When I was young I was a very scared child. Mostly about the thought of death; I had many nights where I just thought way too much about what happens after life, but in the same mindset I was unable to watch any horror movies. They just scared me way too much and would cause me to have many a restless night. I mean it kind of lasted until the end of high school. Even in high school, watching an episode of CSI would get me freaked out enough not to want to go to bed. So now that I’m adult, it’s nice to know that scary movies kind of don’t exist to me anymore. Maybe it’s cause Elizabeth and I watch so many but no matter how scary a movie is now it never leaves my mind that it’s just a movie. It’s really nice and I wish I was able to feel that way when I was young.
The Changeling is a movie that took me many years to have the courage to watch. My dad always listed it as one of his favorite horror/suspense movies he had ever seen. I watched it for the first time alone, in the dark basement of my parents’ house, sometime in high school. It scared me so much but I remember being proud of getting through it.
Since that time I have watched this movie a lot. I agree with my dad and it’s one of my favorite horror/ghost/suspense movies. And to be frank it’s all because of George C. Scott. That man is as bad fucking ass as they come. I think the first movie I saw and knew he was one of my favorite actors in was Patton. He’s great in it and there are a lot of scenes from that film that stuck with me. In The Changeling, he is a father who loses his wife and daughter in a car accident. He then moves into a giant house to work on his music. He’s a conductor and writes music himself. As he lives in this house stuff starts to happen to indicate that the house is haunted. The best part about the film once that starts happening is what Scott does. Instead of trying to run and just leave the house behind, he stays and tries to figure out what’s going on. AWESOME! Why the fuck would he let some undead shit tell him where he can and cannot live! It’s funny thinking about that because in so many movies I have the exact opposite reaction to people not leaving a dangerous situation but in The Changeling it works!
The film from there turns into a kind of murder mystery and you follow Scott trying to get to the bottom of it. I think this movie is fantastic and touched on a lot of things I like about movies in general. I mean the house it takes place in is gorgeous and I think the cinematography and music are big pluses about this film.
The Changeling is freaky but really more than that it’s just sad. It opens with John (George C. Scott) losing his wife and young daughter in a car accident. I thought this scene was a little confusing at first because he looked so much older than his wife I assumed he was the father/grandfather. But anyway, he watches them get hit by a car as it runs off the road in the snow before he can get to them, so it’s pretty horrific. The memories in their New York apartment seem to be too much, so he moves to Seattle and rents a giant, old, not-at-all-haunted-looking mansion. Now, I’m not sure why a single guy would feel the need to rent this giant house. The one thing going for it is it has a music room and John is a piano player. But still, seems like a weird choice.
Especially when it most definitely is haunted. He starts hearing noises, windows start breaking, and he finds a weird bedroom in the attic where it looks like someone hid an unwanted kid. His friend Claire (Trish Van Devere) sets up a seance, where the medium goes into a trance and starts constantly scribbling on paper, waiting for the ghost to use her and turn her scribbling into words. That was the first time I’d seen that in a seance scene, so I thought that was interesting. Turns out the ghost is a little boy, the one who lived in the attic, who was murdered by his father. John digs a little and finds out there used to be a very wealthy, prominent family, the Carmichaels, who lived there at the beginning of the century. Joseph Carmichael was their son, who was weak and sickly and inherited the family fortune after the death of his mother. Except her will stipulated that if Joseph died before he was 21, the money would go to charity – not Joseph’s father. So Joseph’s father did what anyone would do in that situation: he drowned Joseph, adopted a healthy orphan boy of the same age and called him Joseph and took him to Europe for seven years as a coverup, saying that they’re going for treatment but really just to let time pass so no one would question the new Joseph when they returned.
The medium tells John that Joseph is reaching out to him because Joseph can sense John’s sadness and loss. There’s something about that that’s so sad to me; Joseph wasn’t really tormenting John (he just kinda was on accident), he was trying to appeal to John so he would help him. And the fact that John had watched his daughter die around the same age as Joseph makes it easy to understand where he’s coming from. So John tries to help Joseph, particularly when he figures out where Joseph’s body is and finds it, along with his “birth medal” (didn’t know that was thing . . .). John confronts the fake Joseph Carmichael, now an old senator, with the medal, but Joseph turns him away, though we find out he’s wearing an identical medal. So Joseph sends a cop to John’s house to get the medal back and John rightly sends the cop back because he doesn’t have a search warrant . . . aaaaand then the cop is killed in a mysterious car crash.
So then John confronts Joseph again, for real, and tells him the whole story, but Joseph doesn’t believe him so John leaves and leaves all of the evidence against Joseph’s father with Joseph. Back at John’s house, the ghost of the real Joseph goes a little nuts; he causes Claire to fall down the stairs, John to fall out a window, and sets the house on fire. Meanwhile, the senator starts to have visions of what really happened, finally understanding the truth of what his father did, and has a heart attack and dies (kinda understandable).
So in the end, it sort of worked out? Ghost Joseph got what he wanted, which was for the truth to come out, so that’s good. But damn, that fucking sucks for the senator Joseph, who really didn’t do anything wrong. And it sucks for John, who is now homeless and his wife and daughter are still dead. I like to think that helping Joseph helped John to heal a little bit, but we never really get a sense if that’s true or not.
Overall, this was really good. It didn’t have a perfectly neat, tight ending, but it didn’t really have to. I think my favorite scene was the seance, though; there was something so realistic about it, which is hard to pull off when the scene is impossible in real life to begin with. When Chris first mentioned The Changeling I assumed he meant Changeling, the 2008 Clint Eastwood movie starring Angelina Jolie. That’s one I’ve seen before and is about a woman whose son goes missing and then turns up again, but she knows it’s not her real son. It was kind of cool to understand why both movies have almost the same titles but are so different, because they’re both about a weird situation where the wrong kid comes back.