A European space mission to study Halley’s Comet discovers a mysterious ship filled with a trio of nude humans (two male, one very female) suspended unmoving in crystalline pods. Events transpire and the three Space Vampires wreak havoc in London sucking sparkling blue neon life force from every human they encounter turning them into hungry, life-sucking shambling hordes.
If the infected don’t feed within two hours they shrivel to horrific pruned ghouls and explode into showers of dust.
Our hero, played by Steve Railsback, plays as if an escaped lunatic – and he’s not even the maddest person around.
The maddest person around being a pre-Star Trek, screaming, possessed Patrick Stewart.
The male vampires are nude but are nothing compared to the outright exploitation of the female, played by French actress Mathilda May, who wanders nude sucking life force for almost half the film.
It’s all very unhinged and colourful and has some of the most effects heavy work seen outside of Star Wars in the 80’s.
If this sounds like your kind of deal, the may I introduce you to the mad wonder that is Tobe Hooper’s 1985 flick ‘Lifeforce’.
Beloved horror hero Tobe Hooper passed recently and many people mourned his passing with comments on his other greats, ‘Poltergeist’ and the amazing and influential ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ but Lifeforce has been uncommented on and forgotten and I’m here to help with this injustice.
Produced in the early years of Golam and Globus’s Cannon Films (more on that insanity can be seen in the excellent Australian made documentary ‘Electric Boogaloo: The wild, untold story of Cannon films’) when the two were throwing insane amounts of money at insane scripts.
Putting this into perspective, the budget for Lifeforce was around 25 million 80’s American dollars, just three years previous, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan came out costing a mere 11.2 million. The result being, having no real name actors in the cast, one of the most expensive and special effects heavy 80’s B movies ever put to screen. In the words of the director in the archive special feature that’s on the local BluRay, ‘There’s a big set piece roughly every sixty seconds’ – and he’s not wrong.
The’s a gigantic alien spaceship interior, Vampiric chaos taking over London in an apocalypse of explosions and the hydraulically controlled withered vampire puppets are the most animated and astonishing full-scale puppets this side of Frank Oz’s Audrey II. And if you liked the wispy glowing ecto-plasma in Poltergeist, then this has a metric shit-tonne more of that kind of thing.
It all kinda falls down of course. Ther are a few places where it gets all a bit janky, and if the rumours are true, Cannon started to run out and/or cut the budget somewhere near the end of filming. There’s a particularly bad shot of a remote controlled helicopter doubling for the real deal, and some of the story seems to have a few beats missing, but you know, it kind of still works, and it all kind of still works pretty damn well.
Now don’t get me wrong, this film flopped pretty hard at the box office, and this goes a fair way to explain how badly it’s been forgotten, but it’s got so much manic teetering genius, I really can’t help but love it.