- Directed by Tobe Hooper
- June 21, 1985
- Based on Colin Wilson’s 1976 novel The Space Vampires
After being discovered in the hold of an alien spaceship by the crew of a European Space Shuttle, a trio of humanoids in a state of suspended animation are brought to Earth and unleash destruction.
You say Lifeforce has vampires? From space? I’m in! Seriously though that was enough to get me interested in this movie a great many years ago. It’s a rather silly and kind of ballzy idea in my opinion. These are two great tastes that should go great together.
As fun as this is, Lifeforce is not perfect. The narrative kind of stumbles around from one leap of logic and plot contrivance to another. Starting with the space shuttle able to go into the outer corona of Halley’s Comet to check out a derelict spaceship (the debris would destroy something not designed for it) to all the convenient events that occur there is just so much that if this were trying to take itself 100% seriously you would not be able to buy into it.
To be completely honest one of the reasons I remember this after so many years is the rampant nudity. At least the rampant nudity of the central female vampire played by the stunning Mathilda May referred to in the credits as ‘Space Girl.’ There may be all of two scenes she is in when she has clothing of any type on but the rest of the time the girls are out to play. This movie came out in the 80s and it wasn’t improbable to find a horror film or just an R-rated movie with lots of nudity. You need to get the teen boys in there somehow.
They try to give a science fiction sheen to the man drawn to the female vampire concept. Col. Tom Carlsen (Steve Railsback), referred to as ‘Carlsen’ to the point you are not sure if that is his first or last name, has a mysterious connection to Space Girl. He can see into her mind and she into his and he is uncontrollably drawn to her. It is eventually revealed that her appearance comes from deep within his subconscious as his view of the perfect woman with the unspoken reality being that she just looks like the perfect kind of woman for him to boink. That does not really explain the two dudes they find. Or maybe it does…
Lifeforce contains a mix of very good actors and very bad actors. The worst is probably Steve Railsback who plays a main character. It is as if he went to the Mark Ruffalo School of Dramatic Arts in Walla Walla, Washington. He delivers his lines with all the passion and intensity of reading the ingredients on a Wheaties box. He and May have about as much chemistry as you would find in any romance depicted in a Star Wars movie.
The mix of talent of good talent though is probably best exemplified by Sir Patrick Stewart. He wasn’t a big name when this movie was made and was at a point when schlock was most likely to be his bread and butter. Yet he delivers his lines probably as well as or better than Peter Cushing would have. Peter Cushing was one of those guys could could turn garbage into art and Patrick Stewart can do the same. That is a high compliment in my book.
Unfortunately his character is one of many relatively inconsequential individuals littered throughout the narrative. There are many side characters and supporting cast members and I think a good chunk of them could’ve been cut out in order to streamline the story quite a bit. If you’re going to have a final massive confrontation you need to build to it and a large number of characters does not help with it in a film.
For a horror movie Lifeforce lacks any real scares. There is plenty of cool but not much scary. Yet somehow this film has a charm to it. Maybe it is just the whole absurdity of the situation and that they just went with it. They embraced it for what it was and moved full force forward.
The 70s and 80s were much more experimental time in film. Based on a book or a completely original idea they would take something insane and put their best effort forward to make it good. They seemed to be a more willing to try unusual back then than they are now.
Despite its flaws Lifeforce manages to be an enjoyable film. It’s got some great special effects and a bizarre premise and becomes greater than one would think. This isn’t for everybody so I will give an if you want because you need to be a fan of odder films.
3 thoughts on “Lifeforce”
I love, love, love Lifeforce. If one imagines it as the 1980s space horror that Hammer Films would have made had they still been making films here in old blighty, then it totally works in a kitsch kind of way. Its stupid and silly and full of b-movie actors ludicrously overacting, or a-list actors bumming like amateurs. The only thing it lacks is Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee- with those two it would have been bloody perfect. As it is, its my greatest guilty pleasure.
And yeah, I was one of the few who watched this in the cinema wondering just what the hell I was watching; should I have been laughing or snorting in disgust? I didn’t have a clue. Films could indeed be crazy rides in the 1980s. Mind, there was also Slipstream and Howard the Duck…
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I thought I was the only person who heard of Slipstream.
Lee and Cushing would have made this absolute gold with maybe a touch of Terry-Thomas to highlight the general absurdity of it all.
But at least we got Stewart to “fill in” for Cushing.
Slipstream, I watched that at the cinema. It left me traumatised for years, couldn’t look at balloons afterwards without slipping into Lovecraftian terror. My God what a bad movie.