Thursday, 18 July 2019

Lifechanger (2018)

Lifechanger is a very good film, a very good film indeed. Providing something a bit removed from the usual mix of ghosts, zombies, and beasties that we usually get in our horror films (not that I mind those either), my only reservation about it is the way some people may view it as not adhering strictly enough to what they expect from their genre fare. So just be warned that the horror is there, and sometimes to the fore, but this is more concerned with other matters, which I will get to in due course.

As told in voiceover, viewers quickly learn that Lifechanger is about an individual (a person? a creature?) that keeps switching bodies every so often. This isn't done in the standard "soul jumping in" way we've seen before (in the likes of Shocker and Fallen). No, it's a much more visceral process, and can be a painful one, as the "creature" holds on to someone else and drains their life from them, before resting as they reconstruct into a perfect facsimile, with all of the new knowledge, memories, etc, that come with the physical form. Oddly, there's still enough of a core in there, a sense of self, to allow this multi-bodied creation to pursue someone it has viewed as an object of love. Her name is Julia, and she is blissfully unaware that the various people who have spoken to her over a few different days are all the same person, always in love with her.

Written and directed by Justin McConnell, a man who has spent the better part of the past two decades honing his craft over a number of shorts and features (none of which I have seen . . . sorry, Justin), this is about as impressive an independent feature as you can get. A few different locations are used smartly to stop it from feeling boxed in and restricted, the wide and varied cast is made up of people who almost all give great performances, and the script wanders in and out of some very interesting thoughts on mortality and identity. It also clocks in at about 80 minutes, meaning it doesn't waste time setting up the premise, explores an interesting central strand, and then is all done before it can be accused of outstaying any welcome.

Lora Burke is fine in the role of Julia, although her character is a rare weakness in the script (a bit too consistently chatty with everyone she meets in her local bar, considering her reasons for being there and how many "different" people end up taking an interest in her, some of whom she has observed there before in different circumstances). Sam White, Elitsa Bako, Rachel VanDuzer, and Steve Kasan all do good work, but Jack Foley is the actor who has to carry viewers through the third act, so I'll single him out here. He's not quite as good as he could be, but he's convincing as he portrays his inner struggle while he feels things starting to come apart after coming so close to getting the situation exactly as he wanted it to be.

If you're reading this and wondering about the horror elements, don't worry. Apart from the general nastiness of taking someone's life, there are some impressively icky body horror effects, and also one or two scenes reminding viewers that all of those other bodies need disposed of. The end result may be neither Cronenbergian nor murder-filled for some, but it certainly keeps skimming over those touchstones on the way to an interestingly ambiguous ending.

All in all, this is a fantastic piece of work, surely positioning McConnell on the very brink of bigger things (whether through offers or opportunities that this should afford him).


This is a nice all-region blu, which you can feel free to buy me (have overspent lately, dammit).

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