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 its use of some great practical effects, 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. For me however, I also got a lot out of the film that wasn't written in stone and right in my face. A lot of little fears that many of us will relate with, and just as many will personally possess. Individually, all these little aspects just beneath the surface would amount to a spit in a bucket - yet together these little undercurrents of story add some real 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 - interested yet? Although I'll try and keep the spoilers to the barest of minimums, some of the plot points are bound to leak out... consider this a warning.
One of the underlying aspects I wrote about above deals with age - and the body's inevitable breakdown over time. In this 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 their hopes, dreams, and memories within. Yet Drew has a problem. The lifespan of each body is decreasing at an alarming rate. When "Lifechanger" begins, Drew only gets a few hours of life from each of 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 body's 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 in the grand scheme of things, 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 figured 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.
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 addition to the story - Drew is in love. Body after body, he keeps returning to the woman he's been drawn toward. 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. And no reader, I don't mean in the looks department either. Combining this interesting twist on the body snatcher idea and love interest was great - and paid off in spades.
I don't have a lot to write about the technical aspects of this film aside from saying that for a movie without a zillion-dollar budget, it looks and sounds quite nice. 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 smoothly. I never once felt tired as I watched because "Lifechanger" is paced near perfectly.
So, what were the few aspects I did notice about the production, that felt a little off? Really small things, akin to 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 that the greenish, sickly color took some getting used to. I completely understand the reasoning behind it - Drew is sick and green equals sickly. However, maybe a little less would have provided more? Another subliminal aspect that you barely notice? With that said, the truth is that most people will probably not even notice.
Now let me write about the good, such as the interesting take of a well-defined genre. Body snatching and the idea that a character really doesn't like to kill has been done, but perhaps not quite like this. And that love story aspect was certainly a great way to keep a slightly cliche story unique and fresh. It was rather fun to watch unfold, 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 the splendid voice-over from Drew himself. The real Drew... as in the person he was originally before the body-snatching began. An excellent way to push the story forward in a competent and smart way - and possibly save a few bucks instead of filming additional back story scenes. It all holds together much better than I would have thought... when something works - it just works.
Wrapping things up ends up being an exercise in simplicity - "Lifechanger" is a great film. Period. 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 - and that's definitely the case here. In my humble opinion, "Lifechanger" easily earns it's well above average rating. Highly recommended.