The Changeling

The Changeling (1980)
HBO Home Video
Cast: George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere, Melvyn Douglas
Extras: Talent Files

As with many Generation X’ers, I love horror film from the late 70s-early 80s, and one of my favorites is the underrated ’The Changeling’. In the film, George C. Scott plays composer John Russell, who has just lost his wife and daughter in an auto accident. Russell moves to Seattle to teach music and moves into a large house. It’s not very long until Russell begins to hear strange noises in the house and to have strange visions. With the help of local historian Claire (Trish Van Devere), Russell explores the history of the house and finds a mysterious trail that leads to US Senator Joseph Carmichael (Melvyn Douglas).

I’ve being vague about the plot on purpose because I don’t want to spoil it for those of you who haven’t seen the film. The story is very engrossing and to tell any more would ruin the scares in the movie. ’The Changeling’ is a very subtle and creepy horror film, which uses atmosphere and visuals to frighten the viewer. (And I can’t figure out for the life of me why the movie is rated R.) The movie features a great performance by Scott and one of the scariest seance scenes ever. ’The Changleling’ is one of the best haunted house movies ever made and is a must-see for any horror fan.

Fans of ’The Changeling’ have been waiting for years for something other than the ancient VHS release and the film has finally premiered on DVD. The DVD from HBO Home Video offers an anamorphic widescreen transfer of the film, letterboxed at 1.85:1. Given that the film is twenty years old, the source print is remarkably free from any defects or blemishes. The picture is very crisp and clear, although this does reveal some grain during the snowbound opening scene, but after that, the film’s dark look hides any offending grain. ’The Changeling’ does suffer from that underlit look that many low-budget films from this period have, but it’s nothing that takes away from the viewing experience. Overall, this is a very nice video transfer.

However, the audio leaves a bit more to be desired. The audio mix is a Dolby 2-channel surround. The audio level is wildly uneven throughout the film, going from very loud to nearly inaudible. Unfortunately, the sound gets very quiet during one of the most important expository scenes. Also, the surround sound seems to come and go at random, but it is effective during the scenes in which it was present. Watch this one with your volume control handy at all times. While the audio and video presentation isn’t flawless, it’s still a welcome sight for fans of ’The Changeling’. The only extra on the DVD are talent files. I’d really hoped to see the trailer, which I can still remember frightening me as a child.