The Changed opens a short conversation between Mac (Jason Alan Smith, Before I Wake, Killer Cove) and his friend and neighbour Bill (Tony Todd, Hellblazers, Stoker Hills). Mac thinks that people around them are changing, acting as if “Nobody seems to care about anything lately, good or bad.” Bill just smiles and says “I think people are finally waking up.” and clarifies he doesn’t mean politically but in terms of something more important.
It’s a creepy start to the film and is followed by several short vignettes illustrating what Mac was talking about and which reinforces the feeling that something really is wrong. Director Michael Mongillo (The Wind, Being Michael Madsen) and co-writer Matt Giannini (Diane) waste no time in kicking the paranoia up several notches with sirens, lost cell phone and TV services.
Most disturbing off all while the official word from the Governor’s office reverses its advice to shelter at home with a warning that anyone not going to an official shelter will be arrested, a radio broadcast from what claims to be a Naval base warns of a threat that has infiltrated all levels of government and the military before dissolving into gunfire and static.
If this sounds like another take on Invasion of the Body Snatchers, you’re right, it is. But here it’s crossed with a siege film like Night of the Living Dead or Assault on Precinct 13. Rather than the escape and evasion plot most films of this kind use, The Changed puts its handful of survivors Mac, his wife Jane (Carlee Avers, Off the Ledge, Jekyll), his teenage niece Kim (Clare Foley, Sinister, Gotham) and her guardian Kurt (Doug Tompos, The Sleepwalker Killing, Aquarius) in a house where they must fend off those who have already been taken over. Or decide to join them.
Filmed on a low budget, The Changed forgoes the traditional pods and slimy duplicates found in the various Body Snatchers films or even the alien parasites of Assimilate. Instead, as in They Look Like People, they simply change. The method by which this change is effected not only doesn’t require effects but is one of the film’s more ironic and chilling elements.
Since there’s never really any doubt that something is happening, Kurt’s belligerent denials to the contrary, the focus of The Changed is on the change itself and its appeal to at least some of the survivors. This is where Tony Todd shows his talents, as Bill, captured and tied to a chair, is all smiles and friendliness as he tells them he doesn’t want to change them, he wants to perfect them. For those who only know him from brief and inconsequential “name on the poster” roles, his performance here will be a revelation.
Equally unnerving is a Public Service Announcement from a local TV anchorwoman urging those who have so far resisted joining with those who have changed. It’s delivered as though it was an appeal for donations to a Christmas toy drive and going along was the most natural thing to do. The Changed also has more traditional scares, such as the silent, staring crowd surrounding the house.
While this particular subgenre frequently has a political or social message attached to it going all the way back to the original’s “Red Scare” subtext, The Changed really never makes an explicit comparison between the aliens and any particular group or political affiliation. You can as easily take them to be the “woke left” trying to radically cancel anyone who isn’t like them or the “right-wing hive mind” willing to believe and act on outlandish conspiracies based on who retweeted them.
The lack of effects and action scenes may turn off some viewers and it could use a stronger ending. But there’s enough atmosphere and general creepiness to make The Changed worth watching.