Monday, November 2, 2009

The Changeling

(Peter Medak, 1979)
Dogged by a vague feeling of emptiness - of mobile fisheye lenses and dutch angles overcompensating for flat patches, of Scooby-Doo like sleuthing rationalizing the horror away. Perhaps because of the latter, some of the supporting performances bring to mind seventies TV rather than Val Lewton - shallow and silly. But you don't really go looking for depth or high seriousness in a haunted house movie, do you? You go looking for the creeps. And there's some real good ones here. I'm partial to the extended sequences centering on the rubber ball and the well; the wheelchair is a good idea too but they milk it a bit too hard. George C. Scott may not get much of a workout, but he does carry the film almost single-handedly for long stretches, and the leads are each given one fleeting emotive moment to heighten our engagement. In short, a shaggy dog with a couple new tricks, executed with economy, a dandy sense of rhythm and composition, and that special Drabinsky touch of chintzy 'class'.

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