Lifechanger [Fantasia 2018 Review]

If Richard Linklater’s Slacker was remade as a horror film, it might resemble Lifechanger. The movie, which had its world premiere at Fantasia 2018, is ambitious and intriguing, with one heck of a twist in the final ten minutes. Writer/director Justin McConnell clearly has big ideas on his mind, which makes this something worth paying attention to.

Bill Oberst, Jr. provides the voice of Drew. We don’t really see him because he’s a “body thief.” Somehow he moves from person to person, killing them and taking over their bodies until they start to rot, at which time he finds a new host. Early scenes in the film show him inhabiting a body, spending a day or two in it, then moving to another (hence my¬†Slacker reference). Aside from the trail of death and destruction left in his wake, there is an additional complication. Drew has fallen in love with Julia (Lora Burke, in a very good performance), so he continually works his way into her orbit with each new guise.

The heart of Lifechanger is that Drew wants to be near Julia, but he can’t if he dies, so he has to continue his murderous ways. That’s one heck of a hook! We follow him as he uses various metrics to determine whose body he should take over, and as he tries to figure out how to achieve the desired closeness with Julia in spite of his inability to remain static.

It takes a little while for the movie to get going. Understanding what’s happening and the “rules” of it takes some time. You also have to get to know Drew through his voiceover, since we don’t see the real him onscreen. That involves listening to what he says as he passes through several bodies and analyzes his predicament. Put the effort into doing those things and you’ll be rewarded. Lifechanger builds to a climax that pays off its premise in a thematically perfect way designed to make your jaw drop.

In terms of horror, there are absolutely some moments that will shock you. McConnell shows an aptitude for making things just as gruesome as they need to be to maintain effectiveness, without going overboard. The way violence is handled here makes Drew’s situation feel almost as tragic for him as for his victims. It becomes a warped, twisted version of the food chain.

Lifechanger combines an interior kind of horror with a very external kind of horror, which makes it a movie to have on your radar.

Mike McGranaghan

For more information on Fantasia 2018, please visit the official website.

For my reviews of current theatrical releases, go to the main page of The Aisle Seat.