• Film reviews

    #599 – Lifeforce (1985)

    Lifeforce (1985)

    Film review #599

    Director: Tobe Hooper

    SYNOPSIS: A space shuttle investigating Halley’s Comet finds a ship hidden in it’s wake. Inside they find three humanoid bodies, and bring them back to Earth. Upon arrival, Mission control gets no response, and send another shuttle to investigate. Aboard, they find the shuttle has been destroyed by a fire, and all that is intact is one of the preserved human bodies found on the alien ship. brought back to earth for study, the body wakes up and proceeds to start sucking the life out of people she encounters, setting off a chain effect that turns her victims into “vampire” like creatures that feed off others. Colonel Caine of the SAS joins forces with the sole survivor of the shuttle, who escaped via escape pod, to find the alien and stop her before she turns the human race into soul-sucking vampires…

    THOUGHTS/ANSLYSIS: Lifeforce is a 1985 sci-fi film partly based on the novel The Space Vampires by Colin Wilson. A space shuttle investigating Halley’s comet finds a spaceship in its orbit, and aboard, they find three preserved humanoid bodies, which they decide back to Earth. When they are brought back by a second shuttle after the first one was mysteriously damaged and everyone aboard killed, the alien wakes up and starts sucking the life out of people, leading to a race against time to stop her before she infects everyone. Relying on a typical monster hunt with a sci-fi twist in the form of “space vampires,” the film wanders about through different locations and characters without too much direction other than stopping the monster. Everything is played quite low-key without theatrics (apart from a fair amount of female nudity), and the film revels in trying to create an eerie atmosphere more than anything else.

    The film just keeps adding in more weird elements as it goes on, never stopping to really tie things together: there’s a feeling that the filmmakers just wanted to keep going after they could have stopped, turning it into a passion project of sorts. The flimmakers were given a bunch of money without much oversight and sent to make a movie, resulting in a film that you only really get with certain element of creative freedom. I like to call it the Zardoz effect: when a film has little to no oversight and creative juices just run wild, creating a product which never settles neatly into being a “good” or “bad” film, and refuses categorisation due to a certain restless creative energy. Lifeforce, to be clear, is nowhere near the brazen, lucid, fever dream that Zardoz is, but there’s just enough weirdness to make you think twice about how to judge it.

    There’s not really much to the characters, although the performances are pretty good: the film relies more on atmosphere than stand out personalities. One part of the film which does leave an impression is the practical effects, with the scenes of people having their lifeforce sucked out and becoming deflated husks having that creepy horror vibe actually rather impressive, and a testament to the power of practical effects. Overall, Lifeforce takes the classic b-movie monster schtick and runs with it past its limits, and just revels in the thrill of making films. The result is difficult to judge in terms of good and bad: it’s just bizarre, although not enough to really make it stand out.