a child believed to have been secretly substituted by fairies for the parents’ real child in infancy.
a child secretly exchanged for another in infancy.
Peter Medak’s 1980 horror film The Changeling is a movie about the latter definition of the titular word, though one coming into the film with naivete would not be judged harshly for expecting a story about fairy children (as I did). No, The Changeling is surprisingly dramatic, about a man (George C. Scott) moving into a giant manse after his wife and daughter are killed in a freak car accident only to discover that the house is haunted by the ghost of a boy murdered by his parents due to his vast inheritance which was covered up by adopting another child to take his place who, later in life, became an important senator. It’s a compellingly elaborate idea, and more interestingly, it’s supposedly based on a similar real-life experience had by story writer Russell Hunter.
Medak drapes the film in atmosphere thanks to its moody house and chilling orchestral score (meant to mimic Scott’s character’s pianist expertise), and for the most part, The Changeling works as an eerie potboiler as the protagonist attempts to unravel the mystery via seances, psychics, and his own astral body experiences in the house. While the film would hardly be deemed scary at this point in time, it does have its creepy developments – most notable when Scott is simply exploring the manor alone. With that said, Medak misses many opportunities to go a step farther, instead forced to work through a lot of detailed plot development and drama.
The Changeling does suffer from some dryness and a few comical ghostly encounters (the old wheelchair certainly feels more like black comedy than it should) but fans of stuffy paranormal films like The Legend of Hell House and The Sentinel will find a lot to like about Medak’s classic story about revenge after death.
Severin Films has provided a new 4k scan of The Changeling from the inter-positive, and the results looks fantastic. While the image does tend to have a fairly heavy grain make-up, no detail is lost and the color timing ensures that certain elements, like reds and greens, really pop. There was one specific instance of slight damage that I noticed, but otherwise this transfer looks great.
Audio options are insane – there are five different tracks here. The first is an English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track which is new for this release – it’s a revisionist representation. Like many 5.1 tracks that have been created for movies that originally sported 2.0 audio, this track has some major issues. The most apparent is the quiet music score early in the film, but overall the track is spotty, often ambulating between high and low volume. A bigger issue occurs in a couple of key scenes where audio is missing from the track despite the subtitles and 2.0 track leaving it in. This is almost definitely an error in the track itself, and research shows that the Second Sight Blu-ray does not have this issue. Severin has promised to look into this; there will perhaps be a replacement program, but that has not been announced yet.
UPDATE 8/15/18: Severin has announced a replacement program.
Purists, however, will probably stick with the normal 2.0 English track that Severin has also included, which sounds crisp and clear and very dynamic – maybe even better than what a 5.1 track will be able to provide. There are also Spanish, Italian, and German audio tracks, all of which sound fine as well.
Extras include a new documentary on the real-life story behind The Changeling (17 minutes); a new look at the current locations in the film thanks to the Psychotronic Tourist (16 minutes); an interview with Mick Garris about his appreciation for the film and getting Medak involved in Masters of Horror (5 minutes); a new interview with Kenneth Wannberg, who helped to arrange the film’s soundtrack and theme (9 minutes); and an interview with art director Reuben Freed, who talks about his building of the sets and his first major contribution to film (10 minutes). Also included is an audio commentary with Peter Medak and producer Joel B. Michaels, still gallery, theatrical trailer, and a TV spot.
If you ordered the limited edition, you also receive a CD soundtrack and slipcover. Because that was not received for review, those are not factored into overall score for this standard edition.
While we did not receive the Second Sight Blu-ray for review, all indications and reviews of that release show that these two Blu-rays are extremely comparable (with an almost identical transfer) offering very slight differences in terms of extra content. Ultimately, either one is a great choice.
The Changeling is a good haunted horror film that does suffer from some slow spots. Severin Films has presented a great 4k scan and they've done a very good job with new features.
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