The Changed, 2021.
Co-written and directed Michael Mongillo.
Starring Tony Todd, Clare Foley, Erik Bloomquist, Nina Wisner, and Jason Alan Smith.
A group of ordinary people band together in a suburban home to battle imposters who have replaced their families, friends, and neighbours.
Executing high-concept sci-fi horror on a low budget isn’t easy, and so it’s perhaps little surprise that filmmaker Michael Mongillo (Diane) yields mixed results with his low-fi riff on Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
An unseen force is covertly infiltrating an American city, infecting the residents and replacing their personalities with that of a single-minded organism hell-bent on leaving no human being untouched. As the situation becomes increasingly dire, survivors Mac (Jason Alan Smith), Jane (Carlee Avers), and Kim (Clare Foley) hole up inside a house to fend off those who seek to “change” them, including their sinister infected neighbour Bill (Tony Todd).
Surprisingly, this is a relatively surface-level, straight-up re-do of the body-snatcher movie formula, complete with totally familiar “join the collective” motivations from the alien force. The biggest and most inspired change comes through the means of transmission; here the infection is spread through kissing, with compromised female characters sometimes using their sexuality to try and convince male targets to give them a fatal smooch.
It’s a potentially goofy idea but one which the film pulls off mostly well, and also lends it an unavoidably queasy vibe in the midst of the global pandemic. Though the characterisation is fairly limited throughout – despite solid efforts from the cast – and its psychological plausibility isn’t always tip-top, Mongillo’s script touches on the seductive appeal of joining a horde that will dissolve your worries away, especially with the “real world” being such a shitty place. Once again, the pandemic grants the film a unique relevance.
Yet these interesting ideas arrive only fleetingly throughout a film which can’t quite muster up enough consistent suspense, while simple camera setups and staging result in a somewhat unfussed aesthetic, the patience for which will likely vary among audiences.
The real attraction for many will be Candyman star Todd’s supporting appearance, and while it’s fair to say that his screen time is limited throughout, he burns through the expository dialogue with an undeniably gravelly relish, despite disappearing out of the story rather abruptly later.
The three leads do their best to mine every Night of the Living Dead-inspired sliver of human drama from the scenario – Sinister’s Clare Foley is a particular highlight – while Olivia Freer also makes for a disarming presence as Sara, an infected young woman whose ice-cool beauty is a near-perfect lure for new victims.
All in all The Changed is a fair effort that’s certainly never less than watchable, and at least offers the prospect of a great drinking game if you take a shot every time somebody says the word “changed.” Its 80-minute runtime flies by, but it doesn’t quite do enough to feel like a truly current, worthwhile update of its most obvious influence.
Tony Todd steals the show in this passable new take on Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which nevertheless lacks the screw-turning tension necessary to truly satisfy.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.