Directed by Justin McConnell.
Starring Jack Foley, Lora Burke, Elitsa Bako, Steve Kasan, Rachel VanDuzer and Bill Oberst Jr.
A shape-shifter moves from body to body in order to get closer to his former love.
Romance can be found in the most unlikely of places, and there are none more unlikely than the setting of a horror movie. From the Romeo & Juliet-inspired splatter of Return of the Living Dead 3 to the more surreal tragedy of Spring there are numerous examples of horror movies acting as a backdrop to tell a story that pulls on the heartstrings more than the average slasher movie ever could.
Lifechanger, however, has a lot more going on than romance and horror as there are many allegories and metaphors bubbling away under the surface, not least a meditation on the nature of humanity, love and guilt. That may sound a little heavy for what is, at face value, a body horror/slasher/sci-fi genre mash-up and the full message or commentary from the filmmakers is never fully realised thanks to an underwritten script but in a weird way it works in the films favour, forcing the viewer to contemplate what the lead character in the story tried to but without any proper answers.
And that main character is Drew, whose true form is never revealed but it comes to pass that ‘he’ (Drew takes the identity of both men and women but the voiceover is male so it would be safe to assume) is able to absorb a person’s looks and memories by some sort of osmosis. However, thanks to a muddled start to the movie that detail doesn’t become apparent straightaway as Drew has assumed the body of a woman he has just slept with but is narrating with his own voice, and only when ‘he’ kills do you get any inkling about what is going on.
The problem for Drew is that as he has gotten older he cannot sustain himself in a new body for long before it starts to decay. He snorts coke to keep the rot at bay but time isn’t on his side as he spots his former love Julia (Lora Burke – Poor Agnes) drinking alone in a bar every night. Drew then approaches Julia in the different guises he assumes as she reveals details of her life, such as how her former husband (now Drew) left her in the middle of the night after the death of their child, and he eventually settles into the body of Robert (Jack Foley – Fugue), a friend of Julia’s who professes his love for her now Drew has taken on his identity.
And as the film moves into its final act you can pretty much picture where it is going to go as Drew reconnects with Julia via Robert but he cannot hold off the inevitable as Robert’s body starts to blister and reject Drew, and that is when the body horror element really comes to the fore as writer/director Justin McConnell channels his inner David Cronenberg for an ending that shifts expectation a little and offers up something that could have been a bit punchier had the dialogue in the voiceover been a little less cliché-ridden and actually tried to explain anything of what you have just seen.
But as previously stated, the premise of the movie is strong enough to overcome the weaknesses in the script and the two lead performances from Lora Burke and Jack Foley are as convincing and genuine as you would find in any romantic drama. As a whole Lifechanger works as a body horror thanks to some gruesome special effects and as the love story at the centre of it is quite touching in its own unique way it also has the desired effect but as Drew’s predicament is never fully explored or given any explanation other than what he reveals in exposition, which is vague at best, and so when the ending comes it is a little underwhelming. Nevertheless, Lifechanger is still very watchable and, thanks to its premise, a fairly unique horror movie that should appeal to a wider audience than its body horror roots will probably allow it to.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★