BARE BONES: HOST (2020)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

Host (2020)

Host is an innovative little found footage film in that it was filmed entirely on Zoom and during the Covid 19 lockdown. It has a group of friends assembling on Zoom during the lockdown to conduct an online seance. When one of the girls (Jemma Moore) doesn’t take the event seriously, her prank invites a malevolent entity into all their homes.

Hour long paranormal horror is directed by Rob Savage from his script with Gemma Hurley and Jed Shepherd. It’s fun and can be quite spooky, especially in it’s first half. It’s at it’s most effective when it is being subtly creepy, as when the girls first lose the help of their online medium (Seylan Baxter) and now have to go it alone, quarantined in their homes, with things going bump in the night. The second half takes things to another and more over-the-top level and that’s when it loses it’s grip somewhat. A lot of the bits we then see are directly lifted from the Paranormal Activity series, such as bodies dropping from the ceiling, powder on the floor to reveal footprints and sheets that suddenly take on the shape of something underneath. To give Savage credit, some of this stuff still works and the jump scares are effective, but some of it is also very hokey and the familiarity with the Oren Peli series, removes Host from the veneer of being real, that worked so well in the first act. Still, overall, the inventiveness in getting it made, a charming and effective cast and all the things it succeeds at, make it a fun 60 minute spook show. Stars Haley Bishop, Jemma Moore, Emma Louise Webb, Radina Drandova and Caroline Ward as our five main characters all using their own names. Seylan Baxter plays the medium Seylan and Edward Linard plays friend Teddy, who leaves the circle early on, but gets drawn back in towards the end. Now streaming on Shudder.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

bars

HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SATAN’S SLAVES (2017)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2now playing

bars

SATAN’S SLAVES (2017)

Indonesian horror is from Impetigore writer/director Joko Anwar and tells of the ailing matriarch (Ayu Laksmi) of the Suwono family. When she passes, strange things start to occur around the house, causing eldest daughter Rini (Impetigore‘s Tara Basroto look into her mother’s past. Rini finds to her horror that her mother was part of a Satanic sect and the price of what benefits she gained from it are to be paid to that sect in the form of the youngest child in the family, little Ian (Muhammad Adhiyat).

Anwar directs again from his own screenplay, this time based on a 1980 Indonesian horror of the same name. It’s a spooky film with some offsetting visuals, such as ghastly specters and the dead rising from their graves. It’s not quite as consistently intense as Impetigore and seems like about ten minutes, or so, longer than it needs to be, but it is more of a slow burn that comes to a very creepy last act and climax. The benefit of a slower pace is that we get to know the members of this family well enough to care, especially Rini, and we find out the details of the hidden part of their mother’s life gradually, as they do. Anwar also plays with the motivations of some of his spectral guests in the family’s modest home, providing some interesting twists. The writer/director gets really good work out of his cast, including the kids and especially leading lady Tara Barso, as a young woman forced to take over as head of a supernaturally embattled family. Anwar juggles a fairly large amount of characters and it helps that his strong storytelling skills are at work. Can this clan keep together and save little Ian?…and themselves?…the flick is worth a look to find out the answer. On the technical side, the visual and make-up FX are well done and provide some very chilling entities to populate this supernatural thriller and Anwar’s visual eye keeps things atmospheric and unsettling.

This is a spooky and atmospheric film from a filmmaker who is proving he is good at supplying both scares and story. Director Joko Anwar and leading lady Tara Basro are also proving to be a formidable team as they were in Impetigore. Film can be found streaming on Shudder and if you liked Impetigore, you’ll probably like this!

-MonsterZero NJ

 

Rated 3 (out of 4) sisters of Satan’s spawn!

 

 

 

 

 

**************************************************

pe; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen>

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: MAKING CONTACT (1985)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

MAKING CONTACT (1985)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Making Contact is a West German supernatural chiller with severe Poltergeist envy. The story focuses on young Joey (Joshua Morell) who has just lost his father. Not only is Joey starting to show telekinetic abilities, but is starting to get messages from his deceased dad on his toy phone from beyond the grave. Joey’s abilities and dabbling in the paranormal, draw him to an underground maze and a ventriloquist dummy that is possessed by a demonic spirt. Of course, the boy brings it home and the supernatural hi-jinx begin.

Flick is directed by Independence Day director Roland Emmerich from his script with Hans J. Haller and Thomas Lechner. The three conjure up a story that is very much like Tobe Hooper/Steven Spielberg’s classic fright flick, including directly lifting quite a few scenes, such as flying Star Wars toys and a horde of paranormal investigators invading Joey’s home. It deviates from Poltergeist in the end with a climax set in the underground maze with Joey and his schoolmates battling the dummy, who uses their own fears against them. This evokes an appearance by Darth Vader himself, which also evokes the question as why the abundance of Star Wars imagery and merchandise (Joey’s room is full of it) didn’t evoke a lawsuit. The flick is slow moving, even at only 98 minutes, the FX are delightfully cheesy and the cast all extremely bland. You know somethings up when the best character in the movie is a toy robot named Charlie. The dialogue is equally blasé and the scenes of supernatural activity are very ho-hum, though there are a few entertaining moments and the dummy is quite creepy. Despite all the negative aspects, the film does amuse in an 80s curiosity kind of way and when it does do it’s own thing, those few touches are interesting enough.

This isn’t a great flick, but it does entertain with all the 80s nostalgia and the blatant recreation of scenes from Poltergeist that do invite chuckles. The dummy can be creepy and the few times it has original ideas they are interesting enough, such as the maze finale. The cast and dialogue are equal parts bland and wooden and the FX quite cheesy, but that does add some charm in an 80s nostalgia kinda way. Worth a look as a curiosity if nothing else.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) demonically possessed ventriloquist dummies for 80s nostalgia and cheese.

 

 

 

 

**************************************************

bars

REVIEW: THE DEEPER YOU DIG (2019)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

bars

THE DEEPER YOU DIG (2019)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

On his way home from a bar during a snowstorm, Kurt (John Adams) is distracted by a herd of deer crossing the road and accidentally runs over his neighbor’s teen daughter Echo (Zelda Adams), who is sleigh-riding at night. He brings her body back to the house he is renovating, where he suddenly finds she isn’t dead. He panics and kills her, then hides her body. Her mother Ivy (Toby Poser), who is a medium, starts a search for her daughter, using her knowledge of the supernatural to aid her. As Ivy starts to suspect Kurt, the guilt ridden man becomes haunted by Echo’s spirit, as her mother draws ever closer to finding out the truth.

Intriguing supernatural thriller is written by stars John Adams and his wife Toby Poser and co-directed by the duo, along with their daughter, co-star Zelda Adams. It is very grounded despite a lot of supernatural elements and most of the FX appear to be done in camera. The three filmmakers concoct an interesting tale of guilt, the supernatural and revenge from beyond the grave. It’s subtle, for the most part, spooky at times and atmospheric. Echo, at first, simply haunts and torments Kurt and deservedly so. As her mother gets signs pointing her toward what happened and who’s responsible, Echo starts to communicate through him, giving her mother clues as she gets closer to the man she suspects. It’s actually very effective most of the time, with the exception of a few scenes that bordered on getting a little silly, unfortunately, such as the last scene. It’s supposed to illustrate Ivy getting what she wanted and yet paying a price for using darker forces to find the truth. Sadly, it’s just not as effective as it needs to be. It doesn’t stick with you for the right reasons. There are some nice hallucination and dream sequences that evoked some of the work Don Coscarelli achieved, with next to nothing, on the original Phantasm. Offbeat and inventive. There is some bloody violence and some disturbing imagery and it maintains an unsettling mood most of the time.

The writing and directing trio also do well in their on-screen roles. John Adams is good as Kurt. He panics and does something terrible and then follows it up with something even worse. Bad decisions snowballing and now he is haunted by the spirit of a young girl he’s murdered, as well as, by his own guilt. Toby Poser gives an understated performance as Ivy. As a mother she is willing to sacrifice anything and everything to find her daughter and delves into darker arts to do so. She also is strong in the face of admitting her daughter is gone, but relentless in trying to prove what she already knows, her neighbor had something to do with it. Rounding out is Zelda Adams as Echo. Most of her role is of a taunting spirit, and as that she is effective, but in her brief time as a living person, she successfully conveys a typical rebellious teen. Good work from a hard working trio.

This film is a family affair in the complete sense of the word and an intriguing one at that. It’s inventive and clever in portraying it’s supernatural subject on a small budget and effective more times than not. We feel Kurt’s guilt and Ivy’s anguish and Echo’s almost playful taunting of the man who killed her can be chilling. Not all of it’s supernaturally tinged sequences worked and the climactic moments weren’t as disturbing as they were meant to be. Here, the journey is almost more interesting than the resolution. Ultimately, it’s an original telling of a familiar story and one that hints at interesting things to come from this family of filmmakers. Not for everyone, but if you like your flicks a little offbeat, than it’s certainly worth a watch.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) deer antlers.

 

 

 

 

**************************************************

 

bars

HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: WE GO ON (2016)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2now playing

bars

WE GO ON (2016)

Original slant on a haunting flick finds a man named Miles (Clark Freeman) suffering an almost fatal car accident. Even when his injuries are healed, Miles finds himself living with his mother Charlotte (Annette O’Toole) and living in fear. Not only is Miles timid about driving again, but now terrified of dying. To try to ease that fear, Miles takes out an ad promising $30,000 to anyone who can give him definitive proof of the afterlife. Initially he finds nothing but disappointment from the various scientist, paranormal experts and psychics that apply, until a strange phone call gives proof to the old adage ‘be careful what you wish for.’

Flick is co-directed by Andy Mitton and Jesse Holland from their script and story. It has a very interesting and clever premise with a man suffering a close call and now being terrified of death. He will go to any lengths to prove there is an afterlife to alleviate that fear, and as this is a horror film, that pursuit comes back to bite him. Mitton and Holland provide some very spooky scenes, even when Miles is scammed by con-artists, as some of those sequences are still creepy, before being revealed as fraud. When Miles gets a phone call from a mysterious man, things get even creepier, especially when we learn who this man is and what his intentions are. It then takes the film in an interesting new direction, when to free himself from what he’s gotten himself into, Miles is faced with a moral conundrum. Miles is forced to confront his morality, as well as, his mortality. He is also forced to confront some truths about his own past, as well. The resolution to Miles’ tale is interesting to say the least. A solid idea well carried out in both script and direction. As with Mitton’s The Witch in the Window, there are some make-up FX which are well rendered and it appears all the FX are in-camera. If not, any CGI is very subtle. This is a spooky and disturbing flick that asks some interesting questions and goes in some provocative directions. The duo of Mitton and Holland prove that the spookiness in Yellowbrickroad was not a fluke and is even more well-honed with a solid and less ambiguous story. The flick is not for everyone, as with any paranormal themed film, it depends on your beliefs in such as to how effective it will be for you.

There is a small but solid cast. Yellowbrickroad veteran Clark Freeman is very good as Miles. He is a man terrified and living in fear and wanting to find a way out. This puts Miles in a position to find definitive answers to some age old questions about life and afterlife and is even morally challenged as well. The actor handles all these facets of Miles’ journey very effectively. Annette O’Toole is very good as his caring mother Charlotte. She is very protective of Miles and is probably more skeptical of the answerers to his ad than he is. Jay Dunn is appropriately spooky as the author of the phone call, the mysterious Nelson. There is more to Nelson than meets the eye and that’s all that need be said. In support, we have good work from Laura Heisler as Nelson’s girlfriend Alice, veteran John Glover as a scientist and Giovanna Zacarías as a psychic who might be more legit than Miles first believes. A good cast that take the material seriously and give down-to-earth performances which suit the tone and material.

Overall, Andy Mitton and Jesse Holland prove they are filmmakers to watch in the indie film arena. They have come up with an intriguing and original slant on the haunting scenario, carry it out effectively and take it in some provocative directions. The film has some very spooky and disturbing moments, as well as, some thought-provoking questions. It can be low key at times, but the slower burn keeps it from getting theatrical and that keeps it grounded…and it’s all the more effective for it. Another flick that can be found on Shudder.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) cellphones on which to receive ominous messages!

 

**************************************************

bars

HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE WITCH IN THE WINDOW (2018)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2now playing

bars

THE WITCH IN THE WINDOW (2018)

Flick opens with mom Beverly (Arija Bareikis) sending her son Finn (Charlie Tacker) from New York City to Vermont to stay with his estranged father Simon (Alex Draper). Finn saw something traumatic online and his mom wants to get him out of the city and away from such negativity for the summer. Simon is flipping a house in a rural area, though secretly hopes he can bring his family back together there. Local electrician Louis (Greg Naughton) tells Simon that the house was once owned by Lydia (Carol Stanzione), a woman said to be a witch, who may have murdered her own family and then herself died in the house. Soon Simon and Finn begin to hear and see things in the house, as they renovate and come to believe Lydia may still be there and want her house back.

Flick is written and directed by Andy Mitton, who was one of the filmmakers on the spooky indie Yellowbrickroad. It does vaguely evoke the 1976 Burnt Offerings, and has a familiar basic story, but is definitely it’s own thing. Mitton crafts a slow burn haunted house flick that has some very thick atmosphere, for a film that avoids the classic tropes of the genre, yet remains very effective. There are no fog shrouded nights, full moons, or even any blood or gore. Most of the film takes place in broad daylight and Mitton still achieves some solid chills. There are maybe only two jump scares in the film and they are all well-earned, not cheap. Things get really freaky in the last act, for reasons that won’t be spoiled here, and while the ending is quite subtle, it is also very effective. That is what is so refreshing about Andy Mitton’s supernatural chiller, is that it achieves a very spooky tale without falling back on familiar tropes, or relying on an abundance of SPFX. Aside from Lydia’s make-up, there are no visual FX, no blood, no gore and no CGI. It’s all done in-camera with some really impressive cinematography from Justin Kane, an atmospheric score by Mitton himself, good direction and solid performances from the small cast.

As for that cast…one of the reasons this flick works so well, is because the performances are all very good. Alex Draper does a really good job as a flawed, but loving father who wants to bring his family back together. His love for his son is evident and his need to finish this house, despite the warnings, is heartfelt. Charlie Tacker is good as Finn. He’s a typical rebellious 12 year-old, but one caught in the emotional turmoil of being in the middle of a parental separation. This brings about the not unexpected behavioral issues. Tacker and Draper have really good chemistry and their scenes together crackle with authenticity of a real father/son relationship. Arija Bareikis is solid as mom Beverly, a woman who may be a little over-protective, but loves her son. Greg Naughton is good as the very scared electrician and neighbor, who may not be telling Simon everything, despite all he has told him. Finally, Carol Stanzione is very spooky as Lydia, despite having only one word of dialogue…in her original form anyway.

In conclusion, Andy Mitton delivers a spooky and subtle movie without falling back on the clichés of this type of flick. He accomplishes some solid chills with some simple camera work, atmosphere and the performances of his actors. It’s a slow burn and a bit of a familiar story, but one that requires no CGI or SPFX, aside from some simple make-up. It’s a good example of it being the filmmaker, not all the bells and whistles, that a spooky flick makes. Available to stream on Shudder and certainly recommended.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) hammers used to renovate a witch haunted house!

 

**************************************************

bars

BARE BONES: BEHIND YOU (2020)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

BEHIND YOU (2020)

Supernatural thriller finds teen Olivia (Addy Miller) and her little sister Claire (Elizabeth Birkner) sent to live with their Aunt Beth (Jan Broberg) after their mother passes away. As this is a horror film, there is a malevolent entity imprisoned in the house, whose malicious acts 40 years ago, Aunt Beth has been blamed for. The entity tricks little Claire into releasing it and now Beth and Olivia must try to find a way to free Claire from it’s grasp and imprison the demonic force once more.

Flick is well directed by Andrew Mecham and Matthew Whedon from their own script. It’s atmospheric and has a few spooky moments, but is far too familiar and routine, story-wise, to really be effective. Tropes are used fairly well, but we’ve seen it all before. There is a strong been there, done that vibe here and a lot more innovation would be needed to make things feel fresh. It’s a little too traditional for it’s own good, especially at a time where haunting flicks like this are a dime a dozen. The cast are fine, the girls are likable and it was effective for them to first think Aunt Beth is a villain. From the opening flashback, we, the audience, already know something is going bump in the night. It’s also a little convenient that whenever the script needs something, all Aunt Beth has to do is read from an ancient book from her library and problem solved. She’s a regular Van Helsing and one wonders, with her literary resources, why 40 years later, she’s still having problems with this thing. Still, it is the first horror flick to use a peanut butter allergy as a weapon against demonic possession. Points for originality there. Behind You has a few deaths, but only one scene of any real bloodshed, as it is mostly about the spooky stuff. Overall, it’s not a bad movie, the filmmakers tried hard, but as possession/haunting flicks go, it’s very routine. Also stars Philip Brodie as Beth’s friend Charles. It’s on Amazon Prime, if you want to give it a try.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: GHOST STORY (1981)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

GHOST STORY (1981)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

1981’s Ghost Story is a combination of supernatural chiller and mystery based on a book by Peter Straub. It tells of the Chowder Society, four elderly men who have known each other since college. Sears James, Edward Wanderley, Ricky Hawthorne and Dr. John Jaffrey (John Houseman, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Fred Astaire and Melvyn Douglas), all gather together once a week to tell horror stories. One of their spooky stories comes to life, when the ghost of a mysterious woman (Alice Krige) starts to haunt them and their kin. Soon members and family members are dying tragically and Edward’s son Don (Craig Wasson) comes home to investigate after the death of his twin brother. What he finds is a mystery fueled by a terrible secret, the one grim story the Chowder Society won’t tell.

Classy flick is directed by John Irvin from a script by Lawrence D. Cohen, based on Straub’s book of the same name. It’s atmospheric and very old fashioned and has a great cast of actors. Sadly it’s also a very dull and slow paced flick with the scares few and far between and a mystery which isn’t very hard to figure out. There is some nice SPFX make-up from the legendary Dick Smith and it is relatively bloodless, despite the era it was made in. The performances from the veteran cast are all good. Krige is very sexy and mysterious as the spectral femme fatale, though Wasson seems a bit miscast, especially in his scenes as twin brother David. Despite all the talent in front of and behind the camera, the film just plods along and takes almost two hours to reach a conclusion we all already know is coming. There is also the edition of two characters, escaped lunatic and son Gregory and Fenny Bate (Miguel Fernandes and Lance Holcomb) that add nothing to the story. It would have flowed smoother without them, even if they were in the book. A well intended film, but also a bit of a misguided one as well. It simply should have been consistently scarier and perhaps with a director more comfortable with the supernatural elements…elements Irvin almost seems to try to avoid.

In conclusion, it’s a noble effort with a lot of talent involved, but one that unfortunately fails to deliver the chills. It’s atmospheric and looks good, by way of Jack Cardiff’s cinematography. It has a few spooky moments and the score by Philippe Sarde is very effective. What really holds this flick back is simply a far too pedestrian pace, taking longer to tell the story than needed and a director just not taking full advantage of the trappings of such a tale. Definitely a movie that hasn’t aged well either, despite a very classy cast of legendary actors.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) spooks.

 

 

 

**************************************************

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: RETRIBUTION (1987)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

RETRIBUTION (1987)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

80s supernatural horror opens on Halloween night with lonely artist George (Dennis Lipscomb) trying to commit suicide. He is revived, but begins to have horrifying nightmares of people he doesn’t know, being murdered in terrible ways. His psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Curtis (Leslie Wing) is baffled and cop Lt. Ashley (Hoyt Axton) is suspicious, as George’s dreams are coming true. It appears George was born on the same day and initially died at the same moment as gangster Vito Minelli, who is using George’s body to get revenge on those who murdered him.

Flick is produced and directed by Guy Magar who also co-wrote with Lee Wasserman. Despite some unintentionally goofy scenes, the film has a more serious tone than most horrors of the later 80s generally had. Vito in George’s body is a vicious and vengeful spirit, who murders people in sadistic and gory ways. We follow George’s emotional torment as he is forced to watch and take part in Vito’s gruesome vengeance and it is effective. The gore is pretty good and Magar does bring some intensity to the proceedings. On the down side, flick is about 10 minutes too long and by it’s last act it starts to wear us down with it’s brutality, but it is still an entertaining mix of slasher and supernatural horror. Magar uses some very colorful lighting filters on scenes, something that would become popular again with up and coming directors in today’s contemporary filmmaking. Despite being a malevolent spirit, Magar does earn Vito (Mike Muscat) a little sympathy when we flashback to his brutal death, though the scene also reveals his killers as equally cruel and thus removes any residual sympathy we might have had for them. In contrast, George comes across as a very sweet, if not emotionally troubled man and his romance with hooker with a heart of gold Angel (Killer Klowns’ Suzanne Snyder) adds to our empathy for him. George never really gets a break in the flick and it does resonate. Retribution would have left it’s audience with a lingering bittersweet conclusion, had Magar not opted for the cliché shock ending. Concluding it this way also doesn’t make any sense, as Vito’s vengeance is complete and there is no reason for him to continue to hang around. There was also no reason for him to attack Dr. Curtis either in the last act, other than to set up the climax, as she had nothing to do with his murder. On a production level, the film looks good for a slightly over $1 million budget. Magar uses the L.A. street locations effectively, Gary Thieltges’ cinematography is colorful and the electronic score from frequent John Carpenter collaborator Alan Howarth, adds atmosphere and 80s nostalgia.

The cast is good. Dennis Lipscomb is very likable as the troubled artist George. He’s a lonely guy, but not a creep as most characters like this are portrayed. We do feel bad for him when Vito starts to use him to kill. Leslie Wing is pretty and does a good job as the psychiatrist who seems to legitimately care for George. Axton is solid as the stereotypical cop character and Suzanne Snyder is very sweet as Angel. Snyder and Lipscomb have some chemistry together and their scenes together come across as genuine. It makes Angel and George’s tragic romance really click to the story’s benefit.

In conclusion, not a perfect movie, but an effective slasher. It’s a bit slow paced and maybe a few minutes too long, but it has a more serious tone at a time when horrors in the late 80s were becoming more humorous and self-aware. The cast add some depth to their roles and the scenes of horror are colorful and have some intensity. A bit too brutal for it’s own good at times, but otherwise a lesser known 80s horror worth checking out if you haven’t seen it.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) jack o lanterns as it does open on Halloween.

tales of halloween rating

**************************************************

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE CHANGELING (1980)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

THE CHANGELING (1980)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Film opens with a tragic accident that takes the life of the wife and child of composer John Russell (George C. Scott). To get away from the painful memories, he moves out to the West Coast and rents a large, old, vacant house in Seattle. After staying there for just a short time, strange occurrences begin to happen and Russell starts to believe there is something inside the house with him. Upon investigation, Russell begins to realize that the house is haunted by a little boy…a boy who may have been murdered there.

Haunted house tale is directed by Peter Medak from a script by William Gray and Diana Maddox, that is supposedly based on real events. Though released in 1980, it still has a very 70s look and feel and is filled with more mature aged characters than the teens or college co-eds of other horror films of the time. It’s very atmospheric, especially it’s old, dark mansion setting and has some creepy cinematography by John Coquillon. Those elements are enhanced by an effective score by Rick Wilkins and Medak gives the film a moderate pace to let the story gradually unfold. It’s a somber film, though one that never really gets all that scary. One of the main reasons is, that Scott’s John Russell is never really afraid of the spooky goings on. He actually seems intrigued by it all and more than willing to investigate the history behind the house and it’s spectral guest. It makes it interesting, as John unearths a conspiracy that some would like to remain hidden, but scary it’s not. It’s just as much mystery as spook-fest. Even a seance sequence is presented very matter-of-factly and doesn’t provide the chills it should. The film does have a few spooky moments, but not nearly enough to make this ghost story consistently chilling. Not to mention that for a murder conspiracy that some want hidden, amateur detective Russell seems to find evidence very easily. The climax finally kicks things up a few notches and gives us a little of the over-the-top haunted house activity that we hoped for and does give a satisfying and more intense conclusion, after being fairly laid back for most of it’s 107 minute running time.

The cast is good. George C. Scott is a legendary actor and he plays Russell as a strong, but emotionally wounded man. While surrounded by a solid supporting cast, it’s very much his show. The film has some other very familiar names and faces from this era. Trish Van Devere, plays a historical society member who likes John, rents him the house and assists him with his paranormal investigation. Van Devere was not only Scott’s real-life wife, but is a Jersey girl as well! Rounding out the cast is Melvyn Douglas as a senator with ties to the house’s history, John Colicos as a detective, Barry Morse as a doctor and Galaxy of Terror’s Bernard Behrens as a friend of John’s. A classy cast in support of the veteran actor.

In conclusion, The Changeling is a film that has a following and is on many a favorite haunted house flick list. It is spooky at times and very atmospheric, though fails to get really intense or very scary until the last few minutes. It does work as a mystery, as well as, a supernatural thriller, albeit a more sedate one. It has a strong cast and some creepy Canadian locations, substituting for Seattle, but may be a little too by-the-numbers to truly chill. It has a reputation as a classic and while that status is respected and understood, it may not quite live up to that reputation depending on what scares you, or your personal tastes in haunted house flicks. Still entertaining and certainly worth a look.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) bathtubs.

 

 

 

 

 

**************************************************

bars