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Arrow Video FrightFest 2018: Lifechanger review

Justin McConnell puts a fresh twist on the shapeshifting genre.

Lifechanger
Credit: FrightFest Presents

Drew (Bill Oberst Jr.) is a shapeshifter who can drain the life out of people and take on their physical appearance. Each host body he takes the form of has a short life span, which he can only slow down by taking antibiotics or snorting cocaine. Determined to make things right with Julia (Lora Burke), the woman he loves, Drew tries to get closer to her but the problem is she has no idea who he really is as he takes on the form of men and women. As the body count piles up, Drew has to evade the law while attempting to complete his mission.

Lifechanger is the latest feature film from writer/director/producer Justin McConnell and it’s a refreshing twist on the shapeshifter genre. Interestingly Drew’s main objective isn’t to kill other people and actually isn’t sinister at all. In order to survive he has no choice but to move from host-to-host and is often forced to pick a victim due to circumstance rather than anything else. The film also doesn’t really dwell on the ‘why’ part of Drew’s abilities, which means we don’t have to endure a complicated and convoluted scientific explanation.

Lifechanger

Credit: FrightFest Presents

Adding to the fun is that the audience has no idea what Drew actually looks like. We hear his voice from the very beginning when he wakes up in bed as a woman opposite the decomposed body of the host he’s taken. It’s an interesting way to open the film and it’ll likely catch people a little off-guard. Drew cycles through a couple of hosts fairly quickly until he lands on Rachel (Rachel VanDuzer), an assistant to a dentist that Drew took over earlier in the film.

The one common thing that ties all of the hosts together is that once Drew takes on their form he meets with his ex-girlfriend Julia in the same bar. They exchange small talk and Drew is overly conscious that he doesn’t want to take her life away so he can live. I found it quite fascinating seeing how the dynamic shifted between Drew and Rachel, depending on what body he was presenting as.

Lifechanger

Credit: FrightFest Presents

The fairly large cast has some standouts. Lora Burke is excellent as Julia, really bringing the horror of the entire situation to life in the final act. Rachel VanDuzer also gives a great performance as Rachel, one of the hosts that Drew takes on for a longer period of time. I particularly liked the scene that Julia and Rachel shared, with Julia noticing that something was a bit off about her new friend.

Lifechanger builds up to a climax that feels inevitable but is still satisfying. I actually felt a little emotional by the time the credits arrived and that surprised me. I bought into Drew’s mission and it didn’t bother me that his ability wasn’t ever truly explained. If you go along with the premise of the film and enjoy the ride, you’ll find a lot to like here. Lifechanger is a smart film that offers a new take on a well-worn horror trope.

LIFECHANGER from FrightFest on Vimeo.

Cast: Lora Burke, Jack Foley, Elitsa Bako, Rachel VanDuzer, Steve Kasan, Bill Oberst Jr. Director: Justin McConnell Writer: Justin McConnell Certificate: TBC Duration: 84 mins Released by: FrightFest Presents

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