Monday, 1 October 2007

Discount Bin Film Club #4: The Changeling!

Hello there.

Today is the first of October, and in keeping with my promise, this will be a month of scaaaarrrryyy movies that I've found in the Discount Bin.

First up is THE CHANGELING (1980-Canada) starring George C. Scott, Trish VanDeVere, and Melvyn Douglas and directed by Peter Medak.

The film was made during the waning days of what became known as the 'tax shelter boom' in Canadian cinema. This program allowed investors in movies to reap the benefits of tax breaks and profit (by legally deducting more money than they invested) whether the film made money or not.

Now most of the movies made in this era were pretty cheap and pretty awful, but it was the period that brought the world David Cronenberg and produced such cult classics as Black Christmas, The Silent Partner and the supernatural horror film The Changeling.

The story is fairly simple. A successful and famous composer named John Russell (Scott) is an emotional wreck since losing his wife and daughter in a car accident. Desperate for a change of scenery he moves to his home city, that hasn't visited in a long time, to take a job teaching music at the local university and work on a new orchestral project.

A friend recommends that he get a lady from the local historical society (Van DeVere) to help him find a place to live. The society will lease him a place relatively cheaply if he promises to retain it's historical character. He finds a large rambling mansion with an acoustically perfect music room, and it's available at a price that can't be beat. So he moves in.

But he's not alone in the house.

There's a spirit there, and it's emotionally unstable. It wants its new housemate to expose the dark secret of the previous owners. A secret that involves a wealthy and powerful US Senator (Douglas).

The film scared the royal cheese out of me when I first saw it at the age of 12 on CBC's summer movie line-up, and when I found it for $4.99 at Wal-Mart I had to see if it still had any power.

It does.

The film doesn't have any fancy special effects, no glowing ectoplasm, no ghostly death rays, and no gore. It produces scares the way they should be done, through solid suspenseful film making.

Director Medak piles on the suspense through editing, eerie music and masterful cinematography by John Coquillon who fills every shadow with dread. And the house, which qualifies as a character in itself, has plenty of shadows. One scene that illustrates how well the film was made was the seance scene. It's just a group of people sitting around a table talking, but it is still one of the creepiest scenes you will ever see.

My only complaint is that the ending seems a tad rushed. There were some elements that I get the feeling were intended to be used for the finale, but had to drop them due to budgetary and time constraints.

All in all, The Changeling is an excellent little fright film to lend chills to a dark autumn evening with the lights down low.

You'll also never look at a simple rubber ball the same way again.

When you see the movie you'll know what I'm talking about.

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