The Changeling (1980)
September 3, 2014 3:24 PM - Subscribe

A composer moves into a huge Victorian mansion after the death of his wife and daughter, only to find that he's not quite alone.

This atmospheric and understated ghost story stars George C. Scott, and is the 12th movie in the MeFi Horror Club.
posted by Joakim Ziegler (11 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I can still creep out a couple of my best friends just by saying " medal..." in a soft voice
posted by Hoopo at 4:20 PM on September 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

I enjoyed this more than I thought I would, it's a kinda comforting horror film in that there's rarely a real sense of danger (The Wheelchair.... OF DOOM) with ghost that's more Casper than anything else aside from the unnecessarily lethal last act; the atmosphere is cosy-ish bordering on stuffy with the parental acting and predictable plot beats, and that the most crafted part of the film was the cinematography- some really lovely shots.

It's a PG 13 budget version of the Shining. Still enjoyable.
posted by litleozy at 5:04 PM on September 3, 2014

Cut and pasting my comment from the FanFare Talk thread:
I rented this movie from Netflix because this comment on the blue intrigued me. It's very much about the horror of permanent loss, or perhaps the horror of having to go on without those you love.

I think the worst part is when he goes up to that room in the attic, and the way the sound effects are used to suggest rather than show.

And later, when he has his lady friend over and they're discussing it and she says something like, "I'd like to see it." OH OF COURSE YOU DO. More scariness ensues.

It feels a bit more dated than other horror movies do like, say, The Omen or The Exorcist, I don't think it's aged as well. But still some really good old-fashioned scary moments without using CGI.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 5:32 PM on September 3, 2014

Elaborating on the "a bit more dated": in the pacing of the film (it slowly builds - which is great!) and the editing (cannot articulate, alas).

A great movie though and one all horror enthusiasts should check out.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 5:34 PM on September 3, 2014

And the ball simple and effective and terrifying when the wet ball comes bouncing down the stairs, Jesus.
posted by Hoopo at 8:48 PM on September 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I reviewed the film a while back. Still agree with my assessment.
posted by maxsparber at 9:20 PM on September 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

This movie is my wheelhouse. So much so that I've watched another similar movie from the same era with one of the same actors (called The Hearse) several times even though it's kind of shitty, just because I've been wanting to watch something with that Changeling feeling but I've just seen The Changeling so many times.

In college, when one friend and I were mock-upset with each other, one of us would affect George C. Scott's gravel rasp and growl at the other, "You goddamned son of a bitch...WHAT DO YOU WANT from me?? I've done EVERYTHING I can do!"
posted by doctornecessiter at 3:51 AM on September 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

A deaf friend said she'd watched this and enjoyed it. It's left me wondering how well something like [ominous banging] compares to that head-splitting pounding which he wakes up to which seems to be coming from everywhere and nowhere at once. So much of the horror in this, for me at least, was in the sound design.
posted by johnofjack at 2:54 PM on September 4, 2014

This movie scared the fuck out of me when I saw it on TV at about the age of ten. I cannot say that it's altogether that terrifying now, but there is something about it. What I find fascinating about it as an adult is that it seems like it should be a morality play, but really isn't. Joseph's father is the only real villain, and he died decades before our story even began. The senator obviously must have known that he took the place of a dead child, but it seems clear that he was lied to about the nature of Joseph's death, and only understood the truth in his own dying vision. The senator does play a little shady, what with his spy at the historical society and the sleazy cop in his pocket, but there's no reason to think he's a bad guy as such. While confronting him with the truth and effectively killing him may balance some cosmic scales somehow, it doesn't make the world a better place. If anything, it makes the world a worse place. He's dead, the cop's dead (well, that doesn't seem like much of a loss), that little girl is traumatized, no one's gonna pay to fix that woman's floor, the house is burned down, John almost died, and even Joseph's ghost evidently hasn't moved on. Absolutely no one has benefited from this, except maybe Joseph. ...I guess. ...But probably not.

The film seems to argue that just because life may continue after death, that doesn't mean there's a point to life. That's pretty bleak. But I think John's act of self-preservation at the climax is meant to tell us that life is precious anyhow.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:35 PM on September 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

It feels a bit more dated than other horror movies do like, say, The Omen or The Exorcist

It's funny, I almost feel the opposite. The Omen and the Exorcist are dated enough to not even be particularly scary anymore IMO. The Changeling still heebies my jeebies pretty strongly.
posted by Hoopo at 9:17 AM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

The ball is certainly the most iconic scene from the film, but the seance is more horrifying to me. I can't think of another scene in any movie (except maybe Kairo) that so reliably makes my hair stand up. Every time I hear the boy's voice, it's incredible. I completely buy into this movie, and I have to agree that the sound design is a big part of that.
posted by heatvision at 3:17 PM on September 5, 2014

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