Worth A Look: 24.44%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%
2 reviews, 33 user ratings
"The Changeling" is a film that would be forgotten now, except for one scene that sticks with you and ranks as one of the scariest scenes any ghost story movie has ever had.George C. Scott stars in the film as a man whose wife and daughter are killed in a freak accident, literally before his eyes. He moves to another town to rebuild his life, and moves into an old, rambling Victorian mansion, and we all know what that means in movieland, donít we?
"An okay film--with one GREAT scene"
Yup, itís a haunted house movie.
The makers of the film are smart enough not to be coy about it, and they let the audience in on that from the start. The very first scene after Scott moves in ends in a slow, languorous tracking shot to a piano in a now empty room. After a pause, something unseen strikes a single key, and a single note sounds. The ominous sense you get of something watching is palpable.
Strange things begin to happen, and the movie carefully builds atmosphere as Scott tries to figure out whatís going on and why. At first you think his dead wife and child are trying to get in touch, but it becomes quickly apparent that whatever it is, itís a part of the house.
The slow building of tension is beautifully done, and you wish it had been shown to the makers of the recent remake of "The Haunting" to show them how this sort of movie ought to be done.The Changeling has several memorable scenes and the one great one, and none of them would have been half so effective if the filmmaker hadn't known how to set the mood and manage the pace.
It's like the films of M. Night Shymalan--setting the right mood works to make the audience receptive for his big scenes.
The film was made by British stage director Peter Medak, who is mostly known to film fans for "The Ruling Class," with Peter O'Toole. He's not one of the great filmmakers, but he knows how to tell a story, and he shows it here.
After Scott gets a "visitation" of his own, and the discovery of a walled-off attic room, the film has the another of its memorable scenes, the seance. Its just like the seance scenes we've seen in hundreds of other haunted house movies, but it has a payoff that puts it head and shoulders above the rest.
The thing that makes it memorable is what happens after the seance: Scott finds that the ghost has sent a message to him directly, and to him alone. (I'm being unspecific to preserve the surprise.)
One point about movies that deal with fantastic things is that they require good acting to really grab you. George C. Scott, who always projects an air of hard-headed skepticism, was perfect for this film. His low-key, matter-of-fact tone as he finds something extraordinary makes you believe in it.
And the film then builds, beautifully, to probably the scariest ghost visitation I've ever seen. (Again, I'm not telling the specifics--go watch it!)
Unfortunately, after the height of that great scene, it's all downhill from there. The ending lames out. There's a big pseudo-climax with much sturm und drang, but none of the imaginativeness that had marked the first three quarters of the film. It's as if the screenwriters suddenly went ran out of gas in the home stretch, and just decided to arbitrarily put an end to everything.Still, this is a ghost story that works (most of the way) and has that scene you will remember. Most films don't do as much.
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originally posted: 03/03/03 18:04:23