It’s a wonderful feeling when you discover a horror film that you have somehow never seen and it’s even better when this entirely new movie is also amazingly entertaining and highly original and that film for me is Lifeforce.
Directed by Tobe Hooper in 1985, off the back of the massive commercial success of Poltergeist, Lifeforce is an adaptation of Colin Wilson’s 1976 novel The Space Vampires the obtuse and blatant title of which pretty much tells you what the movie is all about.
The Churchill is a space ship manned by American and British astronauts on a mission to examine Halley’s Comet as it passes by the earth. On close inspection the strange discovery is made of a massive alien craft inside the comet and a small team including Colonel Tom Carlsen (The Box’s Steve Railsback) decides to investigate.
Once on the alien spaceship they find giant but long dead bat-like creatures and three containers keeping the naked bodies of two men and one woman in suspended animation. Colonel Carlsen is intrigued and somehow compelled to bring the bodies back on board fascinated especially by the female encased and somehow still alive.
However during the voyage home something happens to the Churchill and the European Space Research Centre is forced to send a rescue mission to bring back the ship and its contents. They find that the crew is all dead but the three humanoid bodies are still perfectly intact and they are transported safely to London for examination.
It is only once they are on earth that the shocking truth behind what happened to the Churchill is revealed and the dark nature of these beguiling alien creatures is uncovered. Sadly by then it is all too late to stop Armageddon already befalling the whole of humanity.
From the opening shots in space accompanied by Henry Mancini’s soaring score performed by the London Symphony Orchestra it would seem Hooper was out to make his own 2001. However the cracking pace and blend of horror, action and drama places Lifeforce in a whole other category as a thoroughly entertaining Sci-Fi update on ancient vampire lore.
Offering up a great twist on the vampire legend Lifeforce’s script and story which where penned by Alien scribe Dan O’Bannon and Arachnophobia author Don Jakoby is excellent playing the story straight yet well aware of the more ridiculous elements and embracing them whole heartedly. The further in the film goes it is also easier to see its myriad of references to Stoker’s Dracula adding a whole other level to the proceedings.
Like all good vampire tales the primary elements are sex and death and Lifeforce has plenty of both with the irresistible space siren at the center of the story draining the life force of all who meet her and leaving a wake of wickedness behind her to follow.
The cast which is mainly British except Railsback features Spook’s Peter Firth as a special agent out to stop the alien invasion and Patrick Stewart as a doctor who becomes unwittingly involved.
Special mention goes to the enthralling and enchanting Mathilda May as the alien embodiment of the perfect woman which all men seem unable to resist and catalyst for the chaos whose erotic yet otherworldly aura infuses the whole movie.
There are some awesome set pieces pushed to extremes by the brilliant special effects by Academy Award winner John Dykstra who did a lot of the effects in Star Wars. The infected humans who waste away to agony filled animated cadavers are stunning especially for the period and the fact that the movie uses models over modern CG makes them all the more realistic and disturbing.
Add to this exploding blood filled bodies, giant bats, corpse covered churches and the London street turned into a scene from the apocalypse and you have a wonderful violent gore filled film in an amazing Arrow Blu-ray edition that is at times as hilarious as it is disturbing making Lifeforce a must see vampire movie and not only one of the most original interpretations but most definitely one of the most entertaining.
I love Lifeforce and I hope you will too.