A lot of people are going to say a lot of things about "Lifechanger" from writer/director Justin McConnell. I imagine the bulk of folks will talk about the shapeshifting protagonist Drew, or about the use of some stellar props, and the general horror-ish narrative that is the film itself... and why the hell not? It's all true. "Lifechanger" is a horror flick and completely looks the part. However, for myself, I also got a lot out of the film that wasn't written in stone - and pushed squarely into my face. A lot of little fears that all of us can relate with, and certainly will have to deal with. Individually, all these little pieces located just beneath the surface, would amount to a spit in a bucket. Together though, these little undercurrents of story add some depth to the film. You may not quite realize they're present on first viewing - but you will feel them in the atmosphere itself. My favorite aspects of this movie are the ones you can't quite put your finger on. Got you interested? Be warned. Although I'll keep the spoilers to the barest of minimums, some of the plot points are bound to leak out. Only a few though... and only a little.
One of the underlying aspects I wrote about above, deals with age - and the bodies inevitable breakdown over time. In the film, Drew is a shapeshifter who must absorb, and ultimately kill his victims. This is how he lives - in the carbon copy of those unfortunate enough to cross his path when it becomes time to change. Not only does he absorb their bodies - but also the hopes, dreams and memories within. Yet Drew has a problem. The lifespan of each body is decreasing. Quickly. When "Lifechanger" begins, Drew only gets a few hours of life from his victims. This is what gives us the horrific acts McConnell's film throws in our face - a murder every few minutes or so...
... and yet this is also what brings me back to that underlying element of age. Although it's never said outright, Drew's inability to hold a shape - without it quickly breaking down - is a direct mirror of our own bodies tendency to break down over time. In the third act, Drew reveals how old he is - and in the finale, we get to see that he is, indeed, that age. "Lifechanger" plays with the notion of an aging shell. The notion that we all get older... and all get sick. For Drew, his particular breakdown may be a little different than our own... but not by much. A clever way to play on our fears without us immediately realizing it.
I did notice a few other subliminal scrapings - but figure I'd leave some of them for you, the viewer to discover. I'm not totally sure all these underlying aspects were intentional - or maybe just the side effects of this particular plot. I hope they were, but even if they were not... I noticed them - so I'm sure someone else will as well. It could be that I wanted to notice them... but that's another story.
The actual plot of the film is as complex as it is simple. A shapeshifter with an ever decreasing lifespan in each body, does what he has to in order to survive. He doesn't like killing... but has no choice. What would you do? Kill or die? It's a simple plot that is fleshed out of mediocrity with an interesting story addition. Drew is in love. Body after body, he keeps returning to the woman he's been drawn to for a long time. It's a captivating idea served up well enough to be enjoyable. Truth be told? The film is really something - when you consider that Drew inhabits a lot of different people in the movie - and all of them need to have, and do have, some resemblance to each other. Combine this interesting twist on the body snatcher idea - with the love interest focal point? Well reader... you get the idea and if you don't... after watching you will.
I don't have a lot to write about the technical aspects of this film. For a movie without a zillion dollar budget, it looks and plays quite nicely. There is a sickly, gritty atmosphere that near perfectly captures the content of the film - not to mention it moves from act one to act three very nicely. I never once felt winded as I watched because "Lifechanger" is paced near perfectly.
The few things I did notice about the production, that felt a little off? Really small things. Nit-picking if I do say so myself. Maybe an edit felt a little weird here or there, such as the way the neck jabbing kill near the start was put together. Or maybe I could comment a little on the grading of the film. That greenish sickly color took some getting used to. I completely understand the reasoning behind it though. Drew is sick. Green = sickly. However, maybe a little less would have provided more. Another subliminal queue that you barely noticed. With that said, let me remind you, I am being very picky just so I have something to write. Most people will probably not even notice.
Now let me write about the good. The reasons this movie far surpasses the average indie horror flick. For starters? The interesting portrayal of a well defined genre. Body snatching and the idea that Drew really doesn't like to kill was pretty cool. As was the love story aspects of the film. Inserting a fresh take on such a cliche genre was fun to watch, bringing me to my next point. The acting itself.
"Lifechanger" is a hotbed of serious talent. Not once did I feel any of the actors didn't take their roles seriously. This translates to a film that allows you to suspend your rational brain, simply because the cast does such a great job. Holding all this goodness together is a splendid voice-over from Drew himself. The real Drew. The person he was originally - before the body snatching. Or possibly how he hears himself through his own ears. An excellent way to push the story forward in a competent way - and possibly save a few bucks instead of filming additional back story scenes.
Wrapping things up is much simpler than all the crap I've written above. "Lifechanger" is a good film. Better than good. It may not be the next Oscar contender - but it doesn't need to be. Sometimes being a little different actually pays off - when it comes to indie movies. Definitely the case here. In my humble opinion, "Lifechanger" easily earns it's well above average rating. Highly recommended.