When people hear the name Tobe Hooper they associate it with horror classics like “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” or “Poltergeist.” Though he’s left an impact on the genre, nothing can quite compare to the sci-fi, horror masterpiece that is “Lifeforce.”
A NASA research team stumbles upon a mysterious craft in the tail of Haley’s Comet. Their investigations lead them to discover the remains of mysterious, bat-like creatures and three pods containing humans in each of them.
To give away what happens next would spoil the fun that lies within. Based on the Colin Wilson novel “The Space Vampires,” “Lifeforce” is a movie that overlaps into many genres, including sci-fi, horror, mystery and erotica. The result is a film like no other.
“Lifeforce” is like Dracula but with a sci-fi twist. The humanoids are vampires, but instead of wanting blood, they’re out to claim the life force of anyone who comes into contact with them. Those who are sucked dry become mummified corpses who can then feed off others to prolong their lifespan by two hours, or else they turn to dust.
Of the three space vampires, the one who stands out the most is the Space Girl, played by Mathilda May. She uses her beauty to prey on and manipulate her victims, most notably the head astronaut, played by Steve Railsback.
Much of the middle act is spent with the British government agents who are on the hunt for the Space Girl. It plays out like a mystery, and an enthralling one at that, before the third act hits the viewer upside the face as chaos unfolds in London thanks to the vampires’ actions.
Made during a time when filmmakers put time and effort into effects, “Lifeforce” is a technical marvel. For such a B-movie concept, it has A-plus production value, not to mention an epic soundtrack by Henry Mancini.
“Lifeforce” is the type of movie that could only be made in the ‘80s. It has a ludicrous premise, but in the hands of writer Dan O’Bannon and director Tobe Hooper, it becomes an enthralling picture, one that is equal parts scary but adventurous.
“Lifeforce” was the first of three movies Tobe Hooper made for Cannon Films, a studio known most for schlocky endeavors like “American Ninja” and “Breakin.” This was their attempt to go mainstream but unfortunately, the movie was heavily edited for release in the United States and flopped at the box office when it premiered in 1985.
Through the power of home video and the internet, “Lifeforce” has found a new life. With a special edition that contains both the theatrical and director’s cuts, now is the time to give this misunderstood masterpiece a second chance.