By Jessica Dwyer
(cross posted on Fangirl Magazine)
Released 31 years ago today, Lifeforce was a meshing of two genres that are like peanut butter and chocolate in that they go great together, horror & sci-fi. Directed by Tobe Hooper (yes, the gent who brought us Texas Chainsaw Massacre) Lifeforce was based off the novel “The Space Vampires” by Colin Wilson. The film has A LOT of differences from the book (which is still a great read and is highly recommended.)
Lifeforce is sort of what happens when you toss Alien, Dracula, and a zombie outbreak into a blender and then pour the contents over London. The film starts with the crew of a space shuttle investigating Haley’s Comet. Inside they find what remains of an extra-terrestrial group, all naked (there’s a lot of naked in this movie) and perfectly preserved as well as the remains of very bat like aliens.
As you would expect the crew bring the three remaining aliens onto their ship and that’s when things start to go bad. A rescue mission is sent to the ship and it’s discovered that the only things left not destroyed by fire are the aliens themselves, still in their protective shells. The only remaining survivor from the crew is Tom Carlsen who managed to use an escape pod and landed back on earth.
Things start to get really intense after that, with the aliens waking up and actually being energy vampires who feed on the “life force” of humans. That feeding then turns those humans into vampire/zombie monsters and so on. Carlsen it turns out is mankind’s only hope as he has a psychic connection with the beautiful and deadly female alien vampire he discovered. He has to figure out a way to stop them before they destroy the earth.
Lifeforce was a very ambitious project for Hooper and company. It was heavy with special effects and had an amazing look to it that was surreal, especially the comet interiors. This was due to effects master John Dykstra who worked on movies like Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind and Star Wars. The films pedigree was simply epic. The screenplay was co-written by Dan O’Bannon, the man behind Alien and the same year as Lifeforce, The Return of the Living Dead (O’Bannon was a master of meshing horror and sci-fi.) The films score was done by soundtrack legends Henry Mancini & Michael Kamen.
There are two cuts of the movie, an international version and the domestic US version that was chopped to bits. When the film was released it bombed making barely half its budget back at the box office. People didn’t seem to know what to make of it. Eventually when it came to home video the film got a bit more respect and love. The longer cut of the film would finally make it to homes in the mid 90’s and overseas in the early 2000’s. It would hit blu ray thanks to Scream Factory who would have both versions on their release in 2014.
I think you should give Lifeforce a second look or a first if you’ve never watched it. It’s a different sort of horror movie and star Steve Railsback who was known for playing Charles Manson in the 70’s flick “Helter Skelter” brings an interesting take to the part of a leading man. Mathilda May is stunning as the female alien who spends the film completely nude. On the blu ray she talks about how she was brought into the film (her first role) and the experience of such a shoot.
The film is a hybrid of genres directed by a one of the masters of horror at the top of his game. Hooper was just coming off of Poltergeist and would follow this film with another meshing of horror and science fiction, Invaders from Mars. It’s different but it’s an awesome sort of difference that I think works. If you are a fan of vampire movies there’s something here for you that you may never have seen before. If you are a fan of alien invasion there’s something here for you as well. Apocalyptic zombie/undead creatures attacking entire cities? We’ve got you covered.
Lifeforce is a fun interesting film and I think you should take another look at what Tobe Hooper created, a beautiful monster of genres mingling into a man eating horde.