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The Changed Review

September 4, 2021 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
The Changed
8
The 411 Rating
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The Changed Review  

The Changed Review

Jason Alan Smith– Mac
Carlee Avers– Jane
Clare Foley– Kim
Doug Tompos– Kurt
Olivia Freer– Sara
Kathy Searle– Katie Walters
Tony Todd– Bill

(check out the rest of the cast here)

Directed by Michael Mongillo
Screenplay by Michael Mongillo with Matt Giannini

Produced by Mean Time Productions

Not Rated
Runtime– 80 minutes

https://www.facebook.com/meantimeproductions

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The Changed, a new low budget sci-fi thriller from director Michael Mongillo, is a nifty mashup of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and just about any siege movie where a group of people have to band together to figure out how to fight off an encroaching evil. While the movie could use a little more action, The Changed does feature an unsettling performance from modern horror icon Tony Todd and an invasion premise that will creep you the hell out. That’s what happened to me.

The Changed stars Jason Alan Smith as Mac, one of the apparently few people that have not been taken over by the nefarious alien presence that now owns most of the planet (or, most of the state of Connecticut. It depends on how you want to look at it). Along with his wife Jane (Carlee Avers), Mac experiences multiple strange occurrences one day but can’t quite figure out what the hell is going on. All Mac knows is that the world he lived in the previous day has somehow been altered by someone or something. As the day goes on and the mass strange behavior intensifies, Mac locks himself in his house along with Jane and his, I think, teen niece Kim (Clare Foley) and tries to figure out what to do. Should he try to contact the authorities? Should he contact the media? Should he try to escape into the woods? Just what the heck is going on here?

After a short period of time inside, Mac finds out that he can’t trust anyone outside of his home and immediate family as they are the only ones who don’t seem to have been altered by whatever the hell is going on. Just about all of Mac’s neighbors have changed their normal behavior, including Bill (Tony Todd). The media and local authorities are telling people to leave their homes and go to the nearest public school in order to be “safe” (why would the authorities tell people to do that?). And what’s the deal with the static filled radio message from the Navy telling people not to trust anyone, including anyone with a message from the government, and not to drink the water?

So Mac and his family decide to ignore all of the official announcements and hole up in their house (they are eventually joined by Kim’s other uncle and guardian Kurt, played by Doug Tompos. Kurt has no idea what’s going on, either). It doesn’t take long for Bill to show up at the front door and try to get inside, as well as several random people who decide to “stand watch” in Mac’s front yard. When Bill does get inside, Mac and Jane manage to subdue him and tie him to a chair in the basement. Will Bill be able to explain to them what the hell is really going on?

Yes, Bill is able to explain, in a way, what’s really going on. But will that knowledge help Mac and company navigate their way out of their predicament?

What’s fascinating about The Changed is how it drops its characters and the audience right into the middle of the action and doesn’t try to explain anything until the middle of the movie. It’s a bold strategy that, in a “typical” siege movie, probably wouldn’t work. The Changed isn’t a “typical” siege movie, though. Instead of featuring multiple set pieces where the protagonists try to keep the invading evil out, The Changed tries to draw out the inevitable attack for as long as possible. The movie also lets you get to know the various characters as the story progresses, instead of introducing everyone at the beginning and then dropping them all into the shit. That strategy shouldn’t work, either, and yet it does.

Would it have been cool to see some “typical” siege movie set pieces, where the random people on Mac’s lawn try to get inside of Mac’s house but Mac and his family fight them off with various weapons and whatnot? Absolutely. But the growing dread strategy works just as well, too. You know that the bad guys are outside and it’s possible that, at any moment, they could run into the house and do their evil things. When will that be? Will you be prepared for that eventuality if and when it happens? You just don’t know, just like the characters.

I think it’s also interesting how Mac’s house is just a house. The house isn’t anything special. It doesn’t have any secret rooms or vaults or arsenals or anything like that. It’s just a house with a basement. It’s a place that Mac and Jane likely enjoyed going back to every night after work. It’s meant to be a safe space. Now, with the impending/probable invasion happening at any moment, the house isn’t a safe space, at least not in the same way. If only the house had a secret vault filled with alien fighting weaponry or some such. Isn’t that something you should put in the basement?

The movie probably could have used a little less arguing in it. I know that the angry back and forth between Mac and Kurt over Bill being in the basement and the big discussion about what is really going on is meant to show just how stressed everyone is, but I’m not sure the movie needs as much arguing as it has. It also would have been wise to make it clear how everyone is related because I’m not entirely sure if I have everyone’s relationship straight.

The movie’s cinematography, by Rj LaRussa, is fantastic. It really helps accentuate the dark weirdness that Mac and his family find themselves in. The look of the world that they live in should not elicit anything in the way of horror, yet the normalness of everything is just creepy as hell. Is this really how the end of the world as we understand it will look? The shots of the sky changing colors are also deeply upsetting because you’re not entirely sure if the changes are natural or the result of whatever the aliens are doing to the planet. They’re beautiful, but should I want to look at them?

The cast is phenomenal. Jason Alan Smith does a great job as Mac, the “normal” guy that finds himself in a new, dangerous world. He seems, in a way, resourceful but, at the same time, there’s nothing particularly special about him. He isn’t an expert in anything in particular. He’s just a guy that, for whatever reason, hasn’t been personally invaded by the alien presence that’s taken over humanity. You end up rooting for him, even though you’re not entirely sure he will actually survive what is going on.

Carlee Avers is terrific as Jane. She’s smart and determined to survive, but at the same time she can’t wrap her head around what’s going on. She acknowledges the reality that she’s living in, but at the same time you get the sense that she doesn’t want to believe it. It all seems so ridiculous. She does try very hard to convince Kurt that Bill, and the outside world in general, have been taken over by something nefarious. It’s sad what happens to her.

Clare Foley does a nice job as Kim, the teen girl that has somehow managed to survive life even before the alien invasion, which is a major accomplishment. I would have loved to see more of her in high school dealing with her newly “changed” friends and how she would have reacted to her new strange surroundings. High school isn’t great, sure, but just how bad is it in the midst of an alien invasion?

Doug Tompos does a decent job as Kurt, the angry guy that can’t quite grasp what the hell is going on. He’s Kim’s uncle and legal guardian, I guess, and there’s all sorts of unspoken family bullshit going on, but is that really why he can’t accept what’s happening right in front of him? I think I would have liked to see more with him.

Olivia Freer is creepy as hell as Sara, the neighborhood woman that wants Mac more than anything. At first, you think it’s a sexual thing, but it’s something else entirely. Freer’s facial expressions will scare you. And Kathy Searle is terrifying as Katie Walters, the local news personality that puts out a disturbingly upbeat message about the alien takeover. When she stares into the camera you know it can’t be good for humanity.

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And then there’s Tony Todd as Bill. Everything about Todd’s performance is low budget creepy movie perfection. From the way he stands to the way he says his dialogue, it’s all so damn unsettling. There’s a sequence where he stares into the camera smiling while chaos proceeds around him and it’s the scariest thing in the movie. It’s also awesome that Todd is actually in the movie and has a substantial part instead of showing up for five minutes and then disappearing. I wish it happened more often.

Is The Changed a “political” movie? I think it is, in a way, and I look forward to reading what other people think the movie is really about. You don’t have to see it as a political movie, but, again, I think there is a message there.

The Changed is a terrific low budget sci-fi thriller. Unsettling and weird, it should satisfy and entertain genre movie nerds the world over. Be sure to check it out when it shows up at a movie festival near you. You won’t regret it.

See The Changed. See it, see it, see it.

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So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: Maybe 2.

Explosions: None.

Nudity?: None.

Doobage: A star filled sky (maybe), multiple shots of a power station and power lines, a nice, unsettling opening titles sequence, multiple sleep disturbances, people smiling, hugging, high school bullshit, potentially unwanted touching, potential off screen sexual assault, a churning sky, people running, a Navy message, fire whistle hooey, off screen rioting, multiple sudden attacks, shotgun hooey, kidnapping, chair bondage, a glass of water, a growing crowd, attempted meditation, garage stomping, a slow zoom, a bright and shining moon, off screen shotgun blast to the head, a big TV message, and a final battle.

Kim Richards?: Attempted and implied off screen.

Gratuitous: “And Tony Todd,” Tony Todd, Tony Todd talking about conspiracies, a woman in her night shirt and underwear for some reason, phones not working anywhere, Connecticut, “Don’t drink the tap water,” attempted meditation, some bullshit about tranquility, a great slow zoom in on Tony Todd’s face while chaos ensues around him, thumbs up, off screen shotgun blast to the head, a big TV message, and a final battle.

Best lines: “I think people are finally waking up,” “I’m done with your power saw. I’ll bring it over tonight,” “Anger is a poison,” “Am I in trouble?,” “Don’t you think I’m pretty?,” “You think this is the end of the world? I’m gonna say no,” “It’s everywhere,” “Where the fuck is Jane?,” “I just saw people in the backyard. Are you serious?,” “There’s nothing to be afraid of,” “Whatever this is, it’s contagious,” “Say something, Bill!,” “Holy fuck, Jane, what the fuck?,” “What does it mean to be changed?,” “See? Something’s happening!,” “Come on, this is bullshit!,” “The world as you know it is over. Be a part of this. Be with us,” “There is no good reason not to untie me,” “I can’t,” “You know what? Fuck this,” “No, Mac. He asked for this. You asked for this,” “I’m not ready to give up,” “You are all afraid,” “I feel pain but pain no longer controls me. I control it,” “Is this what you want? All this chaos?,” “Change is inevitable,” “You heard her. Now fuck off!,” “What are we going to do? Kill’em all,” and “God hates a coward.”

8.0
The final score: review Very Good
The 411
The Changed, a new low budget sci-fi thriller from director Michael Mongillo, is a nifty mashup of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and just about any siege movie where a group of people have to band together to figure out how to fight off an encroaching evil. While the movie could use a little more action, The Changed does feature an unsettling performance from modern horror icon Tony Todd and an invasion premise that will creep you the hell out. The flick should satisfy and entertain genre movie nerds the world over. Be sure to check it out when it shows up at a movie festival near you. You won’t regret it.
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The Changed, Bryan Kristopowitz