The Changeling

Day Thirty of the 2010 Silver Shamrock Happy Halloween Countdown!

Happy Halloween Countdown Day Thirty

The Changeling
I remember when this had its theatrical run.  The ad in the newspaper, back when movies took out big ads in the newspaper, for The Changeling featured an old style wheelchair covered with cobwebs.  I have no idea why, but I found that image rather compelling.  I was maybe ten-years-old when The Changeling came out, so Mom and Dad where not going to take me to see it.  I’d have to wait a year or so before watching it on HBO when nobody was paying attention.  HBO, accessory to my juvenile crimes, how I loved you so.

George C. Scott plays, John Russell, a music teacher whose wife and kid were killed in an auto accident, to be specific, crushed by a salt truck that slid off the icy road while Russell, stuck in a phone booth looked on.  Ouch!  That’s gonna scar you for life.  After milling around for four months, Russell decides to take a teaching job at a college in Seattle.  Instead of renting an apartment, he rents a house through the local historical society –  a lovely three story mansion which boasts a music room, complete with a grand piano.  The house has other amenities including a groundskeeper, good natural lighting and a ghost who desperately wants Russell’s attention.  Perhaps it’s the ghost of the soldier he slapped, looking for revenge?  If you’re thinking, “WTF?” check out Patton.  You’ll see why I couldn’t help myself.

The Changeling is a slower paced haunted house movie that picks up momentum ever so slowly as it moves along – like a drunken me walking down a steep sidewalk.  It’s not a movie about blood oozing from the walls and chains rattling in the dead of night for the fun of it.  Instead of trying to drive him screaming from the house, like a ten-year-old me with clothes pins on my nipples,  the ghost pokes Russell into investigating the history of the house in order to get him to solve the mystery of a crime kept hidden for nearly seventy years.  The solving and resolving of a historical mystery with supernatural events occurring here and there along the way is how most of the movie breaks down.

The story is engrossing and the acting is top flight; it’s just about what you’d expect from a film with George C. Scott and Melvyn Douglas in staring roles.  There are some unnerving and creepy scenes but this is definitely not Poltergeist or The Ring; there are no girls with long black hair hanging in their faces appearing before a big jump scare nor are there major special effects.

For bonus points, spot actor John Colicos before you see his face.  When he first appears in this movie, you see the back of his head and part an ear and one of his sideburns.  If you watched the original Battlestar Galactica, you’ll be able to play with confidence.

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