The Changeover tells the tale of Laura Chant (Erana James), a sixteen- year-old who is living with her mom Kate (Melanie Lynskey) and her four year old little brother Jacko (Benji Purchase) in an underprivileged suburb of Christchurch, New Zealand. Laura made a promise to her father to take care of Jacko if something ever happened to him, and in his absence she has become incredibly protective of Jacko – often taking him with her wherever she goes and trying to keep a watchful eye on him. Laura has a unique ability to sense when something bad will happen. Her mom dismisses this and alludes to Laura’s father having similar delusions. Laura doesn’t let this dissuade her and she knows that she shouldn’t ignore this gift.
Laura’s spidey sense begins to tingle – warning her that Jacko is in trouble. One day Jacko, like young kids tend to do, manages to slip away, leaving Laura panicking and racing to find him. Jacko ends up wandering into a stranger’s pop up shop. This stranger, Carmody Braque (Timothy Spall) has taken quite the interest in Jacko. He stamps Jacko with a magic stamp that Laura can’t manage to wash off. Laura’s uneasiness about him only intensifies as she begins to have unpleasant dreams of Carmody. Jacko almost immediately falls ill, while Carmody magically looks younger and healthier. Laura realizes that Carmody is a spirit who is feeding off of Jacko’s soul. With the aid of her man crush at school, Sorensen Carlisle (Nicholas Galitzine) and his mother Miryam (Lucy Lawless), Laura must harness the supernatural abilities within herself to defeat Carmody and save Jacko.
The Changeover is nothing more than a muddled mess. There were no real entertaining qualities or aspects of the film and nothing to truly draw you in. After watching it, I’m still not really sure how I would classify the film – in the beginning there were a few suspenseful moments, but they quickly fizzled out; so not nearly enough scares to be a true thriller or suspense. There is a quasi supernatural aspect to it, so if I had to choose I’d say The Changeover is a supernatural sort of thriller. I could see this being a successful story that parents tell their kids to warn them about talking to strangers and taking things from them, but that’s about where the buck stops. The film is based on the Carnegie Medal winning novel by Margaret Mahy, which I admittedly haven’t read. However, with only seeing the movie, I feel confident in saying that the book is better. The Changeover had some decent acting from Hall, and it is always great seeing Lucy Lawless, but the memorable moments are few and far between. You can feel comfortable avoiding this one.