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Changeover, The (ATOM Study Guide)

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    Sixteen-year-old Laura Chant lives in earthquake-scarred Christchurch with her mother Kate and five-year-old brother Jacko. Laura looks after Jacko while Kate works long hours. One day, Laura loses Jacko but follows a black cat to find a pop-up shop where an old man, Carmody Braque, has taken a disturbing interest in the little boy and his toy monkey. Carmody marks the boy's hand with a sinister stamp but fails to stamp the monkey. Jacko sickens quickly. Stung by guilt, Laura returns to confront Carmody and senses that he is gaining power while her brother’s condition worsens. Kate dismisses Laura’s desperate account of an evil demon feeding off of Jacko's life.

    Laura storms off to seek help from mysterious school prefect Sorensen Carlisle, whom she now believes has supernatural powers. Sorensen explains that Jacko must have 'invited' Carmody in somehow and that he is now possessing Jacko. Sorensen’s mother Miryam and grandmother Winter reveal to Laura that they are a family of witches. They recognise that Laura is a 'sensitive' and insist the only way she can combat Carmody would be to 'change over' and become a witch herself. Afraid for Laura, Sorensen warns her that a changeover is extremely dangerous and often ends in madness. Laura is unnerved – her own father took his life as a result of mental illness.

    Sorensen suggests an alternative plan; he could help by trying to steal Carmody's stamp and then bargain for Jacko's life. However, before they can track him down, Carmody shows up at Laura's house in the middle of the night. Now that Laura knows Carmody needs to be invited, she provokes him into angrily crossing the threshold without an invitation. Carmody collapses and retreats, but Laura's triumph is short-lived as Carmody's possession of Jacko continues and the child is rushed to hospital. Kate lashes out, blaming Laura's increasingly erratic behaviour for Jacko's collapse. The hospital diagnoses a fatal form of anaemia, insisting a bone marrow transplant is Jacko's only chance. Blood tests are conducted to find out if Laura or Kate might be a donor match.

    Carmody strikes again just as Laura and Sorensen discover his true nature. He is a 'larva', a sadistic demon that lives on children's pain. He needs to trap Jacko's soul in a spiritual totem, something the child loves. Laura realises that this is the monkey that Carmody has been trying to get his hands on. In fact, Carmody succeeds in tricking them and does get hold of the monkey and then he tricks Laura again by offering the monkey back. As soon as she puts out her hand to accept his invitation, Carmody throws Laura under his spell.

    Warned by a visitation from her future self, Laura manages to break Carmody's spell just as she is about to be anaesthetised for bone-marrow surgery. She escapes from surgery with Sorensen's assistance and makes the decision to confront her fears and attempt a changeover. Following a ritual conducted by the Carlisle witches, Laura enters a treacherous dream world in which there are a number of possible Lauras, but only one can triumph. When Laura takes control of the dream-reality, she visits her past self, about to go into surgery, to warn her how to break Carmody's spell. Laura tracks Carmody down at his lair where his collection of stamped toys is revealed as children from across the ages, trapped in limbo.

    Believing that Laura is still under his spell, Carmody makes the fatal mistake of inviting her in. She pounces, declaring that she is a witch and turning Carmody's stamp on himself, revealing Laura's own mark instead. Carmody wastes away, cursing Laura that he will live on in her forever. When Laura returns to the hospital she discovers she is too late and that Jacko has died. Drawing darkly on her new powers, Laura resurrects her little brother and returns him to a grieving Kate. Having confronted darkness, Laura can never go back to her previous self. She is now a young woman with deep powers – including the power to pursue a relationship with Sorensen.

    Curriculum Links

    The Changeover is suitable for students in Years 9–12.

    In Years 9–12, The Changeover is a relevant resource for meeting learning outcomes in:

    • English
    • Photographic and Digital Media

    The Changeover student guide:

    • invites students to share their responses to the stories told by the film
    • asks students questions about The Changeover as a film text

    In completing the tasks, students will have demonstrated the ability to:

    • analyse the construction of a film and comment on the ways it represents an interpretation of ideas and experiences
    • respond to a film both personally and in detached and critical ways
    • discuss the social, cultural and historical values embodied in a film
    • draw on appropriate metalanguage to discuss the structures and features of a film
    • use their own written and spoken texts to explore concepts and ideas and to clarify their own and others' understanding

    Teachers are advised to direct students to complete activities that are subject relevant and age appropriate.

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