JULY 3 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : LIFEFORCE
If you remember Cannon Films, you'll most likely remember this logo. It is the original company that released this film. I recall the original logo on the vhs tape that we rented at the video store I worked at, and it was this one. It was well polished and awesome to say the least. The Cannon films were great, and usually featured more graphic violence and terror themes than any other company out there. I even have a Cannon t-shirt...but enough of that.
Lifeforce combines two genres into one hell of a classic romp. Tobe Hooper directs this intense attempt at combining vampire movies with science fiction, and fails miserably to do justice to either side of the coin. This movie is plagued from the beginning, but has a lot of nudity to suffice the fact that there is not a lot of gore to satisfy diehard fans.
I mention gore solely on the premise that Hooper did The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (and part two as well). However, the nudity almost saves this film at times, and is one of the main reasons that I followed through the whole film. The film is based on a 1976 novel entitled; “The Space Vampires” by Colin Wilson.
The movie follows a group of astronauts exploring Haley’s Comet. As the team explores the comet they find a spaceship deep inside and upon entering they discover three beings in a state of suspended animation. The majority of the crew dies, but two guys survive and save these beings, and brings them to earth.
It turns out that these beings are “space vampires” and suck the water out of people, turning the victims into flesh eating zombies. They all answer to one queen bee, who answers to some synapse looking space ship right outside of earth’s orbit.
JULY 3 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : LIFEFORCE
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Written by Dan O'Bannon and Don Jakoby (based on the novel "The Space Vampires" by Colin Wilson)
1985, Region 1 (NTSC), 116 minutes, Rated R
DVD released on May 27th, 1998
Steve Railsback as Carlsen
Peter Firth as Caine
Frank Finlay as Fallada
Nicholas Ball as Derebridge
Mathilda May as Space Girl
Many horror fans believe director Tobe Hooper did nothing of note after his seminal The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and the Steven Spielberg-influenced Poltergeist. But the science-fiction/horror film Lifeforce may be the exception to that rule. The film is one part Alien-esque science fiction, one part supernatural thriller and one part Dawn of the Dead, with the story progressing from outer space to the heart of London.
The film begins with the space shuttle Churchill on a mission to explore Halley's Comet on one of its rare visits to the solar system. But the crew of the Churchill finds more than it bargained for when it finds a giant spacecraft hidden in the comet's corona. Col. Carlsen, the commander of the mission, leads a team into the spacecraft, where they find two types of creatures: large bat-like ones, and three perfectly preserved, seemingly human ones.
Once the humanoids make their way back to Earth, all hell breaks loose as they prove to be life force-draining "vampires" — and it is up to Carlsen and the British government to track them down across England, and then stop them before they can destroy London and claim its souls for their own purposes.
The acting is strong, with Steve Railsback (The Stunt Man) and Peter Firth (Chill Factor) effective as the tormented Col. Carlsen and the enigmatic SAS Col. Caine, respectively. Railsback is somewhat over the top, but that style plays well against Firth's understated performance. The two colonels are aided on their quest by a pair of eccentric scientists, the death aficionado Fallada (Frank Finlay, Cthulhu Mansion) and the weary Bukofsky (Michael Gothard, The Devils of Loudon) — who spends most of film suffering after a too-close encounter with one of the vampires — as well as Britain's Home Secretary (Aubrey Morris, A Clockwork Orange) and a few others.
(Trekkies, watch for "The Next Generation's" Capt. Picard, Patrick Stewart, in a small but memorable role.)
But what is undoubtedly the film's most memorable performance, and the one that probably has elevated this film to its minor cult status, is that of then-newcomer Mathilda May as the "Space Girl," the leader of the vampire creatures. What is it about the lovely May (The Jackal) that makes her performance stand out? The French actress spends most of her on-screen time naked. Stark naked. Fortunately, she is either comfortable with her body or able to hide any awkwardness well, and turns in a fine performance , beyond just being a pretty face (and more).
The film dates to 1985, and while the effects don't show the CGI polish of the current era, they are good, handling bat-aliens, drained corpses and vampire-zombies with equal aplomb. The low budget shows in places, but only to those paying close attention.
Overall, the script mixes the film's multiple genres well if a few plot holes can be overlooked, and Hooper's direction keeps the tension high. Throw in the actors' sturdy performances, and the result is a solid feature well worth a look if you enjoy your horror with a healthy dose of science fiction.