When George C. Scott moves into a mansion on the outskirts of Seattle he gets a lot more than peace, quiet, rain, and double nonfat cappuccinos. Instead he moves into one of the most unsettling ghost stories ever in “The Changeling”.
While on the surface, Peter Medak’s “The Changeling” isn’t the most evidently horrifying movie, there is something about the intimate, drawing-room atmosphere of this supernatural horror fiction that lingers with you for years. The impact is unsettling. In the film, classical composer John Russell (George C. Scott) relocates from New York to Seattle after his wife and daughter are killed in a car accident. He has a job lined up to teach at his alma mater, but is mostly looking for a quiet place to grieve, rest and continue writing music. Claire Norman (Trish Van Devere) at the Seattle Historical Preservation Society shows John a large, sparsely furnished estate in the outlying countryside that fits the bill perfectly. He takes the house, appreciating its remoteness and the solitude it might afford, and diverts himself by renovating and settling in. He even starts to compose again, putting aside his older work in favor of a new, sentimental piece for the piano. It is not long, however, before he begins having nightmares about the accident that killed his wife and daughter. Possibly because of this trauma, he is open to communications from the house’s ghostly occupants. Pursuing a loud, repetitive pounding noise in an upper room, he stumbles on the apparition of a young boy drowning in a tub. Working together with Claire, John discovers frightening parallels between this vision and buried events from the house’s past. Horror writer M.R. James once said that his goal as a writer was to make the reader feel “pleasantly uncomfortable.” Those looking for a similar experience in movies will appreciate “The Changeling” as a gem in the horror genre. And if the Oscars ever decide to hand out awards for best performance by an inanimate object, the wheelchair in the attic would definitely take the prize.
If this argument doesn’t convince you, maybe the Very Serious Voiceover in the trailer will:
“The Changeling” airs today on IFC at 3: 45 p.m. ET