Lifeforce (1985) Tobe Hooper

Production Budget: $25 million

Gross: $11 million

Lifeforce is about a space shuttle mission to Haley’s Comet in which the astronauts find a space craft hiding in the tail. In the ship they find the perfectly preserved bodies of one female and two males. On the way back to Earth, all of the crew member dies with the exception of Col. Tom Carlsen (Steve Railsback). The three bodies are actually a kind of intergalactic space vampire who sucks the life force out of people. The victims turn into zombies who also try to take people’s life force.

This feels like the most expensive B movie ever made. Everything about it screams “big budget sci fi thriller”; which the producers were really trying for. But when you actually describe what is in the movie, you wonder who this ever got past the initial pitch. It’s like Hooper was trying to make 10 different types of horror movies and smush them into one awesome package. Okay, at first we have this completely naked hot chick who sucks the lifeforce out of you (scifi vampire movie). But then let’s have zombies and a kind of plague theme (zombie/outbreak movie). But then this naked chick is really just a spirit who can take over people (shapeshifter/”Fallen” type/”The Thing” type scifi movie). But then the plague gets out of control and it turns into a kind of disaster movie. But we can’t forget the tits!

This kind of ‘throw it against the wall and see what sticks’ approach is what makes this movie bad but also awesomely bad at the same time. It’s like the Mad Libs of horror movies. Lifeforce wants to be an erotic horror movie and it is interesting to see how Species (being made ten years later) seemed to get it right. The set up is simple and only takes about ten minutes to explain to the audience. Lifeforce is so convoluted that even with a few minutes left, characters are still expelling exposition like diarrhea and I am repeatedly asking “Why?” to my television expecting some kind of reply. Now this could be because production was cut off (due to going past schedule) and there were big cuts to the running time, but I doubt it. This movie doesn’t make much sense and you really aren’t supposed to examine it that critically.

This movie is a guilty pleasure, if for the simple reason you are watching Mathilda May walk around naked for two thirds of it. When you are not looking at that, you are given your share of the funny and the bizarre. Let me put it to you like this. One of the most tension filled scenes is probably when the vampire entices Carlsen to kiss her while in Patrick Stewart’s body. Really, there is not much more I can say about that.

As I mentioned before the budget for this movie is impressive. A lot of work went into this movie. The effects for the zombies are great and the scope is large scale. And at times the plot about tracking the Space Girl is interesting enough on its own. However I will say this movie did start to drag for me after a little while. I think campy movies are best enjoyed at a brisk pace where all the crazy can be condensed in a tight package. At 2 hours, Lifeforce does tend to drag a little at certain points.

On the whole I enjoyed this movie. It is by no means supposed to be taken seriously. This is the very definition of ‘so bad it’s good’. While I would have liked for it to be a little shorter, there is more than enough to keep me entertained throughout.


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