The Changeover



22 February 2019| No Comments on The Changeover     by Sean Chavel



There are so many horror entries that rests its gimmicks on witches spells and possession that the tropes are on an endless recycle. The Changeover rehashes ingredients from better films of the supernatural genre, and then dices in some mercurial rules for breaking a witch spells that are hard to interpret – I was into the movie until I lost track of what the omens meant and then just lost faith. What’s redeemable are the performances of Erana James, a teen girl who does everything in her wake to stop her young brother from possession, and Timothy Spall as a predator with a gift for other worldly powers.

If this New Zealand film had nothing to do with witches, “The Changeover” would be notable for its creepy Spall performance (an actor known for many serious Mike Leigh films), for he’s like the damaged goods Jackie Earle Haley was in that very serious suburban malaise drama “Little Children” a decade ago. Spall’s Braque is a decrepit living inside a storage container, but he uses his meager living style to his advantage – he gets his prey to feel sorry for him. He uses endless small talk that morphs into personal questions, he ingratiates himself as a wise one who could be a father figure, and – you get the idea. Laura Chant (James) knows that this is the kind of pervert she should steer clear from, but Braque is also deceptively charming and so there’s a fear that she’s being rude to a very nice guy. Trust the first instinct: Braque wants that boy. Fleeing is the better choice.

The question is, what does he want with the boy? Aha, it’s a witch movie, so obviously it must be for possession or conversion.

The co-director team Miranda Harcourt and Stuart McKenzie have a tactful sinister eye, but better yet, they capture a disarming look at school life and working class life where children depend on each other because the parents are absent because they have to work. It has a look of a free-floating and raw Nicolas Roeg movie, and Roeg might have been the antecedent to Terrence Malick. (Roeg made two notable horror movies in his time, 1973’s “Don’t Look Now” and 1990’s more young adult horror “The Witches” based on a Roald Dahl book.) Even the dream sequences have a bit of an eye-popping factor when it goes a little Charlie Kaufman, but storywise, I wasn’t digesting everything coherently. Last year, everything about the very similar “Hereditary” was unforced and organic – a new horror classic that took everything old feel new again. “The Changeover,” on the other hand, dissolves into a scrambled mess in its third act.

“The Changeover” is a modest entry, just finding its way into simultaneously showing at a few select U.S. theaters while it is also playing on Amazon Prime. It’s under the radar, and might stay there because it’s just a little too derivative. But curious flick watchers will have much to lap up when it comes to these atypical for its genre performances – James and Spall, they share moments that enthrall. Also fairly good: Nicholas Galitzine plays the Robert Pattinson “Twilight” character here (as a witch, not a vampire); hunky, world-weary and beguiling.

I wish the filmmaking team of Harcourt and McKenzie the best in the future. Maybe they can get to the point in this business where they can drop the horror exercises and just make a slice of life drama a lá Mike Leigh. I also wouldn’t mind a movie about Spall as an everyday, real monster.

92 Minutes. Not Rated.


Film Cousins: “The Skeleton Key” (2005); “Oculus” (2013); “The Babadook” (2014); “Hereditary” (2018).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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