I’m all about horror films that explore ancient fables and mythical creatures/beings. In Lifechanger, we follow one of these such beings. Premiering at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal – Lifechanger is an isolating ailment, a fascinating legend, a horror story, and a love story all wrapped into one.
Hundreds of different cultures have legends about Shapeshifters – entities who must inhabit the bodies of others in order to survive. All of the legends vary in their own ways, their names and abilities unique to the communities who feared them. One fact is always consistent. Shapeshifters aren’t what they seem.
Lifechanger is a Canadian Horror film, written and directed by Justin McConnell (Galaxy of Horrors, segment “Wraparound”). The film uniquely follows a single lead, but many different people – as the main character can’t seem to hold an identity for too long. We open on a nude and somewhat bored woman who happens to be laying next to a petrified corpse. Through a raspy voiceover, the inner monologue of our Shapeshifting Protagonist, we gather he – this entity – is newly residing inside the woman.
Unfortunately, human hosts just ain’t what they used to be. It is only a few hours before he is forced to consume and become a Detective, one who’d come to his female bodies’ house to investigate her mysterious 3-day absence. (As reported by her husband, another small casualty).
As the Detective, we discover our Shapeshifter only performs the duties and responsibilities of his host bodies previous lives at whim. Though retaining their memories, history, and .. I guess.. for the most part their souls – sometimes he opts to go off course and head to the local pub. Where the long-lost love of his life happens to hang out every night.
“Lifechanger is a surprisingly heartfelt body horror film.”
Lifechanger is a surprisingly heartfelt body horror film. Our shapeshifter, driven by the loss of someone he loves, someone who co-exists so close to himself, must re-introduce and wedge himself into her life day after day. By any means necessary. Julia (Lora Burke, Dear Agnes) is warm and welcoming to her frequent visitors at the bar. The funny Detective, the philandering dentist, the young woman in the burgundy dress. We learn it is because she too is lamenting the loss of her lover, avoiding responsibility by sitting at the neighbourhood bar night after night.
How far would you go to see the person you love just one more day? Would you kill another person? Become another person?
Though Lifechanger is indeed a horror film – there are goopy pustules, gaping scabs, and mummified corpses aplenty – Romance is ultimately the name of the game. If one were to scrub this film of its medical maladies, it would probably be fit to air on the Lifetime network. Ultimately, I enjoy how our shapeshifter finally intertwines his way back into Julia’s life – but I pined for more backbone as we worked to get there.
“Though Lifechanger is indeed a horror film – there are goopy pustules, gaping scabs, and mummified corpses aplenty – Romance is ultimately the name of the game.”
While I loved when the shapeshifter-turned-dentist croaked the line “Don’t worry, I’ve been a dentist before,” before plunging a bone saw into a poor child’s mouth, much of the first two-thirds of the film is spent business as usual – lollygagging inside host bodies and living the shapeshifter frat life. Sometimes acting like the people whose flesh prisons he’s inhabiting, other times just bailing out to befriend Julia. The film was just begging for a catalyst to kick our apathetic anti-hero in gear. We’re teased that the police are hot on his trail, but as the demure Dentist’s assistant, he walks right on past. An ex-boyfriend of a host body comes calling, but he’s able to hide inside a truck and they leave. Scot-free. Our Shapeshifter is able to hop from lily pad to lily pad without much fanfare or conflict.
All that being said, each vignette of the shapeshifter’s trysts are well-acted – my favorites being Robert (Jack Foley), the charismatic hipster boyfriend, and Detective Freddie Ransone (Steve Kasan). This was likely a difficult feat – it’s not often the lead character of your film is portrayed by 5+ actors.
Even if subtle, dark romance isn’t your bag, it’s not often we get a film about a shapeshifting, legendary creature. If you’re able to muscle through the mid-section, the ending does have a dark twist up its sleeve.
Lifechanger celebrated its world premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal on July 20th. The film will have its International Premiere at Frightfest London in August. Lifechanger is being distributed by Uncork’d Entertainment in the US, and Raven Banner Entertainment in Canada.
Check out more of Nightmare on Film Street’s Fantasia Fest Coverage here, and be sure to sound off with your thoughts over on Twitter and in our Facebook Group!