But this 1980 film delivers the goods with some palpably creepy atmosphere in and outside the ancient domecile that is rented by a widower named John Russell (George C. Scott), a music professor and concert pianist who has relocated to Washington state to escape painful memories. The Victorian mansion has quite a history. It is during the seance, a masterfully directed (by Peter Medak), really scary several minutes of film with mediums furiously scribbling on tablets and the presence of a whispery voice, that Russell begins to learn why doors slam themselves shut and windows shatter without visible provocation.
The screenplay reveals a tale of murder and greed from decades earlier. A victim haunts the house quite relentlessly, eventually goading Russell to investigate and unravel the mystery, to provide some justice and closure for the ghost, who may be a young boy. That's as much spoiler as you will get, invisible audience.
THE CHANGELING is good old fashioned spooky fun. The silly moments are minimal. There are no cheap shocks, but rather a careful building of atmosphere. Many scenes send shivers, including a recreation of a brutal drowning and a visit to the house's attic, and what lies within. Despite the film's R-rating, the violence (and any other content) is not too harsh. Scott is in good form, believable in his grief and bewilderment, and his frequent co-star/wife Trish Van Devere (playing a real estate agent) is elegantly beautiful.
The finale may be a bit over the top, and certainly gave fire wranglers plenty to do, but it does not hurt the overall spooky, minimalist vibe of the picture.