Review by Darren Gaskell
A murderous shapeshifter sets out on a blood-soaked mission to make things right with the woman he loves. And that’s about all I can tell you about this one. Give it a watch and see you next review!
Okay, I probably should try to tell you something more than that but that’s going to be tricky without spoiling major plot points – in fact, even spoiling the minor plot points is probably going to lessen your enjoyment of this. Justin McConnell’s superb Lifechanger is one of those movies which you should go into knowing as little as possible.
I first saw this at Celluloid Screams in October 2018 and had been advised beforehand that it was a “slow burn”. I really don’t mind films with a very steady build but “slow burn” can also be shorthand for “nothing really happens for an hour, and then not much after that”. This is categorically not the case as far as Lifechanger is concerned, dropping the viewer straight into the aftermath of some very grisly goings-on and then taking the story from there, twisting and turning as our anti-hero deals with life or death situations on a regular basis.
What else can I tell you without you contacting me on social media to point out that I ruined your movie watching experience? Well, one of the central locations in the plot is a bar, where a woman called Julia hangs out. Julia will come to be extremely important to the plot and Lora Burke, who plays her, is total casting gold.
From the minute we meet her Julia is someone with which we identify and connect. Engaging, funny, melancholic, emotionally brittle, I would have happily sat through a separate, non-horror movie about her character. Immediately it’s impossible not to care about her, which amplifies any potential danger to her all the more.
The shapeshifting aspect of the story also allows several people to play our main protagonist. Obviously, I’m not going to say how things play out but all of them are very different and all of them are very good. The desperation of trying to find another host is nicely underplayed and also contrasts well with the drudgery of having to go through the same destructive routine in order to continue existing.
This also puts the audience in an interesting position to question the motivations of the person we’re following through this journey. They need to take lives in order to prolong theirs. In a similar situation, would we behave in the same manner or would we just allow ourselves to fade away? This kind of dilemma and the romantic undercurrents of the piece lift Lifechanger well out of the ordinary. It’s low-key but it grips. It’s passionate without being overwrought. It’s affecting in ways that mainstream flicks would struggle to achieve, proving once again that horror is the most under-appreciated and under-rated genre out there, tackling fascinating, thorny subjects in its own wonderfully peculiar way.
Lifechanger even manages to utilise narration in a way which didn’t make me want to run screaming from the room. More often than not, voice over has a similar effect on me as someone dragging their fingernails down a board but here Bill Oberst Jr.’s delicately downcast work complements the on-screen action at all the right moments.
Gruesome but never gratuitous, with fine performances and an unexpectedly tender love story which sits surprisingly well alongside the more outlandish moments of body horror, this is a terrific piece of movie-making which I recommend heartily.