Why I Love: The Changeling (1980) Simon Fitzjohn July 15, 2017 Editor's Choice, Features, Why I Love 6463 Most definitely not to be confused with the Angelina Jolie/Clint Eastwood team-up, The Changeling is that very rare breed – a full-on horror movie with a distinguished cast. In this case our lead hero is Oscar-winner George C Scott, who takes on the role of John Russell, an award-winning and accomplished pianist, composer and lecturer. Having seen his wife and child mown down by a skidding truck in a snowy opening sequence, Russell looks to rebuild his battered life in Seattle. Before you can say ‘boo’ Russell is offered the rental of a mammoth mansion, which somewhat bizarrely has not been occupied for 12 years. Alarm bells should be ringing, especially in genre films and, sure enough, Russell is subsequently terrorised by a series of ghostly goings on as he looks to unravel the mystery of the previous owners. But there are none of the cheap shocks or ludicrous gore effects that usually populate films of this ilk in modern cinema. In fact, anybody eyeing up the DVD’s 15 certificate and licking their lips at the prospect of some devilish bloodshed will be severely disappointed. The Changeling is all mood, characterisation and subtle imagery – a bouncing ball here, a leaking tap there – and it is all the better for it. Yes there are shocks, and the film also contains a series of superbly-orchestrated, and creepy as hell, set pieces, of which centre stage is an eerie seance sequence that builds tension superbly. Some may find the pace slow, but considering I was watching this sprawled out on my sofa approaching midnight the first time I certainly did not find that the case, and it has held up well over follow-up screenings. In actual fact the film is as much supernatural mystery as ‘straight’ horror, and I was fully engrossed as Scott’s Russell scoured old newspapers and the like, desperate to get to the bottom of the house’s secret. Anchored by a strong central performance from Scott, a superb use of sound and astutely handled by director Peter Medak, the movie reminds me in many ways of 60s classic The Haunting (erase the awful 90s remake) and shows that if done properly, and with respect, horror cinema and quality actors can not only co-exist in the same cinematic world, but also enhance each other.