in Shocktober

The Changeling (1980)

The Changeling is a significantly underrated ghost story from writer Russell Hunter. Right now you probably think I’m talking about that Clint Eastwood movie right? No, though The Changeling does involve another fiery-tempered old coot in screen-legend George C. Scott. Directed by Peter Medak, The Changeling is the story of composer Dr. John Russell (Scott) trying to overcome the recent deaths of both his wife and son in a traffic accident. Russell moves from New York to Seattle, Washington (nothing scary or depressing about that place) where he rents a spooky Victorian mansion and tries to find some kind of normalcy. Of course no good ever comes from living in spooky mansion as Russell is soon haunted by the ghost of a young boy. Who is the boy? Is it Russell’s son? This leads Russell to the discovery that the house was once linked to a well known Senator (Melvyn Douglas) and that’s when all hell breaks loose.

First of all, I don’t care what he’s in, George C. Scott is always a treat to watch. He brings such gravitas to such a heartbroken character and carries the film quite well. Not normally the kind of guy you’d expect to see in a horror movie, Scott adapts and takes you along for a bumpy ride. Melvyn Douglas is equally entertaining even at 79 years old, and the two character’s confrontation at the end wraps everything up in a chilling finale.

The Changeling is perhaps best known for the “Ball and the stairs” scene which although very simple, is one of the eeriest sequences in the grand echelon of ghost stories. Maybe the idea of “creepy ghost kids” has worn a little thin these days, but back in 1980 it still felt fresh, and this is one worth checking out. So if you’re looking for the right thinking man’s horror movie and not just a gory spookfest, checkout The Changeling. It will make you fear small rubber balls.