Before one can begin to discuss Lifeforce, there’s clear understanding this is a horror and sci-fi b-movie, that starts fine and quickly builds in a strange direction and likely has one asking themselves and anyone in the room what on earth is going on quite quickly. Well ignore all the questions save them for a discussion afterwards, and perhaps refer back to this review for some help. Director Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre [1974]) and (The Funhouse [1981]) signed a three-picture deal with The Cannon Group, Lifeforce was the first film that also included The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) and the remake of Invaders From Mars (1986), prior to coming aboard this project he was involved in The Return of the Dead (1985) which curiously had the same screenwriter, Dan O’Bannon would later direct and pen that film. The movie is loosely based on the novel The Space Vampires by Colin Wilson (The Rift [1990]), which was adapted by Dan O’Bannon (Alien [1979]) and Don Jakoby (Arachnophobia [1990]). However,  the film had many issues during filming including plenty of alleged rumors, which I shall avoid, as conjecture takes away of the overall movie, although one can’t overlook that the extended shooting schedule and other factors tallied a bloated budget of $25-million and netted only $11-million at the box office in other words a massive loss, though over countless years later the film has become a cult classic. Hooper’s’ movie still continues to volley among critics in an evenly split decision of good and bad remarks, but now in 2020, 35-years later Lifeforce delivers almost everything one would want on a b-movie checklist, excessive nudity, absurd violence, odd dialogue, over-the-top acting; along with chase scenes, vampires, zombies, explosions and frankly a dazzling light show that one could compare with Ghostbusters (1984).

When it comes to the subgenre of vampires, there’s a niche heading known as space vampires, now there’s a few movies that appear in the often forgotten subset Mario Bava’s Planet of the Vampires (1965), Queen of Blood (1966),  and could even stretch it to include The Thing from Another World (1951), as the alien is draining blood from his victims. However, to be fair there’s only one time the actual words ‘space vampire’ used in a title, which was Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979), Season 1-Episode12 “Space Vampire” although a horror movie is in filming mode last updated in 2017 also called by this title.

The movie begins with a sci-fi element and horror themed overtones, so far good with Hooper establishing tense moments, as the space shuttle Churchill is observing Halley’s Comet, however their sensors identify a ship of sorts in a coma tail. One can describe this as a cross between an eggplant and tromboncino squash with an umbrella stuck in the top of it and a coffin shape door. A small boarding party of astronauts travel over to the vessel and discover large dead bat-like creatures before finding three perfect nude humanoid specimens in glasslike coffins shapes in what looks like a hive room, they transport all three creatures back to their ship. Soon enough mission control loses contact with Churchill and a rescue mission is launched to investigate. Here the pacing quickens a bit, back in  England, the specimens now lay outside of the coffins in exam rooms, a guard enters the room, perhaps attracted to the female alien vampire (Mathilda May) and she sucks his life from him, hence he later attacks another to replenish his lifeforce. May’s character then strolls calmly past guards, harming some, and uses her telekinetic powers to shatter windows freeing herself. Her two male vampires, make an explosion getaway and aid her in gathering souls or life from many individuals. Meanwhile the escape pod of the Churchill is found in Texas, USA which contains Commander Col. Tom Carlsen (Steve Railsback (Turkey Shoot [1982]) who later is flown to England and tells a fantastic story, that serves as a flashback and supplies the audience with much needed information. We learn he has a psychic bond with the female vampire and is learning she’s using other bodies to move about, for reasons unknown. In addition, we learn the bat creatures true form and the female vampire took from the crewmen minds and fantasies that she read them beforehand, the male vampires the same reasoning, However it could also follow the insect kingdom, the Queen is guarded and supplied by her imperial guards, just a thought when you dive further into this insane but fun movie. Now, the second half of the movie has literally everything thrown into the mix, including a strange collection of characters Col. Colin Caine (Peter Firth (Born of Fire [1986])) who works for a secret spy group and freely admits he’s a voyeur, seriously he says it. Then Dr. Hans Fallada (Frank Finlay (The Deadly Bees [1966])) who acts sort as a ‘Van Helsing’ see the slight name play, and then Patrick Stewart (Green Room [2015]) as Dr. Armstrong who runs a mental institution that actually serves as a loony goose chase, which baffles most viewers. It becomes very obvious the vampires infection is breeding faster, the government lost their chance to lockdown and contain it, running rampant, as we see blue lights flash we learn that they go through the vampires which are transported to the umbrella squash looking ship to regenerated them. Meanwhile our dynamic duo learn the Prime Minister is infected which is code for transformed in a hungry zombie vampire who feeds on his secretary, talk about giving all to the job and country, clearly the film struggles to find positive footing late in the second act and partially the third, yet somehow concludes with satisfying ending.

Aside the wacky storyline, this 1985 flick has some great special effects and design that still holds fairly well in today’s market, supervised wonderfully by John Dykstra who did a wonderful job, but he’s not all, the film’s production crew excelled in many avenues, from a complete modelling crew that meticulously recreated six square blocks of London scheduled for destruction and blended perfectly in the final scenes of the movie. One can’t sidestep the talent of makeup artist Nick Maley who had come from a disastrous set of The Keep (1983) and on the rebound from other films projects that went bust, hence he took his 8-week luxury time of preparations for all the tricks of his trade and displayed them creatively throughout the scenes. This all aided by cinematographer Alan Hume (Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors {1965]), who clearly worked well under the direction of Tobe and understood the craft of Horror genre films and that of sci-fi as work on Stars Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983) ideally the person for the job. Lastly, composer Henry Mancini, who some might recalled for his work on Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), continue to show how music with the proper score and enhance otherwise mundane scenes, heighten some tension for the viewer even in a strange movie of life sucking vampires. The gorehounds likely to enjoy some of special effects, especially a free-floating blood image of the space girl, but there’s honestly not a lot of splattering fun. Although, there’s some offensive for the modern audience, but really it’s 1985 and some references likely objectionable then are thoroughly disgusting, for example one of the older military base security guards speaks the nude female vampire stating “Come to Daddy, be a good,” or suggesting lesbian encounter and teenage boys sating “wanting to watch”; just a few references. There are plenty strange and silly moments, even a few that feel disjointed, but it works if one just turns off the rational portion of your brain.

Lifefore simply is cult classic, it rightfully missed its core audience at the box office, but in the video store market of then grew support with overeager teenage boys primarily for the obvious naked female vampire. What perhaps makes film different from the subgenre of vampires is that they don’t suck blood rather uses electric consumption of the soul, thereby leaving an empty husk of the body behind and turned more into a hungry zombie fiend. Overall the movie keeps all the unusual mixes of horror and sci-fi, still fresh today and yet contains some odd dialogue, that adds to its uniqueness. Therefore, the film gives plenty of WTFs and insane sequences but a wonderful look back of and entertaining movie that achieved a Steelbook Blu-ray release from Shout Factory.

TAGLINES:

  • In outer space they unleashed a force more evil than the world had ever imagined!.. [UK Theatrical]
  • The Cinematic Sci-Fi event of the Eighties
  • With an insatiable hunger, they are coming…Mankind is their prey [Australia Theatrical]
  • In the blink of an eye, the terror begins.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089489/

IMDb Rating: 6.1/10

Baron’s Rating: 6.5/10