Splatter Time Fun Fest 2011: The Changeling (1980)

It took the next film in Splatter Time Fun Fest 2011 over an hour to make reference to its title, that is impressive!

Screenplay By: William Gray & Diana Maddox
Directed By: Peter Medak

The beginning of The Changeling didn’t exactly fill me with hope for the rest of the film. It was a fairly innocuous opening, it’s not like the scene in New York made me rage against the gods of film or anything like that. It was a ham fisted and obvious scene, and that made me question exactly what I had gotten myself into. Luckily the film moved away from that snowy upstate New York scene and dropped the obviousness of what it was going for in the process.

Once The Changeling settles into the type of movie it wanted to be it ended up being quite the neat little horror film. The Changeling isn’t a gory horror movie, or a horror movie that wants to scare the audience. I was reminded of the old fashioned style of horror put forth by the likes of James Whale and Jacques Tourneur, albeit without the deep social commentary that could be found in a lot of classic horror. Peter Medak is not a director I am familiar with, but in The Changeling he had a good grasp on building an atmosphere around well developed characters. Each and every character in The Changeling has a reason for an action they undertake, they have these reasons because Mr. Medak is willing to give them the time to develop said reasons. In the place of gore and violence Mr. Medak uses atmosphere to draw the viewer in and hold their attention rapt.

A large chunk of the success found in The Changeling can be laid at the feet of George C. Scott. While I found the rest of the cast perfectly serviceable in their roles, Mr. Scott is truly on another level. His performance isn’t showy or one that calls attention to itself. Mr. Scott takes his weathered voice as well as his doubting eyes and forms a connection with the audience. I wanted to see the mystery of The Changeling unraveled, but most of all I wanted to see John Russell safely through to the end of the film. Cheap scares and spooky ghosts weren’t needed for my level of involvement. All I needed was an actor willing to play his role straight and make a believer out of me. Very early on in The Changeling I cared about what was happening on screen and I know that with a lesser actor in the lead role that would not have been the case.

I do question some of the smaller motives of the film. Why exactly did a spirit that can kill people from far away wait until now to exact his revenge? For that matter, if this spirit can enact nasty revenge upon those who wronged him then why the need for John Russell’s help at all? These may seem like big questions, but I feel they can be rather easily explained away. Maybe the seance gave the spirit more strength, maybe it needed the pain in the character of Russell to fuel its revenge. Outside of the beginning sloppiness in New York I have no real issues with The Changeling. It won’t shock you or appall you, but The Changeling will provide you with a delightfully atmospheric old school horror experience.

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill

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8 responses to “Splatter Time Fun Fest 2011: The Changeling (1980)

  1. Mark Middlemas

    I found this movie interminable and dull. I saw it about fifteen years ago, and I was kind of a db then, so maybe it’s worth revisiting.

  2. To be fair, the George C. Scott performance is really what sold me on the movie, and I may be overrating the film a smidgen based on said performance.

  3. I really enjoyed this movie. Although I didn’t find it to be very scary, how I usually think of a horror movie being, I liked the plot and the acting. It kept me interested and this type of ghost story is more my style for horror movies than the gross and gorey stuff!

  4. When we were watching it I think I told you that the film reminded me of a more traditionally classic horror film, so I completely see what you are saying.

  5. I can see your issues, especially the beginning, but I don’t see them as much of a problem. Once it starts up, the atmosphere and suspense are fantastic. And yes, George C. Scott is fantastic. This is up there for me as one of the best horror films I’ve seen.

  6. I wouldn’t put it that high, but I did really enjoy it.

  7. Pingback: Postulating & Pontificating: Horror Bonanza! | Bill's Movie Emporium

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