Lifeforce (1985)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Space vampires destroy London.

Col. Tom Carlsen (Steve Railsback) is the head of the space shuttle Churchill who along with a team of astronauts investigate a strange form that is attached to Halley’s Comet. There they find some humanoids in caskets and bring them back to the shuttle where the humanoids then destroy the entire crew with only Carlsen surviving. When a rescue mission arrives they bring the humanoids back to earth only to discover that the beautiful Space Girl (Mathilda May) is a vampire bent on destroying the entire city of London by inhabiting other people’s bodies. Carlsen then joins forces with Col. Colin Caine (Peter Firth) to stop this dangerous breed of vampires before it is too late.

The saying ‘too much of a good thing’ has never been truer than with this film. The screenplay, which was co-written by Dan O’Bannon and based on the Colin Wilson novel, takes on too much. Had this been a miniseries or an ongoing television ssow like ‘Lost’ it might have worked, but the dizzying pace and myriad of twists here become mind numbing. The elaborate story does not equal the characters that are generic and dialogue that is dull. The scenes in-between the action are boring. The film lacks atmosphere or a linear production design. A little bit of a set-up would have helped as well.

The special effects are okay, but some of the backgrounds particularly the ones seen when the team investigates where the vampires reside look like drawings with the actors matted over it. The sight of the dead, shriveled bodies are not scary because they reminded me too much of the host of the old TV-series ‘Tales from the Crypt’.

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May certainly looks great naked and I admired her courage to do a nude scene while in a room full of clothed men. However, we don’t see enough of her. There are long segments where she is not seen as she inhabits other people’s bodies, which takes away from the film’s erotic potential. The side-story involving her romance with Carlsen is cheesy and dumb.

Railsback proves once again why he is good in a psycho role, but not as a protagonist. The dark circles under his eyes and his intense Texas drawl make him seem creepy even when he doesn’t want to be. I also thought it was a strange coincidence that the date this story begins is August 9th, which is the same date that Sharon Tate and her friends were murdered by Charles Manon’s cult who Railsback famously played in the TV-Movie ‘Helter Skelter’.

Firth proves okay and I liked this jaded, hardened police detective played by someone with a very boyish face. It is also great to see Patrick Stewart in a small role as the head of a sanitarium.

The film gets more ludicrous as it goes on and is unwisely played with a straight-face where adding some humor would have made it more engaging and tolerable. Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz fame should remake this and I’m convinced would do it a lot better.

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My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: June 21, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 56Minutes

Rated R

Director: Tobe Hooper

Studio: TriStar Pictures, The Cannon Group

Available: DVD, Blu-ray

6 responses to “Lifeforce (1985)

  1. Well, it’s your site, but a great-looking, naked lady space vampire HAS to be worth at least TWO out of ten, for the camp value alone 😉

    And it’s hardly fair to suggest that the dessicated body puppets remind you of the crypt keeper. This film preceded that TV series by four years. It’s the other way round.

    • I realize a great-looking naked lady space vampire should have given it two stars, but it didn’t seem as erotic or over-the-top as it should have been and that surprised even me.

      I realize the crypt keeper came later, but the point is those intended horror effects have now diminished. Again, I just say it the way I see it and that is the first thing fair or unfair that came to mind as watched those scenes.

      Either way I thank you for your comments!

  2. Yep, too much too fast.

  3. Pingback: Blue Monkey (1987) | Scopophilia

  4. Watched it last year and found it interesting despite being a mess. May did look incredible naked. I think you are right that a stunning woman walking around like that nude shoul be more erotic. Still she makes quite the impression in all her glory even if the film isn’t as good as it should have been.

    • Mathilda May is a beautifully brave actress for taking on such a role. Somehow I remember her more fondly for her role in The Jackal. Lifeforce changed quite a lot as far as cinematic vampirism was concerned. It takes rare films like Let Me In and The Moth Diaries to take us back to some considerably less complicated vampire stories.

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