The Changeling (1980)

(On Cable TV, May 2017) Some horror movies age strangely, few of them like The Changeling. A Canadian production (explaining why it still plays frequently on Canadian cable TV stations eager to fulfill their CanCon requirements), The Changeling is successively dumb, boring, intriguing then ridiculous. A terrible opening sequence features one of the least convincing familial trauma sequences ever shot, as a snow plow slams into a car, killing the protagonist’s entire family. This is followed by an interminable first act in which our protagonist (a refreshingly older man decently played by George C. Scott) experiences the same kind of spooky stuff than in nearly all haunted house movies made since then. This, however, is followed by a genuinely intriguing third quarter in which the protagonist’s investigation reveals a mystery closer to The Ring’s vengeful ghost than anything else—the film’s standout sequence has to be the one in which a well is discovered under a house, revealing something crucial. Then, well, the film kind of loses it: the wheelchair sequence is almost too dumb for words (which doesn’t stop it from looking even dumber on-screen) and the film goes back to autopilot right in time for a run-of-the-mill finale. While it doesn’t amount to a film that demands a look even today, The Changeling does have enough quirky (some good, some bad) moments to make it an interesting watch. Horror historians will probably find more to see in this film, especially how it compares to other haunted-house movies of the era.

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