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  • Gareth Crook

The Changeling (1980) - 9/10

As pre-title sequences go, this one packs a punch. John Russel (George C. Scott) loses his wife and daughter in a horrific accident. Lonely in his city apartment, it’s time for a change. A new start. John is a composer, a pianist and wants somewhere he can make some noise. Meeting friends in Seattle that have connections to the local historical society, brings up a big old house they’re renting. Big enough to have a music room, with a piano. Handy. Pianos are the spookiest of instruments aren’t they. There seems to be something about this one… and the house (which is actually a remarkably cinematic set). John is an affable fellow though, he settles in well. New job teaching music theory and getting out and about socially. He’s not the only one making noise in the house mind. In fact he’s not the only one in the house. If anything is going to take your mind off grieving… it’s poltergeists. The old wooden house makes for the perfect setting as John gets a sense that all is not well. Banging pipes, dark shadowy staircases, running taps and as he finds out there’s been trouble in the house before, he’s told rather ominously of the house “It doesn’t want people”. Music perhaps not all that ironically is key. Rick Wilkins score although a little on the money, is very effective. On discovering a cobweb filmed room at the top of the house. John finds a music box from the turn of the century that plays the same melody he thought he’d just composed himself a few days earlier. Cue a bit of local history sleuthing, looking through old newspapers on microfilm to find out what happened in the houses history. Scott is really good. He plays John’s inquisitive side brilliantly, even if he does struggle a little with the grief portrayal. The excellently named Trish Van Devere is good too as Claire, the realtor who’s hooked John up and becomes embroiled in the reasoning behind the houses unrest. It’s not that scary, but chilling. John thinks he understands the paranormal connection, but he’s reluctant to dig up the past. The smart move would be to get out, he’s only renting after all. Instead we get a freaky séance and some ghostly recordings. Piecing things together, John sets about righting history’s wrongs. I’m often a cynical viewer, but this really is rather brilliant. I’m a little surprised it’s not mentioned as much as films like The Omen and The Exorcist. It’s got it all. Creepy children, handheld camera work, but perhaps most importantly a rock solid plot, that’s not only nerve shredding, but has some real world jeopardy too. A fantastic film that gets better with every scene. I’m not keen on the name, maybe that’s what’s held it back, but this is certainly a must see horror classic.



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