This film from 1980 starts in snow covered Upstate New York, middle of nowhere. A couple and their daughter have broken down and are pushing their car to the side of the road. Whilst the husband telephones for assistance in a nearby booth, he witnesses his wife and daughter get mown down by an out of control truck. And that’s all before the credits have even started. George C Scott plays a composer who subsequently retreats to a huge empty house for solitude and grieving. And yes, the house is haunted (cue the ubiquitous spooky staircase shots that everyone seemed to do after Psycho) However, given his present grief, even Mike Myers would find it difficult to upset our hero more than he has been already. And this is where we know the film is going to be different. Indeed, it seems our ghost needs our hero to help unravel the mysterious history that has left his spirit trapped in purgatory (though occasionally this spirit seems like a right ungrateful b**tard) However, for our hero, investigating the skeletons in the cupboard of this house (or indeed in covered up wells) actually seems a gentle catharsis for him.
With such an emotional storyline and cliched haunted house set-up, the actors/director have done well not to be hammy. Scott is splendidly grounded as John Russell (character no doubt named after the writer Russell Hunter who, if Wikipedia is to be believed, based the experiences on his own whilst renting a house in Denver) It is this down to earth, almost believable way the story is approached that makes it gripping and a times chilling. I’m a great fan of “less is more” and this film does that well. The set is marvellous and the music is superb. Try something original this halloween and give this film a try.
The Changeling [DVD]