Witches, spells and evil stamps are what’s lerking in this fantasy-like adaptation of Margaret Mahy’s novel. Playing to a YA novel reading audience, this tale about a teenager who has special abilities but has to enhance them in order to save her younger brother from a evil force, isn’t exactly something we’ve all seen before but we can predict what will happen nearly every step of the way, even if you haven’t read the book.
Set after the Christchurch earthquakes, Laura Chant looks after her little brother Jacko while her mother is always at work. One day Jacko wonders off and is found with a suspicious old shop owner, Carmody Braque who gives Jacko a stamp on his hand. The mark stays visible and can’t be removed. As Jacko becomes sicker, Laura believes there is something more happening. The mysterious new boy at school, Sorenson, also takes an interest in Laura, revealing himself to be a witch. He introduces Laura to his family/coven who tell her the only way to save here brother is to become a witch herself.
The film has been called a supernatural romance, but Laura and Sorenson barely have time to get to know each other, which is hardly a romance. The film, mostly likely from the book, has strong ‘YA’ vibes, appealing to a built in audience who would have watched (or read) similar themed supernatural stories such as Twilight, Beautiful Creatures and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. Witchcraft, which is also meant to be a major plot point and an important part of the main character as well as the coven to help her in fighting the evil taking over her brother, but this too is barely touched upon. The film focuses more on Laura Chant’s worry over her brother and the incredibly creepy Carmody Braque who is the parasite attacking Jacko. Timothy Spall makes a great villain but he also feels out of place in Christchurch. Famed New Zealand actress Melaine Lynskey and Laura and Jacko’s mother gives the best she can with the little of character she’s given to work with. Same for the great Lucy Lawless as Sorenson’s mother and witch who is wasted in the few scenes she appears.
There seems to be much promise attached the story but the film doesn’t quite deliver what’s expected. Feeling that large parts of the story was cut out or maybe never existed in the first place. Maybe the book is the best place to start and end with when it comes to Laura Chant and her Changeover.
Dir: Miranda Harcourt, Stuart McKenzie
Prd: Emma Slade
Scr: Stuart McKenzie
DoP: Andrew Stroud
Country: New Zealand
Running time: 93 minutes
The Changeover is out on DVD 27th August