I’m finding it increasingly hard to find good ‘ghost’ horror movies. At the moment, there’s lots of torture-filled, psychologically twisted, gory jump-fests. And there are even a few ghost-type stories, heavily influenced by the Asian horrors. But they just don’t scare me anymore and I’m finding that I’m having to go further back in time, digging into films made in the 70’s and 80’s to find anything different and interesting. The Changeling happens to be both.
Not to be associated (in any way) with the recent Angelina Jolie film, The Changeling is from a magical era. Made at around the same time as The Omen, Amityville, and The Exorcist, it was probably the hot competition that made producers have to push the bar to get their films noticed.
John Russell is struggling to come to terms with the loss of his wife and child. In an effort to get back to his career in music, he ups sticks and moves to Seattle, where he begins work as a lecturer.
His friends manage to pull a few strings and arrange for him to live in an insanely huge mansion, which has been donated to an historical society.
Unfortunately for John, he doesn’t going to get to do much work or relaxing as this house has a history. Starting with loud noises and flying objects, he finds that something in the house needs justice and won’t let him rest until he has found it for them.
The beauty of this film is the way that it builds tension. Rather than going for the ‘jump’ factor, and relying on devices suck as jerky camera work or loud sounds to make an impact, it’s often the silence that creates the most shocks in this one.
A lone key being played on a piano by ghostly fingers, and a ball bouncing down some stairs. Doesn’t sound particularly creepy, but in the context of this movie, they make your hair stand on end.
The house helps to make things worse for the viewer. It’s huge, it’s weird, and when its creepy staircases are shot at obscure angles, you can’t help but feel uncomfortable. “Why’s he staying in there?”
John is an interesting character too. By being braver than your usual victim of paranormal disturbance, he justifies his behaviour (i.e staying in a house that most of us would run screaming from), and makes for a likable and interesting lead. And all made more believable with steely George C. Scott playing the man chosen to uncover the ghostly mystery.
As with a lot of ghost stories, the paranormal disturbance has been caused by an injustice for which the ghost is seeking revenge. This adds an element of mystery to a film which was strong enough as a stand-up spook-fest, and gives another interesting dimension to the viewer.
With Halloween just around the corner, and with this film available to buy at a bargain price, you’d do well to add this to your ‘watch’ list.
It already has a big reputation on the horror scene, and can be thought of as an excellent pre-cursor to Ringu, the Ju-on and other big-time scarers.
Guaranteed to leave you spooked.
Additional film information: The Changeling (1980)