THE CHANGELING -- AMC Academy, Crofton, Hampton Mall, Laurel Towne Centre, Reston Cinema, Roth's Mount Vernon, State and White Flint.

Victorian houses are nearly always connected with horror stories. Terrifying heating bills, real estate taxes that take sudden nightmarish leaps -- something strange and terrible is always happening.

If those old walls could talk, many would have dreadful tales to tell. They could whisper of interior rooms torn up to make "living areas," of skylights and plants hanging down two stories where they had no business to be.

But at least one could expect a Victorian mansion, which is in the care of an Historical Society, not to behave like a little Amityville horror of half the price. Yet that's what happens to an 18-room Victorian treausre in "The Changeling."

The house creaks, it lets in drafts, its plumbing is erratic, and its electricity eccentric. That's what we call realism. But when it rattles on to reveal a mystery that is a bady copy of a modern work, that is intolerable.

George C. Scott plays a composer who has fled to Seattle from New York City to recover emotionally from the accidental deaths of his wife and daughter. Although he's had this run of bad luck in his family life, his real estate fortunes are astounding. Leaving a magnificent apartment convenient to Lincoln Center, he's immediately offered the opportunity to be the Historical Society's tenant in an enormous and beautiful house that comes complete with handyman and cleaning woman.

Trish Van Devere represents the Historical Society in the film, and Melvyn Douglas, in his third politico-heavy role of the season, represents the big bad world. There is nobody from the Preservation Society to protect the house.