The Changeling (1980)

APRIL 6, 2008


I hate when a movie introduces a character like an hour before they become relevant to the rest of the film. Such a thing occurs in The Changeling, and it sort of ruins a bit of the creepiness. We know damn well that this character has some sort of involvement, or else they wouldn’t have spent 3 minutes of screentime having someone explain who he is and what he does. But then it’s another 50 minutes before he’s mentioned again, blah.

Luckily the movie is still pretty good. In fact the movie only really falls apart at the very end, with a silly fire and somewhat confusing turn of events. This old senator dude appears to be in two places at once, and it left me baffled. Did I miss something? Someone explain!

But the earlier part of the film is pretty solid. There are a couple of genuinely creepy sequences (the séance, and subsequent tape playback, for example), and Peter Medak frequently employs a frenetic POV of the ghost, long before Sam Raimi did the same in Evil Dead. Plus, the film is 10 minutes shorter than Blockbuster said it was, so wooo!

I also really liked the opening, in which George C. Scott sees his wife and child get completely DESTROYED by a car. It’s that 70s sensibility that is now pretty much gone; today maybe the wife would die but the kid would live in coma for the rest of the movie. And come back at the end with the cure for Crohn’s or something. Oh and she’d have a dance recital. Not in the 70s though! She’s TOAST. However, her death WOULD have been avoided had her mother had the good sense to push the kid out of the way or something, instead of merely knocking her over and laying on top of her, right in the path of the car. Nice move, schmuck.

One thing I dug about the movie as well was how old everyone is. Scott of course was never young, and everyone else in the movie (except for the dead kid(s), obviously) is pushing 50 or so. I like that, it’s nice to see old people get scared every now and then instead of teens. However, to be fair Scott doesn’t really seem scared by anything, just merely sort of annoyed. His reaction to all of the water in the house turning on is no different than mine when I realize I forgot to buy milk.

Which I forgot to buy this morning! Fuck!

What say you?


  1. old changeling? new changeling? ARGH WHICH ONE!

  2. I do like this movie, but I have found that like many "angry spirit must be put to rest" haunted house flicks, this one suffers on re-watching. Once you know (SPOILERS!) the kid's ghost just wants "justice" and really doesn't want to hurt anyone, it robs the earlier creepy scenes of their menace for me.

    Still, I love the bouncing-ball and wheelchair scenes (the latter of which they totally stole from The Ghost, which both you and I reviewed previously), and Scott's always fun to watch.

  3. An absolute favorite of mine! Scared the crap out of me as a kid. Funny how you mention that everyone is older than you're used to seeing in a horror movie. It's something you don't see too much anymore, a cast of characters that isn't all barely drinking age.

  4. This is a pretty chilling movie. And you're right about how old everyone is--that's totally '70s. I'm sick of seeing teenagers in horror movies. Guess that's because they're the only ones who'll pay to see crap on opening weekend, which is the only way producers can recap their costs.

  5. this movie terrified me when i was a kid-- i watched it around the same time as carrie... damn my parents.the little kid's voice on the recorder still gives me the creeps. AGH! now i want to watch it.

  6. George C Scott School of Acting Scared: back away from things very slowly.

    Seriously though, this movie is freaky. The seance scene is so scary. I actually had a friend walk out of the room at stop watching the movie at that point.

  7. I love this movie! I bought it a few weeks ago and I've watched it three times already. It's one of those truly spooky movies. I especially love when George C. Scott is playing the piano, and the one key doesn't work. But then, when he walks away the key plays itself! The music does a really great job of setting the mood..

  8. I'm sorry, but I think this movie is very overrated. I found most of the stuff in the movie not scary. The scene with the wheelchair-o-vision was so ridiculous. I just found the movie boring overall.

  9. I was so shocked at how scary this movie was. That kid's voice on the tape was utterly horrifying to me. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. There were some cheesy parts and it suffers somewhat from "70s pacing". I actually experienced one of the most terrifying cinematic shocks ever from this movie. The part where Patton opens the door to the bathroom and peaks into the overflowing tub to see the drowned child scared the pants off me. I literally screamed like a little girl. That probably had to do with me looking away right before it happened, looking back right when it happened and being jabbed in the knee by someone who knew when the fright would manifest. Like a little girl!!!

    Years later when I watched The Ring I noticed that tons of the plot was directly lifted from The Changeling. Especially the house which was built over the well to conceal it and what was hidden within. I haven't seen Ringu yet but I'm sure the same thing happens in it. Right? Anyway, I'm surprised that no one seems to notice that or care. So, I just thought I'd point that out.

  10. I always thought the end where the senator was seemingly in two places at once- he office and the house, was actually some kind of vision/out of body type experience that the ghost was causing. I don't think that he was actually physically in the house at all.

  11. I just watched the movie on IFC.
    The ending does seem a bit confusing, but I side with Emily - the old guy is not there in the house, at least in his body. He is there to see the truth of who he is by watching his father kill Joseph. This vision causes him to have a heart attack.
    Scott's character says "I saw him kill the boy - I son't know how". I like how the filmaker left it open for the how of the visions.
    But I think the key to the scene is when the old guy has both chains in his hands, and is looking at them with a "This cannot be possible" stare. Almost like he forgot he was once an orphan and blocked out his memories?

  12. Great film, watched it last night on Youtube at 1:10 am. The most creepy scene is when the music box plays John's new composition, something I did not expect! I love the way Senator Joseph Carmichael is - very dignified and not ruthless, he does try to buy out John's story - but realizes that John does not want the money. Whether the scriptwriter of Ringu or The Ring might have been inspired by The Changeling, I can't say. The similarities are - A room over an old well, Joseph is drowned, Samara is pushed - both in water. Samara is adopted, Joseph is a biological child, but killed as he has arthritis. This is a sad ghost tale, like Mama (2013), once you empathize with the ghost, you feel the ghost is right. Joseph is a good ghost who means no trouble - yet I'm surprised why the detective is killed in the road accident, and why frighten Claire when she means no harm. Joseph should have harmed Claire's colleague at the Historical Society for warning the fake Joseph. Still a great film to watch!


Movie & TV Show Preview Widget