The Changeling, 1980 haunted house classic with George C. Scott

The Changeling is one of a handful of supernatural horror movies I will not watch alone at night; it’s too creepy! :O

Country: Canada/U.S.
Directed by: Peter Medak, IMDb
Horror themes: Ghost, revenge, haunted house, death of spouse, death of child, exhumation, wheelchair, objects moving by themselves, murder, politics, hidden room, fatal accident, solving murder
Verdict: 85/100… One of the best classic ghost stories on film – plus it contains the top-notch acting chops of George C. Scott; a very creepy movie – you may forever be creeped out at the mere sight of a wheelchair

Movie trailer: The Changeling, 1980 (YouTube)

Much more coming soon…

Plot summary: The Changeling, 1980

cover from horror movie The Changeling, 1980
It was the perfect family vacation for John Russell and his family, or so it seemed until a freak automobile accident claimed the lives of his wife and daughter. After the death of his beloved girls – hit by a truck in a snowing road upstate New York – the composer and music professor John Russell moves to Seattle to teach music in the local university. Consumed by grief, John – at the request of friends – leases a huge mansion in Chessman Park that belongs to the Historical Society and has been empty for twelve years. Mammoth in size, the house seems all the room that John needs to write music and reflect. He does not realize that he is not alone in the house. John hears some weird noises always at 6:00 AM and later he experiences the contact of the ghost of a child that lived many decades ago in the house, which he now shares with the spirit of the murdered child who has homed in on John’s despair. The spirit uses John to uncover decades of silence and deceit. With the help of Claire Norman, the one who aided John in procuring the house, John researches the mansion’s history, revealing a despicable secret. They race to find answers and soon learn that a devious and very powerful man guards them with his very life.

Resources: The Changeling, 1980

Boogeyman, 2005 supernatural horror movie

Boogeyman, 2005 supernatural horror movie, Sam RaimiAlthough Boogeyman (2005) received poor reviews overall, the first few moments of the film are among the most deeply and personally frightening in all of horror (to this fan, at least). When Tim, as a young boy, is going to bed, he’s scared out of his wits by shapes and movements he perceives in the room. One small but strong example of a personally terrifying horror theme expressed in the opening of Boogeyman includes clothing that just happens to be arranged in the shape of a person. (That reminds me of the intro to the horror TV series Fear Itself; a similar image of clothing is shown.)

horror theme - clothing in human shape - Fear Itself introThe attempted CGI portrayal of the boogeyman entity in that film is a major weakness of Boogeyman, IMHO; apart from that, it was a rather creepy, atmospheric supernatural horror movie. I believe Boogeyman would have been much scarier throughout – and that this would have been reflected critically, in the movie reviews – had no attempt been made to show the entity onscreen. As all horror fans know, sometimes these things are best left to the imagination.

Boogeyman is another feather in the cap of one of the most notable names in supernatural horror entertainment: Sam Raimi, who served as producer. [Products tagged creepy at Amazoncreepy]

Boogeyman plot summary

Boogeyman, 2005 supernatural horror movie, Sam RaimiA man learns his past was more truth than imagination in this horror story. Tim Jensen (Barry Watson) is a man who is still haunted by traumatic childhood memories, many linked to the death/disappearance of his father while Tim was still a boy. Desperate to resolve his issues, the death of his mother while visiting his beautiful girlfriend Jessica gives Tim a reason to return to his hometown and the old house he grew up in. Tim would prefer to learn that the terrifying memories he still carries with him are merely a figment of his imagination; however, the evidence and events revealed during his visit point to something more – something more real than not.

More about Boogeyman

beautiful woman - Emily Deschanel - beautiful eye colorBoogeyman was directed by Stephen Kay and also features the ravishing Emily Deschanel (with those incredibly beautiful eyes), Lucy Lawless, and Skye McCole Bartusiak.

Resources: Boogeyman, 2005 horror film

The Haunting of Helen Walker, a 1995 made-for-TV gothic horror movie

turn of the screw by henry james - famous ghost story on which many horror movies are basedThe Haunting of Helen Walker, a 1995 made-for-TV movie, is based on a novella by Henry James: The Turn of the Screw, which is often studied by literature buffs. Another famous horror movie based on The Turn of the Screw was The Innocents (1961, U.K.).

The Innocents is generally regarded as the strongest film based on The Turn of the Screw.

Synopsis of The Haunting of Helen Walker
Helen Walker, a young American woman, is hired as a governess for two English children, a boy and a girl, whose parents are dead. The children live with their many servants in an old English mansion. Gradually Helen notices the weird behavior of the children and finds out that some strange events from the past seem to be haunting the present and concentrating on the children…

Which movie adaptation of Turn of the Screw is best? – The Straight Dope

Quint at the Window: A comparison of 4 different film versions of The Turn of the Screw – YouTube

Resources: The Haunting of Helen Walker, 1995 made-for-TV gothic horror

Straight into Darkness, 2003 war horror

Directed by Jeff Burr

horror movie - straight into darkness, 2003, jeff burr

Monday, March 16, 2009
The first thing that must be said, what with this being a supernatural horror movie blog, is that Straight into Darkness is first and foremost a war movie that also includes horror and supernatural overtones. Honestly, I vacillated for months on this movie, bouncing between wanting and not wanting to see it. I finally acquired Straight into Darkness when I saw in a sale bin at the Brentwood, TN Blockbuster Video – one of my greatest sources for $3.50 horror DVDs – which made the decision an easy one. I bought it for $3.50, the effective equivalent of buying it from for fifty cents. (As I write, it sells for about $2 – big savings achieved!)

Reviews of Straight into Darkness are mixed. The movie does not seem to be very well-understood – a common complaint of those proffering bad reviews. It appears the more thoughtful reviewers liked it more consistently than those who did not sound as intelligent, so it could, in a sense, be considered a brainy affair.

Won’t you join me in despising the fellow with the bright, bleached-white teeth? I feel certain you will, especially during the first third of the movie.

DVD Cover – Straight into Darkness

A Film by Jeff Burr
When two young American GIs desert their platoon in the final days of World War II, they will find themselves struggling against all odds to stay alive. Their strange and violent journey will bring them together with a band of orphans who are expertly trained killing machines in an attempt to defeat a Nazi battalion. With the perfect combination of horror and action, Straight Into Darkness is a haunting and powerful war film that is unforgettable.

Review quotes on the DVD cover:

  • Strikingly original and eerily compelling (LA Times)
  • A sleeper hit. . .a gritty, hard-hitting war tale with disturbing supernatural overtones. (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • A horrifying descent into violence and madness. . .with hair-raising action scenes. (

My Thoughts on Straight into Darkness

horror movie - straight into darkness, 2003, jeff burr

Were one to blend a high-quality war movie and Children of the Corn with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Straight into Darkness might be the result.

This tale of two AWOL Yank soldiers running for their lives in Nazi-occupied France is by turns exciting and creepy. Two Allied prisoners — Privates Losey (Ryan Francis) and Deming (Scott MacDonald) — are under arrest after being caught in AWOL status, but manage to escape the MPs escorting them when their jeep is blown up by a mine. Thus begins a sick and twisted journey into hell.
horror movie - straight into darkness, 2003, jeff burr
Deming is quickly revealed as a bloodthirsty creep/jackass and Losey as a thoughtful man of conscience: on the run, Deming has the only gun, forcing Losey to do his will. Losey has memory bursts of home life, as well as what appear to be psychic viewings of past events – all of which erupt on the screen in high-saturation color, in contrast to the desaturated look of much of the film.

As Losey (Ryan Francis) and Deming (Scott MacDonald) battle each other’s problems, they come across various disturbances in the balance of humanity, such as the cannibal priest and an eerie section of the forest where dozens of men apparently hung themselves, dangling like meatbag (thanks, Bender) ornaments.

The climax of Straight into Darkness begins when they come across a seemingly abandoned building — a bizarre fortress of amputees and freaks, orphans led by Deacon (veteran David Warner) who have been trained to protect themselves from the war-torn outside world.
horror movie - straight into darkness, 2003, jeff burr
This surreal and twisted film could be thought of as half art-house and half exploitation (because of the children, a la those of the Corn) with a healthy dose of the supernatural, which puts the war film on some horror movie lists. Some have compared it to Tod Browning’s Freaks. After two decades of toiling in the slasher film sequel factory, Jeff Burr has finally been able to express his dark, ingenious vision – a definite and significant step up for Burr from the mediocre hacker seconds and thirds like Puppetmaster 4 and 5, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3, Pumpkinhead 2, and so the list goes. Are we sure this is the same Jeff Burr? Great job.

Movie Reviews – Straight into Darkness

Rotten Tomatoes Reviews Straight into Darkness (50 critic/50 user)
Dread Central Reviews Straight into Darkness (2.5 of 5)
Variety Reviews Straight into Darkness
Movie Shark Deblore Reviews Straight into Darkness (excellent)
Leonid Mamchenkov Reviews Straight into Darkness

References and Resources

Amazon.comStraight into Darkness
IMDBStraight into Darkness (52)

Info, Credits

Running time: 95 min.
Language: English, German dialogue

There are no subtitles on my DVD, which stinks. I turn on the subtitles even for movies in English — it’s a habit that helps me catch more of what’s going on.

Camera (FotoKem color), Viorel Sergovici; editor, Lawrence Maddox; music, Michael Convertino; production designer, Calin Papura; art director, Adrian Cancer; costume designers, Tora Dragomir, Gabriela Ricsan; sound, Viorel Ghiocel; stunt coordinator, Bogdan Uritescu; assistant director, Lewis Cojocar; second unit director, Will Huston; second unit camera, Radu Aldea; casting, Perry Bullington, Robert MacDonald. Reviewed at the Egyptian Theater, Los Angeles, May 20, 2004.

The Innocents, 1961 psychological horror

Country: Britain
Director: Jack Clayton
Verdict: 85/100… Excellent, chilling horror classic
Until now, I’d found it rather unlikely that I could be creeped out by a so-called horror movie as old as 1961… Not that I think that pre-70s horror always fails to be frightful; I was scared half to death on more than one occasion by Twilight Zone episodes and the like. But now, at age 42, I am a bona-fide horror movie junkie – I have a real addiction to movies featuring those things that go bump in the night – and as such, sometimes I feel a bit jaded. Well, suffice to say that 1961’s The Innocents retains its creepiness, even today.

The Innocents, 1961 horror: Scariest scene (2:46, YouTube)

Plot summary of The Innocents

In late 19th century England, Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) becomes governess of Flora, a young, orphaned girl living in a lonely stately gothic mansion inhabited only by the child, the housekeeper, Ms. Grose (Megs Jenkins), along with a small contingent of servants. Her initial misgivings allayed by the child’s angelic nature, her anxieties are once more aroused when the girl’s brother, Miles – equally captivating, but oddly clever and flirtatious for such a young boy – is sent home from boarding school for serious misbehavior of an unknown sort.

Eerie apparitions and inexplicable behavior on the children’s part cause her to wonder about the house’s history, especially about the fate of the previous governess, Miss Jessel and the former valet, Peter Quint (Peter Wyngarde). She fears for the children’s souls and for her own sanity. Miss Giddens comes to believe that the spirits of Jessel and Quint are possessing the children. Convinced that there is an unnatural force at work, perverting the innocence of her charges, she sets out to secure the children’s salvation by wresting them from its power. Though her struggle reaches a resolution of sorts, the real nature and outcome the the clash ultimately remains ambiguous, as intended by the film’s director.

The Innocents, 1961 horror: Scary scenes (9:36, YouTube)

Miles’ poem from The Innocents

This was the poem recited by Miles, the young boy in the psychological horror film The Innocents. It’s beautiful and even more than that, it’s creepy as hell. . . you simply must watch The Innocents to receive the full effect of the poem. (Thanks to YouTube and embedded HTML code, you can watch it here, now – just scroll down a bit…)

At first, the governess is smiling, impressed at the cute little boy reciting this poem; however, by poem’s end, she’s no longer smiling. . .

What shall I sing to my lord from my window?
What shall I sing, for my lord will not stay?
What shall I sing, for my lord will not listen?
Where shall I go, for my lord is away?

Whom shall I love when the moon is arisen?
Gone is my lord, and the grave is his prison.
What shall I say when my lord comes a-calling?
What shall I say when he knocks on my door?

What shall I say when his feet enter softly,
Leaving the marks of his grave on my floor?
Enter my lord, come from your prison.
Come from your grave, for the moon is arisen.

[Whispers]: Welcome, my lord…

The Innocents, 1961: Miles recites creepy poem (1:13, YouTube)

Psychological horror, supernatural horror – or both?

It’s my take that The Innocents is both psychological horror and supernatural horror – that is, I believe the 1961 film does include a legitimate haunting, that the ghosts were there – not just in the mind of the governess. However, I think it is important to note that the film was designed to require the viewer to make his or her own interpretation on this.

Resources: The Innocents, 1961 gothic supernatural horror film

Originally written Monday, March 16, 2009