The Changeover (2017) Movie Review
Miranda Harcourt and Stuart McKenzie
The New Zealand horror/fantasy/thriller The Changeover takes place in New Zealand. You can tell this because the words “New Zealand” appear 4 times during the opening credits. You don’t have to rub it in that yes, New Zealand was were those Lord of the Rings movies were filmed.
Unfortunately, New Zealand was also where those interminable Hobbit movies were filmed. You take the mediocre with the better than average.
Now I’ve mentioned New Zealand 5 times in the first 3 sentences of this review. Not sure if that makes me an official citizen or if it just gets me a voucher for…
*looks up New Zealand’s most famous delicacy*
Some Hokey Pokey. I’d like to try that. It looks particularly good.
Everybody should stop reading this review to Google “Hokey Pokey”. Then get some instead of finishing the review.
I wouldn’t blame you.
The Changeover opens with our heroine Laura Chant AKA Lolly (Erana James) and her useless younger brother Jacko (Benji Purchase). Lolly takes care of Jacko pretty much all day and most nights because their mother Kate (Melanie Lynskey) works as a nurse, or a pimp, some kind of job where she works long hours and has constant bruises on her hand, presumably from slappin’ h*s or inserting catheters into elderly patients. This probably isn’t as important as I’m making it out to be but the point is that mom is gone most of the time.
Because if useless Jacko were properly supervised, then the movie would be about 30 minutes long.
What happened to dad? It’s rumored he went mad. That makes the family sad.
This will not be important until sometime in the 3rd act as it will constantly be hinted at Christopher Nolan-style so you just know it’s important.
Jacko is turning 5 or 6 in a couple of days. No one cares.
No one cares because right now Lolly and Jacko are looking for their missing black cat named Blacky. Guessing Jacko named the cat.
While canvassing previously unknown parts of the neighborhood Jacko runs into a creepy old guy whose attempts not to be creepy just end up making him look creepier. His name is Carmody Braque, which makes him sound like a Harry Potter villain. He’s played by Timothy Spall, who played Wormtail in those Harry Potter movies.
Braque invites Jacko into his house for some nice Hokey Pokey. In New Zealand it’s a type of ice cream but when Braque says it, it sounds like something a lot more perverted and sinister.
Jacko does what any kid would when invited into a stranger’s house by a sketchy old guy. He enters, because why not? It’s not like Braque’s house has a bunch of weird dolls that all look like withered children.
Lolly reluctantly follows Jacko into Braque’s house. Lolly notices that Braque’s house has a bunch of weird dolls that all look like emaciated children. Nothing could possibly go wrong and there is a perfectly rational explanation for everything.
Braque explains that he’s opening a shop and that all these dolls are part of his inventory. He has all kinds of toys and trinkets for kids if they would just follow him into a nondescript van…
Braque also has a collection of hand stamps. Everyone knows how much kids love hand stamps. Braque says that he has a stamp that looks exactly like Jacko and would Jacko like his hand stamped?
Jacko accepts the stranger’s offer of a hand stamp because Jacko has never heard of stranger danger in New Zealand and Jacko has a death wish before he turns 5 or 6.
If Jacko died you get the feeling his mother wouldn’t notice for about a month.
Jacko gets his hand stamped. It looks nothing like him. Braque apologizes but in a way that’s not really an apology.
Lolly takes Jacko’s hand and runs out of the unsettling house with all the dolls. Maybe she should have done it about 10 minutes earlier, you know, before the old man put his hands all over her brother and stamped him. Oddly enough, this is less skeevy than anytime priests are around Jacko.
Before long, Jacko isn’t feeling well. He’s looking a lot paler than usual. Lolly and everyone else in the audience surmises it has something to do with the stamp on his hand.
Lolly tries to wash it off but to no avail. She tries sanding it off, but no luck either.
Lolly also notices someone peering into the front door. Sure enough, it’s Braque.
Braque wants to be let in. Braque demands to be let in.
Lolly surmises that Braque can’t come inside unless he’s invited. But that doesn’t stop Braque from possessing little Jacko and speaking through his tiny child head.
Also, Braque can make Jacko do things like put his hand on a hot stove.
Lolly manages to close the door on Braque but if she doesn’t figure out some way to get that stamp off, things are just going to get worse.
And what about Lolly’s new classmate Sorenson (Nicholas Galitzine- so blandly brooding it looks like he’s doing an Ansel Elgort impression)? He’s been following Lolly saying stuff like “You’re in danger”. That came across and stalker-y before but now it’s starting to make sense. Maybe he knows something she doesn’t.
Lolly better do something quick because now Jacko has to go to the hospital. That would suck, to die right before your birthday. Or on it.
What Works With The Changeover
- Timothy Spall’s wonderfully unhinged performance as Braque transcends The Changeover from basic to “Scarier than I thought it would be”. There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles to Braque, but he’s the only element in The Changeover you can’t really predict. Maybe next time you’ll stay away from the man with the dolls in his house.
- The Changeover’s first hour contains more moments of genuine terror than you’d expect. Credit to directors Miranda Harcourt and Stuart McKenzie for lulling you into a false sense of safety and then stamping you on the hand with peril.
What Doesn’t Work With The Changeover
- Unfortunately, the first hour’s momentum can’t be sustained as The Changeover veers into YA Twilight territory. You can feel whatever tension that’s built up leave your body into something that can’t help but be disappointing.
An exceptionally good movie that changeovers into something average. See it if you must, just know what you’re getting yourself into. Mildly recommended. Now onto that Hokey Pokey.