Lifeforce (1985)

Probably five or ten years ago, I watched Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce for the first time. I only remembered two things about it: 1) I didn’t like it and 2) space vampires. Q had two copies of the film, one on videocassette, which supposedly had the superior cut, and the other on DVD; the inferior cut that I must have seen previously. So, in a move to free some space on our shelves, I agreed to buy the blu-ray which had both cuts, knowing I was also agreeing to give the film another go. But all that crap is boring, can we just get to the naked vampires already?

Space is the place

Space is the place

Like any good science fiction horror flick, Lifeforce starts off on a spaceship. This particular ship, the Churchill, is out exploring Halley’s comet. When they get close to the comet, they discover a giant alien spaceship and do what no one should ever do, but what they always do in movies like this: explore it. Inside, they find some desiccated alien life forms resembling bats, and three ‘sleeping’ humanoid forms suspended in some kind of enclosure. What else to do but bring the specimens back to the spaceship? After all, this is a mission of discovery.



Well, the next thing you know, no one has heard anything from the Churchill for some alarming amount of time. A rescue shuttle shoots on into space to see what the hell’s going on, only to find a burned out ship and the three alien pods. Not knowing what the hell happened, they take the pods back to Earth, and that’s when shit gets totally fuckin’ naked and weird. And naked. Did I mention naked?

Steve Railsback gets a tough break.

Steve Railsback gets a tough break.

Rewatching Lifeforce a second time, it is amazing to me I didn’t remember that nearly a third of the film consists of a Mathilda May walking around completely naked sucking the life out of people. Okay, to be fair, some of that time she is lying down naked. The other thing I found perplexing was why my initial reaction was so negative; turns out the film is actually pretty good – and no, it wasn’t because of the different cuts, because we accidentally watched the longer cut and I didn’t find myself squirming in my seat or anything remotely along those lines. No, the film actually moved at a pretty decent clip, and it kept me interested.

It's never a good thing when desiccated corpses walk the earth.

It’s never a good thing when desiccated corpses walk the earth.

So, yes, there is more to Lifeforce than Mathilda May’s tits. Steve Railsback plays a perfect shell-shocked victim; frantic eyes, desperate pleas, the whole bit. Bonus getting to see a bespectacled pre-TNG Patrick Stewart play a role that doesn’t come close at all to resembling the in-control Captain Picard. But probably what impressed me most were the special effects. There’s a few Pink Floyd light-show moments, and those are cool, but the really great stuff is watching May suck the life out of her victims, and in consequence watching their desiccated corpses search for lifeforce amongst the living. Ok yeah and it’s pretty cool when they explode, too.


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