Canadian filmmaker Justin McConnell hopes his new thriller will be a Lifechanger for the shape-shifting genre

The Canadian thriller Lifechanger is certainly not the first film to explore the fictional world of the shape-shifter — a being with the ability to change their physical form from one body to another. In truth, it’s not even the first Canadian movie to take on the mythical concept (look up the campy 2004 teen comedy-horror Decoys).

But filmmaker Justin McConnell’s most recent take has a unique angle on the phenomenon presenting his protagonist with a particular predicament. As the shape-shifting demon moves through his series of victims and adopts their appearance, he seeks reparation from a lost love – a woman who can no longer recognize him in each changed form.

McConnell took time out ahead of the film’s release on Friday, Dec. 28 at The Globe Cinema to reflect on a few body-swapping film favourites and discuss the art of the shape-shifter in cinematic history.

Q: Why were you drawn to write a premise about a shape-shifter?

A: I actually don’t have a clear answer to that. The story came to me somewhat organically and seemed like a fresh take on a monster that isn’t shown in film as often as it could. I was also in the mindset I would originally be making this film on next to no budget, on weekends, and it was partially practical to be able to make it as a series of short films where the cast would change in each shooting block. But the production strategy changed very early on as we started looking to raise more money and that practical motivation for a shape-shifter story didn’t really matter.

Q: Were there any classic shape-shifter movies that you looked to for inspiration?

Director Justin McConnell.

A: I didn’t specifically look to any film while writing or developing Lifechanger, but there is definitely DNA from a ton of stuff I grew up watching woven in on a sub-conscious level. I absorbed as much genre material as I could throughout my life so of course there is influence from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Thing, Fallen, The First Power, The Borrower, Under the Skin, Lifeforce, countless werewolf movies and even the TV series Supernatural. Maybe even a little bit of Heaven Can Wait, too.

Q: What was the greatest challenge in crafting an original film about a shape-shifter that hasn’t already been done?

A: Trying not to pull from other sources too directly. And making the entomology of the creature at the heart of Lifechanger came sort of naturally and wasn’t a huge challenge. I had the basic rules of how Drew (the lead character, voiced by Bill Oberst Jr.) operated from the inception of the idea. The major challenge was visually showing this on a relatively small budget. Luckily we had a very talented group of prosthetic makeup artists to bring it all to life. And a lot of the originality I feel comes from the story’s perspective as every scene is from the viewpoint and perspective of Drew. You’re seeing the story through the eyes of what would traditionally be considered the monster. In that way it’s a lot closer to the spirit of the older Universal (Classic) Monsters movies.

Q: In your opinion, what is the greatest shape-shifter film ever made?

A: The Thing. Hands down. With the ’70s version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and An American Werewolf In London tying for close second.

Here’s a quick look at 3 other classic Hollywood shape-shifters:

The Thing 

In John Carpenter’s remake of the hit 1951 monster movie, a research team in the Arctic stumbles on the eponymous shape-shifting alien that preys on and takes on the appearance of its victims. Largely panned by critics when it hit theatres in 1982, the thriller has since become a cult classic and a template for shape-shifting fiction.


In 1992’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day, actor Robert Patrick played a shape-shifting T-1000 cyborg that travels back in time in attempt to annihilate a teenaged John Connor, the future leader of The Resistance to preserve humankind from evil robots. 


Star of six X-Men films and most recently portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence, this shape-shifting superhero is the sexiest blue-skinned cinema star since Smurfette. Born with the mutant ability to mimic any person she chooses, Mystique has, unlike the turquoise Smurf princess, mostly used her powers for evil.

Lifechanger opens at The Globe Cinema on Friday, Dec. 28. For show times go to

Steve Gow has spent a good amount of his time conducting interviews for a variety of publications as well as on television. Most notably, he was a film reporter for The Movie Network/HBO Canada and his written stories that were regularly featured in Calgary’s former “go-to guide” FFWD weekly, as well as Metro, Toronto Star and more.