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Old 06-27-2004, 02:35 AM
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Default Changeling, The

Reviewer: Styx
Review Date: October 4, 2000

Released by: HBO Home Video
Release date: 9/12/2000
MSRP: $14.98
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.77:1 | 16x9: Yes

The Changeling, one of the most effective haunted house films ever made, has finally made its way to DVD from HBO Home Video. This horror gem, starring the late George C. Scott, is by far one of the most unsettling films I've ever seen and is one of the best horror films to come out of the 80s.

The Story

inline Image While vacationing in upstate New York with his wife Joanna (Jean Marsh) and his daughter Kathy (Michelle Martin), John Russell's (George C. Scott) car gives out along a snowy road. They push the car to a phone booth where John proceeds to call for help while Julian and Kathy have a snowball fight nearby. Two cars going in opposite directions suddenly lose control on the road and crash into each other, hitting both Julian and Kathy, killing them instantly. Six months later John, whose still trying to get over the loss of his family, decides to leave for Seattle and assume a teacher's career in music. John also begins searching for a new home, one where he can be by himself and focus on his music. His friends in Seattle know someone who works for the Historic Preservation Society and they suggest he try to rent a house from them.

inline Image John meets with Claire Norman (Trish Van Devere) who works for the society and together they take a look at one of the houses Claire has in mind for John. He's immediately taken with a grand looking house and begins to get settled in. Shortly after moving into the house strange things begin to happen. One morning John is awoken by mysterious banging noises, but John brushes the incident off assuming it must be the pipes or some other rational explanation. The next day Claire meets John again and gives him some paintings that once hung on the walls of the house. Claire and John begin to spend some time together, but John is still haunted by the memories of his lost family. One night John witnesses the apparition of a boy submerged in his bathtub and it encourages him to inquire about the history of the house. Becoming more and more intrigued John finally takes notice that there is an attic room he's never been in. He searches the house for the entrance to the attic but can't seem to find it. John soon discovers the way into the attic sealed up in a closet and frantically he tears down the boards and enters the room.

inline Image The room, which looks like it hasn't been used in ages, seems like it belonged to a child. John tells Claire about what he found in the attic and after a few more instances of hauntings John decides to seek out a medium in an effort to speak with the restless spirit that is obviously trying to make contact. What he learns from the sťance leads John to a deadly conspiracy involving the murder of a young crippled boy who cries out for vengeance.

inline Image The Changeling is hands down one of the all time great haunted house flicks. It's one of the few films of its nature that is genuinely effective in scaring the pants off the viewer. I first watched The Changeling as a rental some time ago, not expecting much from it and boy was I surprised by its effectiveness and chilling atmosphere. The Changeling plays out like a lot of other haunted house films with the familiar scenario of a new tenant moving into a seemingly serene home only to discover some terrible things occurred long ago and the wronged spirits are unable to rest. The mystery and discovery of exactly what happened is part of the fun of this film and the chilling details are well written. Although I have to admit I was a little lost on the whole "changeling" plot the first time I saw the film. But then again I was very wrapped up in the suspense and atmosphere of the film that the full details of the story didn't seem to have any significance.

inline Image The acting is top notch from all parties, including the always-excellent George C. Scott. Scott delivers a very convincing performance of a man who's just lost his family. He's a very believable actor and provides a solid foundation for the film. George C. Scott also manages to make his character very sympathetic but always keeps the pain he's feeling understated relaying it mostly through expression. Lending some aid to the performances is The Changeling's effectively haunting score composed by Rick Wilkins. It's a great score that heightens the emotional impact.

inline Image The Changeling manages to envelope the viewer in it's horrific scare tactics in ways that are extremely effective yet simplistic. No, you won't find any moving statues or phony CGI effects in this film like that awful Haunting remake. Simple devices such as a ball (which belonged to John's daughter) bouncing down a flight of steps or being awoken in the middle of the night by loud banging sounds are all this film needs to get your blood pumping. All of it is directed sharply by Peter Medak who always captures the right mood through the wide assortment of camera angles and techniques applied throughout the film. I really can't recommend The Changeling enough and thankfully so far no one has remade this film...lets hope it stays that way.

Image Quality

inline Image HBO Home Video presents The Changeling letterboxed at 1.77:1 in a 16x9-enhanced transfer. Overall the image is very good but displays a few problems. The transfer is reasonably sharp and detailed especially during daylight exteriors, which indeed looked very impressive and displayed the strongest colors. Medium shots looked good but the occasional long shot seemed a bit soft and lacking in detail. The image also exhibits a moderate amount of grain throughout the presentation. Almost every shot has some degree of noticeable grain but most of the daylight exteriors display very little if any. With the exception of the title sequence, the colors looked very good and nicely saturated throughout and flesh tones seemed natural and well balanced. Contrast was also very good and blacks were strong and solid without any break-up.

Overall I found this transfer quite pleasing and kudos to HBO for presenting this great film in an anamorphic transfer. My only real complaint is the noticeable grain at times, but I'm sure that's due to the nature of this film.


The Changeling is presented in an English Dolby Digital Surround track, but I found the results to be a little disappointing. The mix seemed very limited and the scene where Claire is chased down by the wheelchair was a disappointment. Still dialogue was clear and no distortion was heard throughout.

Supplemental Material

inline Image The only thing on this disc is a set of Cast and Crew Biographies but I hardly count those as "extras".

Final Thoughts

A good horror collection isn't complete without The Changeling, so this DVD comes highly recommended. HBO did a good job with this release giving it a new 16x9 transfer. However, there are no extras to be found here. The price tag, however, makes up for that, but lets hope someday The Changeling will get a Special Edition release.


Image Quality - B+
Sound - B+
Supplements - N/A

Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Rated R
  • 1 Disc
  • 16 Chapter Stops
  • English Dolby Digital Surround

  • N/A

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