The Changeling is about the past. It deals with past crimes and a house way past its prime. Sadly, this film seems as decrepit and worn down as the house itself. It’s hard to ignore its historical value and its importance to horror movies, but it’s also hard to deal with the predictability and lack of scare factor this movie has.
The film begins with Dr. John Russell going on a family trip with his wife and daughter. While making a call to get help with their broken down car, a crash ensues that results in the death of his wife and child. This traumatizes Russell and causes him to move to Seattle in order to start fresh. The viewer feels as if Russell is genuinely struggling to get over his grief. Since he is a skilled composer, he uses his trade as a way to pick himself up again and begins to teach at the local college. Russell also rents a historical house so he can have peace and quiet to work on his music. The viewer soon realizes there is a ghost in the house and there is a need to be scared. Unfortunately, the lead character doesn’t even seem that worried about what is going on.
George C. Scott plays Dr. Russell and for all intents and purposes does a great job acting the part. He is lovable and charming, but seems to underplay the things going on around him. He seems to be having more fun with the creepy things happening around him rather than being scared and worried that this ghostly spirit could actually hurt him. I realized after watching the film that I just didn’t really care what happened to him. If he died, it would have felt the same as if he lived.
Another issue with the movie is its predictability. Since this is an old movie, during its time it was considered much more creative and original, but now it just seems cliché and old. Lights flickering, things moving, voices screaming out, all of these are commonplace in ghost movies and seem outdated. The camera angles are another annoying aspect of the film. While there are some beautifully shot scenes, the whole movie seems to be shot in a very wide angle that makes the movie feel distorted and honestly made me feel a little nauseous. One positive is that this movie does have a mystery aspect to it, which keeps the viewer interested in how the story will turn out. Although, I also experience this same mystery fun when watching Scooby Doo, which frankly is what this movie feels like.
If you enjoy watching the films that helped start a genre, then this movie is good for you. If you like horror films that are actually scary, then this movie really isn’t for you. Ghosts are a major part of horror island and are one of the oldest beings. Other creatures may even view the ghosts as the sages or elders of the island. Unfortunately, with time, the elders have to die and other creatures take the reign on top. The Changeling is the perfect example of out with the old and in with the new.
If you liked The Changeling, you might also like The Awakening and The Woman in Black.