A murderous shapeshifter sets out on a blood-soaked mission to make things right with the woman he loves.
Drew (Voiced by Bill Oberst Jr.) is an interesting character. To continue surviving, he must find bodies to inhabit. Seizing his victims, he makes physical contact with them and, quite literally sucks the life out of them, leaving behind a yellow, desiccated corpse and taking on their entire appearance. The procedure only holds for so long as the shell he inhabits soon begins to decay and Drew must find another host to harvest. This is the premise behind Justin McConnell’s brilliant sci-fi thriller Lifechanger.
The angle that writer-director McConnell takes is an interesting one. The “why” of Drew’s condition is foregone in favor of exploring the means he uses to stay alive. We learn where Drew disposes of his victims. We learn that snorting cocaine speeds up the process, shortening his time in a new body. We even see what happens when Drew is forced to perform a dental exam on a patient with only has fleeting memories of his victim. If he were devoid of human emotion, this would be a relatively easy existence.
“Seizing his victims, he…quite literally sucks the life out of them, leaving behind a yellow, desiccated corpse…”
Enter Julia (Lora Burke). A bright-faced woman with an open heart, Julia meets one of Drews many iterations at a bar. He is repeatedly drawn to Julia but must continue switching identities, hence he is never truly able to develop a meaningful connection with anyone much less the object of his affection.
Playing the role of Drew on screen is a host of talented actors giving their own spin on the shapeshifting title character while maintaining believable consistencies. Robert (Jack Foley) easily gets the more heartbreaking of the scenes, and he plays them nicely. Rachel (Rachel VanDuzer) performs the character with a glorious lack of fucks as his situation worsens and becomes dire. However, my personal favorite moments came from Sam (Sam White) and his sudden shift from family man dentist to a drunk misanthrope. To be fair to the entire cast, there isn’t a bad performance in the ensemble.
“To be fair to the entire cast, there isn’t a bad performance in the ensemble…”
McConnell, who also edited this lean pic seems to have a real ability to lead us around this dangerously simple conceit with a clear vision and a much bigger question to ask. The story is laser-focused on the narrative of a person who has for years remained disconnected, finally seeing beyond his own survival. Who are we if not united to something outside ourselves?
Lifechanger is not a flashy movie, though it does have some nice practical effects. The focus is on the story as it should be. The script doesn’t skimp on the existential questions, yet it maintains an engaging pace and is filled with worthy performances. Overall Lifechanger is a superb sci-fi thriller with depth.
Lifechanger (2018) Written and directed by Justin McConnell. Starring Lora Burke, Jack Foley, Elitsa Bako, Rachel VanDuzer, Bill Oberst Jr., Peter Higginson, Sam White.
7 out of 10 stars