I haven’t watched The Changeling in about twenty years. But I have quite vivid memories of that one viewing sometime in my early teens as I flicked channels late at night. I had probably seen the poster for the movie at the local video emporium and I knew, don’t ask me why or how that it was a ghost story starring the great George C Scott. I usually accumulated information on movies in the pre-internet days by spending a lot of time hanging around said video store, memorizing actors names, production credits etc, by reading movie magazines, newspaper reviews and oh of course, by simply watching movies.
I can’t quite remember what my expectations were at the time before watching it as I was a lot more naïve and innocent once upon a time but I do remember it unsettling my younger self and it created a profound awareness of the empty spaces in the living room and of something lying in wait beyond the doors, lurking in the shadows of the hallway.
The catalyst behind this elevation of the fear within was a scene involving a bouncing red rubber ball, simple yet terrifying. One of the prime virtues of Peter Medak‘s film is that like all good celluloid ghost stories it relies on atmosphere and film-making craft for its scares rather than gore or special effects and this scene in which Dr John Russell (George C.Scott) who has recently moved into an old Victorian mansion to get his life back together after the deaths of his wife and daughter in a traffic accident. He begins to hear strange noises and experience strange phenomena such as the sudden appearance of a red ball bouncing down the staircase.