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The Changeling

Updated: Nov 1, 2023


October's always a great time to revisit some horror classics and they don't get much scarier than 1980's THE CHANGELING.

Gore free but rich in scares, it reminds me of Robert Wise's "The Haunting" in its ability to create terror without jump scares or blood.

George C.Scott is music professor John Russell, who suffers the tragic loss of his wife and daughter in the film's opening moments.

He moves to Seattle, accepting a university position to leave his life in New York behind.

Russell moves into a sprawling, historical home suggested by Claire, played by Scott's real-life wife and frequent co-star Trish Van Devere.

Not long after Russell settles in, doors begin to quietly open by themselves, then loud banging (especially reminiscent of "The Haunting"!) pounds through the home.

Russell follows the sound of water up through the house to an attic room, with every staircase and turn around the corner tightening up the suspense.

Ken Wannberg's music score is quiet, haunting and scary as hell when the moments suit. Director Peter Medak spent most of his career in TV, this was by far his biggest film.

Screenwriters William Gray & Diana Maddox spent half a year researching true stories of hauntings and supernatural events and they put that knowledge to great use throughout.

After Russell has a powerful moment in the attic, he reaches out to university colleagues and is introduced to parapsychologist Barry Morse (Space 1999) and a medium (Helen Burns) that come to the estate.

In one of several truly scary sequences that highlight the film, she conducts a seance in which she writes down the answers of a long dead young boy who appears to be in the home.

When Russell plays back a recording of the seance, it's clear that boy was doing more than guiding a pencil.

Scott is such a great actor that he brings real power to the horror, just as he did in the criminally underrated "Exorcist III".

The well sequence is another spooky chapter that gets under your skin.

I've seen this movie at least a half dozen times in the 40 years since its release, know exactly what's coming and STILL got goose bumps twice watching it again.

Watch out for that damn wheelchair!!!!!

THE CHANGELING is terrific film making, has been named to many top ten horror flick lists and is certainly on mine.

It gets a chill inducing A.



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