Lifeforce (1986)

The Premise

Space Vampires. That’s all you really need to know isn’t it? You’re either in or you’re out. What you want another taste? Well, how about…NAKED SPACE VAMPIRES! Got your attention now!


Why yes, I AM naked…I’m still going to kill you!

Listen, the less said about the schlocky, audacity of Lifeforce the better. If I didn’t have your attention at naked space vampires then you and I will probably never be friends. Are you judging the shit out of me because I use Lifeforce as some sort of friendship litmus test? I am who am…bring on the crystalline coffins and space boobies!

The Appeal

Man, where to begin? Lifeforce is one of the most wildly executed major motion pictures of the 1980s. It was filmed by the late great Tobe Hooper, who was fresh off of teaming up with Spielberg to create the horror classic, Poltergeist. Lifeforce is actually based on a novel named Space Vampires and the screenplay was helmed by another late great horror legend, Dan O’Bannon. So you’ve got the dude that created Texas Chainsaw Massacre teaming up with the guy who wrote Alien and Return of the Living Dead. Stick that combination at Cannon Films, toss an eight-ball of cocaine at everyone involved and the final results are nothing short of magical. Just look at the wonderful stuff you’ll come across in Lifeforce: vampires, zombie-like creature, Halley’s Comet, scientist ramblings, technobable, astronauts, mind reading, and even the apocolpyse.



If you couldn’t tell, the main appeal of Lifeforce is its sheer lunacy backed up by the giant brass balls of it’s genre bending ideas. A female space vampire, who is naked as the day she was born, runs amok in modern day London. She doesn’t suck blood though. Instead, she drains victims of their titular “Lifeforce”. Which then turns these poor bastards into desiccated, mummified husks. That’s not all, these victims come back to life precisely two hours later. You better believe that they too begin to crave lifeforce. The disease phobia riddled plot results in an a highly unusual, vampire film, with sci-fi trappings and some of the most wonderfully creative special effects born out the 1980s. Frankly, it’s just a shitload of fun.

The absolute best thing about Lifeforce is that Tobe Hooper didn’t make a sci-fi picture. That’s too straightforward, so why the fuck would he EVER do that? Instead, he went ahead and shot what is essentially a long lost, modern day Hammer Film. Don’t believe me? Well, the whole thing only makes any sort of sense when you put it in the context of a Dracula film. The main Space Girl is for all intensive purposes, Dracula. There is an elder scientist who plays the part Van Helsing, everyone is British except for one American dude, they visit an insane asylum…it’s all there. The beginning of the film even plays out like the sci-fi rendition of visiting a Transylvania castle that has fallen into decrepitude. My favorite parallel is that the person who you believe to be the hero of the film, Tom Carlsen, turns out to be Lifeforce’s version of Renfeld! Brilliant!


Yup…the creature effects are on point!

Final Thoughts

Words simply don’t do justice to a film of Lifeforce’s caliber. It’s the sort of, swing for the fences, train-wreck that one must see to believe. The movie completely bombed upon it’s release in the 80s, but time has been more than kind to this HIGHLY misunderstood genre flick. Don’t go in thinking you’re about to watch a science fiction film. Instead, attune your mind to Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Go in thinking Lifeforce is like William Shakespeare’s “Dracula 6000” presented in COCAINE-O-SCOPE.

If you’re the type of person that needs clear coherent plots, or things cleanly spelled out for them, then you better steer clear of Lifeforce’s warpath. I would only seriously recommend it to film connoisseurs who revels in a particular blend of cinematic delirium. You need to be OK with a buck naked vampire chick slowly stalking the streets of London. You need to be OK with the main “hero” locking lips with Sir Patrick Stewart. You need to be OK with the unflappable English moxie in regards to how everyone deals with the vampiric plague. Most importantly, you need to be OK with illogical artistic decisions that would make Mr. Spock’s head fucking explode.


The marketing was, um…not subtle.

None of this makes it a bad film. It’s so grand in scope, and the breadth of ideas on display makes it hard not to be impressed. I’d argue it’s Tobe Hooper’s second best film behind The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Lifeforce is a grandiose, opus of pure entertainment that rewards repeat viewings. In today’s boring cinema-scape the film stands out like the testament of a madman’s misunderstood masterpiece. We simply don’t see films like this being made any longer. If you can get past all the bumpy flaws, then you’re in for the cinematic equivalent of Pop Rocks. It’s just a bubbling, noisy, and fizzy burst of Sci-Fi horror goodness. Open up and say “Ah”, a naked Space Vampire wants to give you a kiss!

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