There’s nothing like turning off the lights, getting under a blanket, and watching a good creepy movie. The Changeling (1980) is definitely one of those movies. This one of my favorite haunted house movies. It’s got everything a proper ghost story should have: a grieving man, unexplained noises, a seance, and a hidden room. It’s about a man named John Russell, whose wife and daughter are killed in an accident. He moves away and rents an old mansion from the local Historical Society to get away and deal with his grief. John is trying to bury himself in his music while he grieves. He wants to be alone, but something won’t let him.
The house is huge. It’s been abandoned for 12 years. It has all its original furniture and it’s obvious that no one has cleaned it in ages. It’s the kind of house that you know is haunted the second you see it. It’s the quintessential Gothic mansion. It’s the kind of place that people like me look at and go “OMG I would kill to get a look inside that house!”
Shortly after he moves in, things start happening. There’s banging, doors slamming, windows breaking, and the faucets turn on by themselves. There’s obviously a ghost and it wants John to know it’s there. He starts really looking around and finds a hidden room that’s boarded up. He teams up with Clare (the woman that rented him the house) to investigate the history of the house.
John hires a medium to hold a seance in the house. I’m not going to say anything else in case you haven’t seen the movie, except that it’s really a great scene. He learns a few things that may help explain what’s going on. He sets out to solve the puzzle and put the ghost to rest.
The Changeling is all about atmosphere, cinematography, and imagination. It doesn’t have millions of dollars of special effects and doesn’t need it. It was filmed with those camera angles that make it look like the hallways are very narrow and too long. The house in and of itself gives off spooky vibes. It’s dark, empty, and much too big for just one person. It looked like it was waiting for someone to move in. Like it was holding its breath. The music is chilling without being in your face.
The Changeling won’t really scare you in a traditional way. Yes, there are a few jump scares, but this is a different scary. Kind of like the Haunting of Hill House. It will give you the chills and creep you out. If you hear a noise in the middle of the night, The Changeling will be the first thing you think about.
FUN FACT – The Changeling is based on a supposed true haunting that happened to actor Russell Hunter. In 1969, Hunter was renting an old house in Colorado. He said that beginning in February, every morning around 6, he would hear loud banging sounds in the house that would stop when he got out of bed, and like in the movie, things would break, doors would slam, and faucets turned themselves on. He and his architect found a secret room, and he had a seance in the house. Hunter moved out and the house has since been demolished. Hunter went to watch the demolition and afterward said “…As the walls of the wing which had contained my bedroom collapsed, they suddenly flew outward and crushed to death the man operating the bulldozer” Click the link below to read an article fact-checking Hunter’s story, written by Katie Rudolph of The Denver Library.