Spooky season is arriving early this year, with the first episode of fantasy horror series The Changeling streaming on Apple TV+ from September 8. Starring LaKeith Stanfield, Clark Backo, Adina Porter, and Samuel T. Herring, The Changeling is dark, complex, gnarly fare not for the faint of heart.
Stanfield plays Apollo, a man who was abandoned by his father early on in life, and who we meet as he is about to become a father himself. It’s difficult to talk about The Changeling without delving too deeply into the many twists and turns of its plot, but it is safe to say that the birth of Apollo and his wife Emma’s baby on a New York City subway car is the moment that triggers a series of increasingly surreal and inexplicable events, propelling Apollo from the safe family home he has built into a world he cannot fully understand.
Put it this way: The Changeling is a fairy tale, but not in the Disney way we have come to associate with the term. The story borrows from and plays with the traditions of folklore, specifically the old stories where all kinds of awful things happen to children and monsters are everywhere. And the good news is, if that piques your interest, you can do a deep dive before watching the show.
The Changeling is based on a bestselling novel
The Apple TV+ series is an adaptation of The Changeling, a 2017 horror novel by Victor LaValle, and judging from the trailer, it looks like the show will follow the plot of the book quite closely.
LaValle first gained widespread attention on the literary scene for his novella The Ballad of Black Tom, which explored the otherworldly tropes and mythos popularized by horror author H.P. Lovecraft, while also reckoning with Lovecraft’s notoriously racist legacy. The Changeling continued to explore similar themes, following the children and grandchildren of immigrants in New York who are constantly grappling to find their place in the world while doing their best to evade uncanny, sinister forces who would do them harm.
In a New York Times review, Terrence Rafferty described The Changeling as being about “the anxieties and ambivalences of modern parenting, the psychological value of the stories we tell ourselves and our children, and the rigors of survival in urban America.” It’s also, if nothing else, an utterly gripping read.
Philip Ellis is News Editor at Men’s Health, covering fitness, pop culture, sex and relationships, and LGBTQ+ issues. His work has appeared in GQ, Teen Vogue, Man Repeller and MTV, and he is the author of Love & Other Scams.