Director – Tobe Hooper
Cast – Steve Railsback, Peter Firth, Frank Finlay, Mathilda May, Patrick Stewart, Michael Gothard, Nicholas Ball, Aubrey Morris, Nancy Paul, John Hallam
Release Year – 1985
Reviewed by John of the Dead
My love for sci-fi/horror lead me to this one, and seeing Toby Hooper(The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Funhouse, Poltergeist) as the credited director only had me licking my lips in anticipation when I hit the “Play” button. His first film after the wildly successful Poltergeist, Lifeforce gives us a creative effort at sci-fi/horror that mixes numerous sub-genres (some before their time), and along with Hooper’s fantastic direction this high-class effort makes for a good horror experience in the end.
A co-effort between US and British forces to investigate a rare fly-by of Haley’s Comet results in catastrophe when the spaceship sent to the comet returns with seemingly-harmless yet deadly cargo. An force of alien vampires have landed in London, and soon after awakening their quest to destroy our world turns the historic city into a mass of maniacal zombies.
I had high hopes going into this one, mainly because I wanted to see how Hooper would deliver a sci-fi/horror effort, and he did so with pleasing results. Based on the novel “The Space Vampires’ by Colin Wilson, the story is a great one that I contained many unique elements that I did not see coming, which came partly because the film’s near two hour runtime allowed for it.
The first half of the film is incredible, with an awesome first act that focuses on the spaceship docking with a mysterious intelligently-designed base onboard Haley’s Comet. After a bit of exploration things become fuzzy, and the development process continues its awesomeness with the landing of the spaceship and its deadly contents. I loved the usage of the alien force, which came in “human” form in order to manipulate those it came across with, and soon unleashed its carnage that left all those it came across in a mummified state, and later a zombie state for those able to derive “energy” from their victims. This concept is something that I had never seen before, and I applaud writers Dan O’Bannon(Writer: Alien, Dead and Buried; Writer/Director: The Return of the Living Dead) and Don Jakoby for doing a fine film adaptation of Colin Wilson’s novel. The developments are constant throughout the film, and the story takes us to numerous locations and slowly buildings in terror as the alien invasion continues to succeed in reaching full effect. These are the story-related reasons that this 116 minute film never once became dull, and instead gave me one of the more unique sci-fi/horror films that I have ever seen.
Tobe Hooper gives us possibly his most stylized direction to date, with lots of unique sets, good special FX, and of course his always great execution of the horror involved. From the get-go had head me sold visually thanks to fantastic camerawork and the once again great FX the film delivers, and once the horror kicks in it kicks in with great results. We get a full-frontal horror experience starting with the first encounter between the alien and a naïve guard who finds himself mummified, which then furthers the horror when we learn the mummies aren’t actually…”dead”, and I fell head-over-heels(or…Converse “Chucks”) when the plague of zombies made their way to the screen. Every element imaginable was executed to near-perfection, showing that Tobe Hooper was dead-on fantastic as a horror director during his first two decades of work.
Overall, Lifeforce is a great sci-fi/horror effort that gives us a unique take on alien invasion that comes with numerous twists and turns and a constant increase in the level of horror. Tobe Hooper’s direction is fantastic, and while he did not need the heavy stylized feel to sell this film to us it sure makes for nice eye candy, as does his awesome execution of the great horror we are given.