of the interior (Capcom's Resident Evil team really MUST have seen this film). The house is haunted and it contains a secret boarded up room on the
top floor.
Russell only discovers that secret room after a rock is thrown through the window when he's stood outside the house one day. From then on both Russell and a leasing agent (played by Trish Van Devere, George C. Scott's real life wife) try to work out the mystery elements of this supernatural thriller. Whilst the film's plot is certainly engaging, The Changeling really impresses with it's numerous shocking set-piece sequences.
I'd really hate to write spoilers and ruin those goosebump raising scenes for any horror fan who hasn't been fortunate enough to see this film as of yet so I'm just gonna mention some key words rather than going into too much unnecessary detail. Here's a few key words so that folks who've seen The Changeling know or are reminded of what I'm talking about:
- The running water and ghost in the upstairs bathroom!!
- The seance and tape playback!!
- The bouncing ball!!
- The wheelchair!!
There's actually a lot more than those examples but there's absolutely no point in me listing them all. The Changeling is the scariest and most effective ghost story that I have ever seen. I can't praise or recommend the film highly enough. EVERY horror fan NEEDS to own this in their dvd collection, no excuses! Many other supernatural films that I've seen to date have stolen ideas from The Changeling but none of those have managed to match it so far.
BTW Watch the leasing agent's understandably terrified mother during the seance!! :)
This region 1 dvd only carries some biographies as an extra, and it only has 2.0 sound to go with it's sometimes grainy print. But the film is bloody incredible so go buy it anyway!! Region 2 folks or those with multi-region capabilites definetly want to pick up the UK's The Changeling dvd instead as it features a commentary track by the director. I'm very tempted to upgrade to that UK dvd just to hear what Peter Medak has to say about this all time classic.

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