Is there a more apt movie that exists that sums up the questionable business practices of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus’ legendary cult factory, Canon Films more that Tobe Hooper’s utterly delirious sci-fi dumpster fire, Lifeforce?
If you thought that the production values of Invaders From Mars and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 – Hooper’s two other movies he made under the Canon banner – were stunningly high for a couple of campy cult films, well, you ain’t seen nothing yet!
Based on Colin Wilson’s 1976 book The Space Vampires and feeling a lot like an overblown 80’s version of Hammer’s Quatermass movies, Lifeforce is a gloriously ridiculous sci-fi horror that throws every cent of its budget up there on the screen as it drunkenly weaves it’s way to absolute lunatic nirvana.
The crew of a joint American and British venture into space manages to stumble across a massive alien space craft hidden in the butt end of Hayley’s Comet and can’t wait to bundle their way inside to see what lurks there. What they find is somewhat of a mixed bag as on one hand the ship is full of giant dead space bats, however, but on the other the crew find three extraordinary nude humanoid beings in suspended animation and have no qualms about bringing them on board.
Surprise, surprise – soon earth loses contact with the crew and a rescue attempt reveals that the only beings left alive on board are the three mysterious space nudist. The female of the trio awakens to reveal herself as a creature that drains others of their lifeforce to survive and the decimated husks she leaves in her wake soon reanimate as energy vampires themselves, but not before she manages to walk right out of an English high security scientific compound presumably because none of the dumbass guards have seen a pair of boobs that good in years.
Meanwhile, the captain of the lost space mission, Colonel Tom Carlsen turns up alive after his escape pod lands in Texas claiming to have no memory of what happened after they brought naked aliens aboard their ship but he joins a group formed to stop things before they get out of hand.
However, despite teaming with rollneck clad SAS man Colonel Caine and snow haired know-it-all Dr. Fallada, it seems they’re already too late as the vampires not only start spreading their condition throughout London and the surround area, but are also able to evade capture thanks the random ability to shape shift. As disaster becomes inevitable, its revealed that Carlsen shares a mental link with the female energy vampire (lucky him) and uses this to not only try and track her down – but also try to force feed us a ton of exposition in order to try and make sense as to what the hell is actually going on. Can London be saved from this plague before the lifeforce of an entire city is transferred to the vampire’s returning craft?
An absolute misbegotten titan of forgotten 80’s cult shite, Lifeforce is quite possibly one of the most deranged sci-fi movies you’ve never heard of and reliably starts with its crazy-dial notches to 11 and then somehow turns it up from there.
Co-written by legendary Alien and Return Of The Living Dead nutter Dan O’Bannon and directed by a version of Tobe Hooper that seemed to have nothing but sugary energy drinks flowing through his overtaxed veins, Lifeforce seems to be intended as a petulant stand against anything even remote resembling restraint and stands as a monument to anyone who watches it about how important it can be to keep an eye on what your money is actually being spent on.
The insanely goofy plot (fucking Space Vampires guys, come on!) is somehoe told with a heroically straight face, even when characters say shit like “I’ve almost have the feeling I’ve been here before!” as they traverse down a tunnel that looks suspiciously like a fallopian tube.
Everything in this movie seems to be high on cocaine and may be the most uncontrollably horny sci-fi horror ever made – yes, even more horny than Species; not only does our primary villainess (named “Space Girl” in the credits) spend virtually 90% of the movie in the buff, but our “hero” is so messed up by his psychic connection to her he tries to make out with a character played by Patrick Stewart who at one point is possesed by her.
The film also chooses to fling random alarming shit at you at regular intervals like a hyperventilating juggler that frequently make no sense whatsoever – like the moment where two bodies on a helicopter suddenly vomit up all their blood which congeals into the form of Space Girl who then screams and then splashes all over the floor with absolutely no explanation offered at all.
However, despite all the insanity on offer, you can’t deny that Lifeforce looks fucking amazing for it’s time with some truly nifty 80’s effects – but then when the budget of your weird space vampire movie is somehow the same as you’re average Bond movie, it had fucking better. The third act goes literally for broke with life-sapped zombies over running London framed by pink, Ghostbuster-style waves of energy licking the night sky while buildings and buses blow up spectacularly.
The actors either rise to the occasion or simply hang on for dear life and lead Steve Railsback leads the charge with some stupendous overacting as he violently tries to shake the vampire’s influence that’s causing him to simp the world to a cosmic death and we also get the treat of watching a possessed Patrick Stewart have a spectacular meltdown while A Clockwork Orange’s Aubrey Morris recoils in the background.
A memorably silly slice of sci-fi hokum, the most impressive thing about Lifeforce is how the hell it managed to secure enough money to not only get all this all of this kickass nonsense on the screen, but to simultaneously fund the obvious drug habits that managed to create this thing in the first place. It ain’t a classic, not by a long shot, but when it comes to genuinely bizarre cult movies that exist in defiance of any form of common sense whatsoever, Tobe Hooper’s manic opus is as tough to forget as the sight of a nude perfectly formed, space vampire chick striding down a corridor leaving mummified corpses in her wake.