Robert is dying of some rot he doesn’t understand. All he knows is that in order to ensure his survival he has to touch people and steal their skin, their voices, their memories, and everything that makes them who they are. Lifechanger begins just as he reaches his lowest point, rotting faster than ever and racing to find a body that will last more than a few hours while trying to reconnect with the only person he’s ever loved. His is a gross, grueling, and surprisingly emotional journey.
Director: Justin McConnell
Release Date: January 1, 2019
I would kill for a cut of this movie without narration. From the opening scene through to the end, the body-swapping main character speaks in his natural voice, if something that takes other people’s vocal cords can even have one. The narration offers little in the way of details that you can’t glean from what’s on the screen, and having some guy tell you exactly what’s going on from the start wastes the unnatural mystery that the film would otherwise have. Mostly, he presses on poetic themes the movie doesn’t quite earn, but what’s worse is that he just talks so much. The man rambles over so many shots to the point that he has to speed up just to get his entire monologue out before the scene ends.
This is a shame, since there’s a marvelous strangeness to the whole of Lifechanger. The body horror presented here would make Cronenberg proud. The rot that eats through Robert’s body is a nasty tar-like black that oozes streams of white pus, and the hollow corpses of his victims are suitably emaciated and covered in fatty blisters. The ending features a sticky alien membrane that’s a sight in itself. Even scenes of violence, though occasionally tepid and awkward, pack a bloody wallop where it counts.
All of this, though, surrounds a core story in which Robert uses the different bodies he gains to talk to and try to reconnect with a woman whom he’d loved in a past life. His infatuation is certainly more stalkerish than romantic, but the moment that its culmination creates is tense, sad, and terrible. This is also the longest stretch of the film without narration, because Robert explains everything out of his own mouth at this point, as if to prove that the voice over was never necessary in the first place. I keep wondering how much more of a jolt this confrontation would have been if I didn’t know every single detail before it arrived.
A film like Under the Skin uses the fact that the audience can’t quite figure out its mechanics to create moments that are otherworldly and bewitching, leaving a mental imprint to wonder on. Lifechanger had a chance to do the same but scraped just short of realizing that. In a slightly different form I would’ve loved this movie, but its intriguing concept and gorgeous body horror carry to a powerful climax that’s still well worth seeing.