Lifechanger tells the story of Drew, a shape-shifting murderer who has the power to inhabit the bodies of his victims. Drew also absorbs their memories and thoughts, which allows him to convincingly function within a victim’s life.
Once able to inhabit a single body for several years, Drew’s life-force has weakened over time. As the film opens, Drew finds himself in a position where he’s only able to inhabit a body for a few hours before his false skin peels away.
Because of this, Drew must claim a new body every day. He kills anyone he comes into contact with, and because of this, Drew can never enjoy any semblance of a normal life. He has six hours. That’s how long the bodies typically maintain their form and texture before they crumble. Then he has to find someone else.
Writer-director Justin McConnell portrays Drew as a tortured soul whose relationship with immortality is every bit as doomed and tragic as that of a vampire. Whereas the vampire feeds on blood, Drew requires body and soul. Like the vampire, Drew’s consciousness of time is always amplified. His body is his coffin.
Like any clinical, prolific murderer, Drew expertly disposes of his victims, whose bodies transform into withered shells after Drew sucks away their life energy. Then Drew experiences their life. He kills a dentist, a police detective, anyone he can find. He slips into their lives, for a few hours, and then he moves on. Although Drew plays many different roles in the film, female and male, he is really no one.
Lifechanger is an ambitious film. Instead of portraying Drew solely as a monster, Drew appears as a uniquely tragic figure whose primary motivation for continuing with his dreary existence is his forbidden love for a woman who knows him only through the different faces and personalities that he presents to her. For Drew, loving anyone means killing them.
Lifechanger is also a good-looking film. McConnell and his cinematographer, Sasha Moric, establish an antiseptic and bleak look throughout the film that continually evokes the possibility of menace, even during the film’s daylight scenes.
The performances are also effective, especially Lora Burke who plays Julia, the object of Drew’s affections, and Jack Foley, who plays Robert, the last body Drew inhabits in the film. The special effects in the film are also impressive. Lifechanger is a well-made film.
I wanted to praise Lifechanger on a filmmaking level so I could highlight the film’s problems, which are almost entirely related to logic and narrative. The most egregious example of this, and indeed the film’s biggest handicap, is the reveal of Drew’s thoughts through narration.
Drew’s narration is distracting and jarring. It serves no purpose. What happens is that Drew, the narrator, gives us information that should be implied or visualized in the film. In fact, Drew’s thoughts are visualized throughout the film, which makes the narration absolutely pointless. Film is, of course, a visual medium, and the effect of this narration is to dissipate suspense and tension while adding levity to scenes that are supposed to be serious in tone.
Quite simply, if this narration was excised, Lifechanger would be a markedly better film. The film tells too much. Without the narration, the revelation of Drew’s unholy power would be much more surprising than it is now. It makes a big difference. The narration in the film takes the viewer out of the story.
Other scenes contain too much exposition. Again, we are given information that we have seen, or will see, represented on screen. An example of this is the closing scene between Drew, in the body of a man named Robert, and Julia, the woman Drew loves. After making love, Drew, as Robert, decides to reveal his entire history to Julia, who thinks he’s crazy.
Without giving too much away, let me just say that the resolution of this final scene between Drew and Julia isn’t nearly as powerful as it could be. As Drew has the potential to kill anyone he comes into contact with, I think that it would have been much more appropriate and effective if Drew had inadvertently taken Julia’s life-force during the act of lovemaking.
As the sequence exists now, the relationship between Drew and Julia comes to an end following a disjointed, ponderous monologue from Drew. Again, too much is said here. This creates an awkward transition to the final scene in the film, which is otherwise very effective. In fact, the ending of the film works so well precisely because Drew’s fate is revealed entirely through images.
Also, if we’re asked to believe that a woman is worth living a life of misery for, one would expect said woman to be quite extraordinary. However, Julia is a remarkably unremarkable woman. Mildly-attractive, Julia is an alcoholic, beleaguered young woman who spends most of her nights in a local bar, the location where she meets Drew’s various incarnations. The bar location itself is too ubiquitous throughout the film, in terms of its proximity to Drew’s various identities, which sometimes gives the film a repetitive feel.
I watched Lifechanger twice, on consecutive days, and I liked it much better the second time. The second viewing also reinforced my belief that there’s a much better version of Lifechanger that’s contained within the film’s current eighty-four minute running time. As it sits, Lifechanger is a diamond in the rough, waiting for a new identity.