‘FrightFest Presents: Lifechanger’

An intriguing, thoughtful low-budget horror made with intelligence and skill.

This low budget Canadian horror written and directed by Justin McConnell marks itself out from the beginning as an intriguing and thoughtful piece taking the decision to show things from the “monster”s perspective, delving into themes of survival, death and identity in an impressive manner.

More of a character-based drama than an out and out horror, Lifechanger tells the tale of Drew, a shapeshifter who takes on the forms of the people he murders in order to ensure his own survival. Through voiceover, being that of an elderly man which is the only constant in Drew’s life as he swaps sexes and races the way that we would change our socks, he explains his way of life that cleverly claims the audiences understanding if not its sympathy. Drew has no idea why he is the way he is but survives on a set of rules and acquired skills, mostly in a lethal yet matter of fact manner. Amidst all this carnage is a bittersweet love story; Drew keeps returning to visit the love of his life Julia, Lora Burke, who never recognises him/her and is still mourning over her supposedly deceased partner, not knowing that he is often by her side.

Reminiscent at times of the Kyle McLachlan starrer The Hidden from 1987 which dealt with a creature taking over host bodies at the expense of their own personalities this tackles the subject head on and in a more low-key manner. As a horror film there are no real shocks or frights on offer, instead we are in the headspace of a lethal creature that does what it has to do without regarding the trail of destruction it leaves in its wake, whether it is emotional or physical. It is only until the end that when Drew reveals the truth of his situation to a horrified partner that we realise that he is an actual monster in more ways than one. It is a neat balancing act on the scripts part that is served well by the multiple actors who portray Drew.

There are several clever ideas on display here also; Drew’s physiology and the extent he has to go to in halting his mysterious physical decline is countered by taking speed and cocaine, the manner of disposing bodies on farmland to mention just a couple. The impressive amount of ideas, as well as the character work, on display here help to disguise the films low budget. The lack of visceral thrills however do betray its fiscal origins as well as some repetitiveness in the latter stages of the film as Drew keeps returning to the same bar again and again to reconnect with Julia.

Pleasingly the effects that are fleetingly on display are of an old school physical nature and one scene at the climax is very reminiscent of Andrzej Zulawski’s 1982 masterpiece Possession.

Lifechanger is the kind of small scale that is easy to recommend, especially for those looking for something a little different in the genre. There is an intelligence and skill with character on display here that marks out McConnell as another burgeoning talent in the genre to keep an eye out for.

‘Lifechanger’ was released in the UK on Digital HD 11 March, and in North America on Blu-ray and DVD 12 March from Uncork’d Entertainment; with special features including dual audio commentaries and making-of featurettes.  Director: Justin McConnell. With: Lora Burke, Jack Foley, Elitsa Bako, Steve Kasan, Sam James White. Canada 2018. 84 mins.

❉ Iain MacLeod was raised on the North coast of Scotland on a steady diet of 2000AD and Moviedrome. Now living in Glasgow as a struggling screenwriter he still buys too many comics and blu-rays. Has never seen a ghost but heard two talking in his bedroom when he was 4.

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