Lifechanger gives us an antihero that tries very hard to convince us he's different. He does bad things. Kills people. Ruins lives. He’s a serial killer who does what he does not for some sick power fantasy, but for survival. At least that’s what he tells himself (and us). The truth is a bit more complicated.
We’re introduced to our antihero Drew as he, or rather she, lounges in bed, next to a desiccated corpse that she just fed on. Drew (whose actions are narrated by the wizened voice of Bill Oberst Jr.) must drain people to survive. And when I say drain them, I mean it literally and figuratively. He takes everything from them. Their memories. Their body. Everything. What’s left is a mummified corpse that he must dispose of, in typical serial killer fashion by dismembering them and burying them on a farm.
He’s done this for so long that it’s become second nature to him, even though he tells us that he doesn’t like doing it. Unfortunately for him, it seems that he might be dying. His shapeshifting used to last a very long time, but now it seems to be hours. It’s prolonged through drugs, both prescription and otherwise, but his shelf-life seems rapidly depleting.
The thing that prolongs his desire to live is embodied in Julia (Lora Burke), the only person he has ever felt emotionally connected to. And so as he flits between each body, he makes sure to spend time with her at a bar, getting to know her more and more, in hopes he can reconnect to some old memory of happiness. Writer/director Justin McConnell wastes no time with the short runtime as we move from body to body and conversation to conversation. In between Drew’s time with Julia, we focus on his dying body, as it starts to ooze and weaken, forcing him to jump ship constantly.
Like the ever-changing Drew, it’s difficult to get a handle on Lifechanger. On one hand, it’s safe to assume Drew is a serial killer, even as he tells us with his deadpan drawl that he’s only doing it to survive. It doesn’t take much to see the traits. He has a hunting ground. He slowly and methodically dismembers the husks of his victims and hides them. At one point, he even knocks out the teeth of a victim and while it’s possible that it’s simply for obscuring their dental records, he places them in a little ziplock bag. Are they trophies? No matter, we’re on to the next body.
Maybe it’s about addiction. While he tells us the cocaine he snorts is to help him stay alive, he sure does seem to enjoy it. And his love for Julia and the connection they once had could easily be called obsession. He stalks her, through each body, and uses his past knowledge and conversations to disarm her in conversation. There seems to be an obvious connection between them that speaks at something deeper than attraction. But is that merely a product of Drew’s continual meet cutes and staged dialogues?
And what about Julia? She is as stuck and painfully addicted to the past as Drew is. She haunts the same bar, wallowing in her former life and the deep-seated pain it brings, much in the same way Drew continues to do everything in his power to connect with a past he’s had with her. Julia surrounds herself in a location that never changes, except for the people who are constantly pouring through. Each person, a new conversation. But they leave. Julia doesn’t. And so she manages to keep herself at arms length.
And what about the shared past Drew alludes to? Is it a positive thing?
“Bad things happen to good people all the time,” this iteration of Drew tells Julia. And she responds, “Yeah. They do. But, you know what? I think that the important this is to make sure you are not the bad thing yourself.”
This brief exchange hangs over the movie, as we continue to question both characters and their motives. It’s a deeply sad movie, interrupted at time by darkly sardonic and nihilistic humor and body horror. Oh and very bombastic score that unfortunately gets in the way. At a couple points, important bits of dialogue are obscured by the music that tries a bit too hard to nail home the intensity.
But overall, it boils down to two people who are so completely damaged that they can’t seem to find a way out. Neither Drew nor Julia seem able to crawl out of the metaphoric holes they find themselves in. Both are addicted to a past they can’t escape. While Drew’s desire to not let go results in countless bodies piling up around him, Julia’s desire leaves her equally, if figuratively, haunted. And as they collide into each other, over and over, all that’s left is a nihilistic punch to the gut that questions everything we watched. Lifechanger is an effective, if slightly rushed, thriller that is as mercurial as our antihero.