It ain't easy being a shapeshifter. So many bodies to cut up

Body Horror Finds A Lot of New Faces in ‘Lifechanger’ (2016) – Movie Review

I imagine all of us, at one time or another, have fantasized about trading places, or at least trading faces, with someone else. Haven’t we all dreamt about what it would be like to live in someone else’s shoes, even if just for a day… or maybe even just a few hours? This premise sets the stage for Justin McConnell’s latest film, Lifechanger, a new body horror thriller that gives identity theft a whole new meaning.

Lifechanger introduces us to Drew (Bill Oberst, Jr.: Rob Zombie’s 3 From Hell, Circus of the Dead 2014, Ray Bradbury Live (Forever)). Or at least, it would if it could. Drew is having a bit of an identity crisis, as he’s a most curious enigma: a shapeshifter. He can assume the identity of anyone he comes in contact with, not only absorbing their appearance but their every thought, feeling, and memory as well, in essence becoming them. Unfortunately for the victim, this transference leaves them very much dead, a withered husk of a corpse, completely sucked dry.

This doesn’t seem to faze Drew in the least, as his very survival depends on him jumping from one personality to the next. He’s in a continual fight against the clock – each new identity lasts only for a short while, often only a few hours. Before the decay starts to set in, he needs to find a new body to drain before he rots away. It seems with every change, the shelf life is even shorter. Needless to say, the body count rises pretty quickly, but Drew has gotten fairly efficient at the process, burning the bodies to ashes and disposing of the remains at an old abandoned farmhouse. 

Disposing of evidence in Lifechanger

So, what drives Drew to continue his murderous ways? Love, of course. It’s the one constant in his world. He’s completely smitten with the beautiful Julia (Lora Burke: Poor Agnes 2017), the love of his life from one of his previous existences. With every form he takes, he can’t resist the urge to go see his beloved Julia, a woman struggling to mend her own broken heart, often drowning her sorrows nightly at the same bar.

With each new persona, Drew seems to draw just a little bit closer to her. But the race against time is thrown into full throttle when the police unearth his grisly burial site. Will he be able to reveal his deep, dark secret to his beloved before it’s too late? And how will she react to the news?

The nightly ritual of meeting Julia again for the first time with a new face in Lifechanger

Lifechanger was definitely an interesting experience. Imagine Invasion of the Body Snatchers mixed with some Cronenberg body horror. Add a pinch of Lovecraftian lore, and you might be in the ballpark. It’s visually gorgeous: the cinematography is absolutely stunning. The body horror elements are nicely on point. Some fine makeup and largely practical effects work, plus some nicely ooey-gooey textures, make the deaths look every bit as excruciating as one might expect.

As visually arresting as this film might be, it’s got some glaring issues. Julia is about the only character with any real development. I guess it makes sense that Drew struggles with who he is. He’s never the same person for any length of time. Even he doesn’t seem to know who or what he really is. He has a continual inner monologue throughout the film, handled deftly by Bill Oberst, Jr. Unfortunately, aside from suggesting an aged maturity in his years, even this offers little insight.

Another issue is the pacing. I never thought I’d find a film that would actually benefit from slowing down, but that is exactly the case here. Lifechanger pushes such a breakneck, warp speed pace that it never really develops the story. It clocks in at just over a very brisk hour and twenty minutes. There’s nary a moment of breathing room. It’s built to be a slow burn, but it forgets to slow down. There are some intriguing ideas pitched here, but they never fully pan out. We’re ultimately left with more questions than answers.

Poster arto for Lifechanger

Final Thoughts

If you love body horror as much as I do, Lifechanger is absolutely worth checking out. It definitely puts a fresh new face on the genre. Unfortunately, it never slows down long enough to inject any heart into the proceedings. It seems the lead character isn’t the only one suffering from an identity crisis.

About Matthew Solomon

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