Lifeforce-attachment0

Lifeforce

Movie Information

In Brief: A race of space vampires (who travel about in some kind of giant seedpod inside Halley's Comet) end up making their way across England, sucking the lifeforce out of their victims — apparently to power their seedpod. As looney as it sounds, and something of a mess, despite Tobe Hooper's best efforts and a cast that's better than the material, Lifeforce nonetheless provides its fair share of downright peculiar entertainment.
Score:

Genre: Sci-Fi Horror
Director: Tobe Hooper
Starring: Steve Railsback, Peter Firth, Patrick Stewart, Frank Finlay, Mathilda May, Michael Gothard
Rated: R

When Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce first hit theaters in 1985, some wag at the Village Voice (I think it was Michael Musto) termed it the year’s best film about intergalactic vampires. Well, it still is. In fact, I’d wager it’s the best movie ever made on the topic. Considered a travesty by fans of Colin Wilson’s novel Space Vampires on which it’s based, the film may be pretty silly — it’s certainly on the demented side — but it’s pretty darn entertaining. If you can accept the idea of some kind of organic seedpod spaceship cruising through space in Halley’s Comet, then you can probably buy the idea of naked vampires from said ship prowling the English countryside sucking the lifeforce out of any hapless human they encounter. From there, it ought to be a simple step to accept that their victims become vampire zombies — all in the service of collecting lifeforces and transferring them to the orbiting seedpod spaceship. The whole thing is really a kind of sexed-up (lead lady vampire Mathilda May spends the entire movie naked) rip-off of Quatermass and the Pit with extra gore and larger scale mayhem. The weirdest thing about it is that the film has the appearance of having been fairly expensively made and the cast is undeniably impressive — even though their combined performances make for a feast that wouldn’t be served at a kosher table. That may be part of the appeal — and really I’m not sure there was any other way to play this overheated nonsense. In any case, it fits the movie. I can’t honestly say it’s a good movie, but it’s certainly four stars worth of entertainment.

The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen Lifeforce Thursday, Oct. 11 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge of The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

12 thoughts on “Lifeforce

  1. Andrew

    I saw this when it came out, and I remember thinking, boy, this is just over-the-top awful. But over the years I’ve changed my mind – it’s strangely entertaining, as you say. By contrast, Hooper’s remake of Invaders from Mars, which I also saw soon after it came out, was pretty much instantly forgettable – I can’t remember a scene from it.

  2. Orbit DVD

    I saw this in the theaters when I was 16. Needless to say it was my favorite movie of the year.

  3. Dionysis

    I saw this when it first came out, and it probably took a full week to reel my tongue and eyeballs back into place as a result of the footage of Mathilda May.

    And the movie was pretty good too.

  4. Ken Hanke

    This movie seems to have more support than I would have expected. Let’s see how it draws tonight.

  5. DrSerizawa

    Yeah, crappy but unaccountably entertaining. How did it do?

  6. Ken Hanke

    Fair, but underwhelming turnout — maybe 30 — 28 of whom appeared to love it. It’s actually cheesier on a screen and with an audience. Some of the ideas are fascinating, much of the dialogue and acting is pretty appalling…in a good way.

  7. Orbit DVD

    Fair, but underwhelming turnout — maybe 30 — 28 of whom appeared to love it. It’s actually cheesier on a screen and with an audience. Some of the ideas are fascinating, much of the dialogue and acting is pretty appalling…in a good way.

    We live in one of the few towns where the debates are competition.

  8. Ken Hanke

    We live in one of the few towns where the debates are competition.

    I considered that as a possible factor in the attendance. And I similarly considered that perhaps they’d gone to the civic center to see the true meaning of horror. But in all honesty, I have never been able to determine who will show up for what or why they will or won’t.

  9. Big Al

    My first bite of “cheese” was the notion that Britain would ever be able to afford a space shuttle, especially one that could fly all the way out to Halley’s Comet.

    I actually felt that there was some sympathy towards the female vampire, perhaps a hesitancy to kill her, especially toward the end. Or maybe it was just me. I mean, a vampire has to eat too, right?

  10. Ken Hanke

    My first bite of “cheese” was the notion that Britain would ever be able to afford a space shuttle, especially one that could fly all the way out to Halley’s Comet.

    Well, it is apparently a joint US/UK venture.

    I actually felt that there was some sympathy towards the female vampire, perhaps a hesitancy to kill her, especially toward the end. Or maybe it was just me. I mean, a vampire has to eat too, right?

    I think any sympathy would come from the fact that the film’s most sympathetic character is Steve Railsback, who is linked to her not only because he’s supposedly somehow “one of them,” but because she’s cobbled into being from his feminine side. (Both of these things assume you buy into the movie’s storyline.)

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