Lifechanger Is A Sophisticated And Richly-Disturbing Shapeshifter-Horror

at Fantasia International Film
Reviewed by Kristy Puchko

Making its world premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival, Lifechanger is a lean, mean, and intense dose of shapeshifter horror with a chilling message perfectly suited to the complex conversations of the Me Too era. Written and directed by Canadian filmmaker Justin McConnell, Lifechanger follows a mysterious “skin-walker” who steals the form, memories, and lives of his victims, leaving behind a withered husk of a corpse. This creepy crime premise might have you expecting the movie would follow a cagey detective who is on this cruel creature’s trail. But McConnell offers something far more surprising, sophisticated, and richly disturbing.

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Steve Kasan in Lifechanger

Lifechanger centers on this shape-shifting serial killer, following him from one body to the next, and allowing the audience access into his innermost thoughts through voiceover narration. When a beautiful woman at a bar casually asks our anti-hero if he’s a “good person,” Bill Oberst Jr.’s wry, weary voiceover sighs in unspoken interjection, “I don’t know if I even consider myself a person.” With this dark joke, the creature confesses to the audience a truth too horrid to say aloud, even through someone else’s stolen lips.

This creature does not crave the killing. Murder is his means of survival. When his skin begins to break out a “rot” of lesions, it’s time to find a new form. So another must die. The depiction of this process is fittingly ghoulish, showing victims scream and quiver as their skin squirms, transforming into swiftly mummified remains. To their killer, murder is mundane. Disposing of the bodies is an annoying routine, like taking out the trash or flossing. His dispassion in the face of all this horror is chilling. But the killing is not only about survival. Through voiceover, the creature tells us of the great love he shared with the beautiful Julia (Lora Burke), a heartbroken woman who no longer recognizes him. He longs to be with her again. So, in various forms–be they male or female–he returns to the same hole-in-the-wall bar to spend a few precious hours in her company. Carefully, their shared backstory will unfold. But it will not lead to a happy ending.

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Jack Foley in Lifechanger

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RIOT MATERIAL is LA’s premier literary-cultural magazine with an eye on art, word, and forward-aiming thought. Check out our gallery on IG: @ riotmaterial.

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