directed by Tobe Hooper
(TriStar, 1985)

Mathilda May is a hottie. That's about all 1985's science fiction/horror dud Lifeforce has going for it.

The plot, loosely based on Colin Wilson's The Space Vampires, is a muddled, incomprehensible mess, with a setup borrowed heavily from Alien and married to your basic vampire/zombie shriek fest.

The film begins with a shuttle expedition to study Halley's Comet. The mission is derailed when the crew finds a 150-mile-long space needle trailing in the comet's wake -- populated by thousands of dead bat-like aliens and three perfectly formed human specimens.

Cut to Earth, where the shuttle arrives a month later with a dead crew, erased records, massive internal fire damage and those same three specimens. The shuttle's addled captain, Col. Tom Carlsen (Steve Railsback), arrives a few days later in the shuttle's escape pod.

The female space vampire (May) soon awakens and starts sucking the life force out of everyone she can touch. It proves devastatingly easy for her to beguile male victims, since she spends the majority of the time naked (see "hottie" note above). And each victim she drains turns into a shriveled zombie also seeking life forces, and soon London is overrun by the recently dead. (The male vampires also wake up, but they don't get much screen time, presumably because they lack May's most obvious attributes.)

Col. Colin Caine (Peter Firth) tries to stave the invasion with the help of Carlsen, Prof. Hans Fallads (Frank Finlay), Dr. Bukovsky (Michael Gothard), Sir Percy Hazeltine (Aubrey Morris) and Dr. Armstrong (Patrick Stewart), whose brief appearance doesn't warrant the prominent pre-Star Trek billing he received. Meanwhile, the souls of countless dead Londoners are funneling skyward from the city in a bright blue beam. How and why these souls are being collected by the needle-like alien spaceship, now in Earth's orbit, remains a mystery.

The plot has numerous holes and inconsistencies, while the acting ranges widely from maniacal to wooden without ever finding a happy medium. The special effects by John Dykstra are good without being exceptional, although the animatronic zombies are fairly convincing. All in all, Lifeforce should appeal only to SF and horror fanatics who adore B-level flops, plus anyone with a hankering to ogle Mathilda May nude. (Genre buffs no doubt are aware that a very similar storyline was used 10 years later in Species, starring Natasha Henstridge's breasts.)

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 28 December 2002

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