Lifechanger (2018) [FrightFest 2018]

A shapeshifter is running through bodies faster and faster and must take extreme measures to keep surviving or let go of his own self.

Written and directed by Justin McConnell, Lifechanger is an exploration of mortality, letting go, love, and what people are willing to do to keep going without changes and what they are willing to accept to keep their lives on their preferred path. While the film is a horror film at its core, the story is about much more than the simple kills and shapeshifting, it’s about taking over lives, making one’s own life. The way this is approached creates a story that is easy to follow even with the switches in lead person and the multiple storylines. The film keeps everything in order and easily understandable. As the story advances and the lead narrates the story, the reasons for it all become clearer and they are not just for survival.

The cast here does good work, with the lead character being interpreted by multiple people, men and women, and a few of them leaving a much stronger impression with their performances. At the top of these is actor Jack Foley, who’s striking look is a definite attraction here, but his performance is what keeps the attention. He’s found further into the movie, toward the end, and he leaves an impression that is something of a surprise but not at the same time. He does with the character what can be described as making him his and making his human while being a shapeshifter. He shows strength and vulnerability at the same time, mixing both in an ebb and flow that gives the character and the film something to chew on. Also going good work as the same character are Steve Kasan, Rachel VanDuzer, and Sam White. Playing a character that keeps coming back is Lora Burke who offers a sort of emotional pull or anchor for the viewer while also being emotional herself in how she portrays Julia Wilson. The film depends on all of these performances as it is not effects heavy or even kill heavy considering the setting, it’s a film that is on the human side of things, it looks at the humans affected by a shapeshifter who may very well be quite human themself.

The film is shot simply but effectively with cinematography by Sasha Moric, showing the story and its players clearly while giving them the forefront. The film is not overly stylized, it’s kept simple so that it doesn’t take over and it just lets everything else shine. While doing so, it also gives the film a style that is simple and easy to watch. The score, by Sean Motley, works with these images and is moody without being overly so. It works for the film and it creates an extra layer to the story.

The film, as a horror film but also in general, boasts a bit of special effects, just not a ton. What there is is well-make and shows a restraint that may be part stylistic choice and part budgetary constraints. Thankfully, this works well here and the story is the strong part of the film as it does not rely on the effects for its power, but on its connection with the viewer.

Lifechanger is a film that is about a shapeshifter and it does have some horror elements, but the real story is the human one, the one that connects with the viewer, the people involved in this. The cast does great work and a few including Lora Burke and Jack Foley really shine. The film’s strong points are on the human side and director McConnell recognizes this and lets the cast take the forefront while the visual style, the music, and the special effects take a back seat and let them do what they do best.