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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 24.44%
Average: 4.44%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

2 reviews, 33 user ratings

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Changeling, The
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by dionwr

"An okay film--with one GREAT scene"
4 stars

"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?

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
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User Comments

10/21/17 jack burton it took me years to pick up a rubber ball again 5 stars
10/02/16 morris campbell one of my favorites 5 stars
4/08/16 David Hollingsworth One of the most elegant and creepy films I've ever seen. 5 stars
3/29/15 The look on Scott's face when his daughter's rubber ball "bounced back" -- priceless! 5 stars
4/04/11 dupadoit it rocks 5 stars
3/01/11 Thumper I love to entertain guests and scare the hell out of them. Best ever film! 5 stars
11/13/09 brian The ultimate proof you don't need violence/blood/gory effects to make a terrifying picture. 5 stars
1/20/09 Camilo Espinoza De las mejores peliculas sobre fantasmas 5 stars
10/10/08 Elizabeth Peters Wheelchair, rubber ball, wispering Joseph... 5 stars
6/18/08 GutterBall This flick terrified me as a kid, and that kid breathing his name? Wicked jeebies, man. 5 stars
4/24/08 Army Medic I've done 2 combat tours in Iraq and this movie still scares me silly! Scariest movie ever! 5 stars
9/11/07 Indrid Cold A few good scares, but understandably an all-but-forgotten movie. 3 stars
8/24/07 Holly one of the creepiest i've ever seen. Loved it 5 stars
7/25/07 Martin One great scene after the other, the best acted and creepiest film score in years 5 stars
4/21/07 Aiken Drum If you can make a childs rubber ball one of the scariest images of all time then marvelous 5 stars
3/28/07 fools♫gold Only outdated if you're too moody for it. 4 stars
11/06/06 Chris never heard of it but rented it. It is an excellent movie! 5 stars
11/10/05 b.i.r it was agreat movie,but the music got to me 4 stars
11/06/05 David Fowler Perfectly written, acted, directed, & scored. The BEST ghost story on film....Period. 5 stars
9/26/05 Steve Miller One of the best horror movies ever made! 5 stars
6/22/05 Cesar If only they made movies like this now! 5 stars
7/20/04 sada the perfect film 5 stars
4/14/04 slayathon I'm glad someone else remembers the benefit of this movie to the horror genre 5 stars
4/01/04 Bob Thompson A good movie with scary elements! 4 stars
3/26/04 Alfred Guy A well-made classic movie. A must see. 5 stars
3/14/04 susan arledge i love it! 5 stars
1/19/04 Nicholas Becker If you have seen scary movies in the past 20 years, then you won't be scared by this one. 3 stars
10/22/03 I am having SEX Fucking sexy 4 stars
4/06/03 Christina This was the most scariest movies ever 5 stars
3/04/03 y2mckay This movie has SEVERAL great scenes. The quintessential haunted house story. 5 stars
3/03/03 Jack Sommersby Not quite worthy of its praise. Still, it's taut and very atmospheric. Scott is first-rate. 4 stars
10/26/02 Charles Tatum One of the scariest movies ever 5 stars
3/04/01 Movie MAN Almost as good as poltergist 5 stars
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  28-Mar-1980 (R)
  DVD: 12-Sep-2000



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