Directed by Justin McConnell.
Starring Lora Burke, Jack Foley, Rachel Vanduzer, Steve Kasan, Elitsa Bako, Sam White, Bill Oberst Jr.
A shapeshifter sets about reconnecting with the woman he loves. With only a limited time in each new body, however, the road to reconciliation is one littered with murder and mayhem.
There’s something pleasantly satisfying about a film that centres around a shapeshifter starting off as one thing and ending as something different altogether. With Lifechanger – a Canadian character-horror written and directed by Justin McConnell – this is most certainly the case. But, given the film’s title has the word ‘change’ in it, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise.
Premiering at the 2018 Fantasia International Film Festival – an annual genre film festival based out of Montreal – Lifechanger wastes very little of its economical 80-minute run time. The opening sequence – a naked woman awaking next to a decaying corpse to the sound of Sean Motley’s eerie, stringed score and the deep, dulcet, disconcerting tones of Bill Oberst Jr.’s voiceover – instantly thrusts us into McConnell’s intriguing tale of death and re-birth; the interior and the exterior. The dead woman is a carbon copy of the one rising from the bed. It can only mean one thing: there’s an otherworldly, homicidal shapeshifter at large.
From there, the interior monologue that all-too-helpfully punctuates McConnell’s narrative informs us that this body-hopper is on a mission: to make things right with a loved one (Burke) from yesteryear. But, of course, the irony of Lifechanger hits us like a steam train. Our protagonist’s only hope of reigniting a life from the past is to take away the future of another…and another…and then another.
It’s a crafty conundrum laid out by McConnell that effectively captures Lifechanger’s recurring themes of companionship and loneliness; but it’s a tactic that begins to suffer from its own repetitiveness as the bodies begin to pile up. As such, after a strong start, Lifechanger is a film that, ultimately, never lives up to its early promises; instead falling quickly into a tale that is part horror, part romance, part thriller, and altogether predictable.
That said, Lifechanger’s latter stages are elevated by McConnell’s deft propensity to underpin his scenes with a pertinent, often damning, assessment of contemporary masculinity. As we follow the shapeshifter in his blood-soaked endeavours, we find him – and we can only assume it identifies as male – not all that likeable. His narration soon becomes unreliable and his motives increasingly flimsy. He might be doing it all in the name of love, but justifying each kill with a warped sense of righteousness and purpose gives us very little to hang our sympathetic hat on.
McConnell’s film is permeated by several other shady male figures, too. From a dentist who has a concerning relationship with a (much) younger female subordinate, to a sleezy 20-something whose over-arching libido boils over into sexual assault, Lifechanger is a work clearly sensitive to issues that resonate beyond the confines of a camera frame, and assuredly makes the point of ensuring such despicable actions don’t go unpunished.
Elsewhere, the film also does an impressively nuanced job of highlighting equally timely issues around self-image. The fact that each of the shapeshifter’s numerous personnel rapidly start to decay if they play host for too long – delayed only by the intake of cocaine – won’t be lost on those aware of the increasing concerns around the impact of social media and the influencing power it holds. The film’s final sequence – carrying an impressively Cronenberg-esque visual stamp – presents the idea of, quite literally, being born again.
Perhaps more profound in its underlying messages than it is in its method of storytelling, Lifechanger is a film that on the surface appears unremarkable, but gradually hits you with poignancy the more you process it. A confidently made piece that flips storytelling to be telling first, and story second.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★