[Review] Changeling [FilmQuest]: A Fatigued Mother Is Plagued by an Otherworldly Terror

The cries of a baby and the slow but caring response of the child’s weary mother kick off a sense of dread in Scottish writer/director Faye Jackson’s U.K. short horror film Changeling. That sense builds ever more relentlessly during the film’s 10-minute running time, leading to a gut-wrenching climax featuring a novel approach to the European folklore involving the titular entity — a fairy that swaps places with a child.

Lara Belmont stars as Jan, a young mother who is obviously fatigued from the demands of her baby. Starting with the ominous, fatal crashing of a bird into the side of her baby’s stroller, Jan experiences a series of weird events that result in a horrific, life-altering ordeal.

Jackson paces Changeling masterfully, working from her screenplay that uses dialogue sparingly. She has crafted her film with odd, unsettling images that unfold slowly and that linger long after the short ends. The special effects look superb — be prepared for plenty of oozing and dampness — and the sound design is a perfect, eerie complement to the proceedings. Ann Evelin Lawford’s cinematography is splendid. Belmont carries the film’s emotional weight with her expressions of weariness and fear, turning in a fine performance. 

Employing body horror, supernatural terror, and postpartum depression, Changeling is a superb short chiller full of vivid imagery. It is weighty with eldritch atmosphere, and packs both emotional and artistic punches.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Changeling is nominated for Best Horror Short at FilmQuest 2020, which takes place online and at The Velour in Provo, Utah, from May 21–29, 2021. For more information, visit http://www.filmquestfest.com.

Changeling is also available from Alter at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07iUwUle_as.

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.