This is one of the highlight of British cinema from the mid 80’s. A time when cinema going was in decline. They actually launched national cinema year to reignite the flame. Films like The Emerald Forest, Room with a View and Wish You Were Here were in everyone’s hearts, as they were mine, but I had a darker preference. Lifeforce was a contribution towards the saving grace of not only British cinema, but the horror/scifi genre. It breaks so many boundaries, collecting influences and quality talent, dropping them in a huge cauldron and producing a film like no other.
Script by Dan O’Bannon, Directed by Tobe Hooper, Mancini score, Alan Hume DP. And then the cast are astonishing. Peter Firth, Pat Stewart, Michael Gothard, Frank Finlay and Aubry Morris. Stunning epitome of Englishness, depicted in four of the greats who support and nurture the two leading actors, Steve Railsback and the naked Mathilda May as the space girl.
The story is intriguing and original. A space crew attempt to fly through he tail of a visiting comet to collect space data, but find another craft pulled along with the debris. On investigation, they discover 3 naked humanoid figures in a state of space sleep. Back on earth, its soon realised that these creatures suck the lifeforce out of all in their path to gain energy for their spacecraft, leaving those drained in a zombie type situation, craving humans to drain for themselves. It all get out of hand and before we know it, the aliens have soaked up into the heart of London and the city is a mass of zombies and chaos. The only survivor of the space mission, Tom Carlsen (Railsback) is infatuated with his naked alien space girl (May) who it is later explained the ultimate example of womankind from the mind of Carlsen. Joining forces with the military, Carlsen and Colonel Colin Caine (Firth) track Space Girl before her effect destroys the whole of mankind, or England’s citizens anyway.
Its great to see a good, solid, well made film which makes England look great. There are scenes out in the countryside which are beautifully shot, credit to Hume, who’s past credits are surprisingly, mainly ‘Carry on’ movies and a few ‘Bond’ films, but here, he is allowed the space to explore years of experience; the film looks a treat, especially in all it’s glory, an extreme widescreen edition. The scenes of London burning are brilliant, whilst Caine runs the back streets of Covent Garden, zombies running in packs chasing the courageous Colonel. Never before or since have we seen such a dramatic subject in our capital city.
The effects are good here too, although this was back in 85 so you really need to forgive some and appreciate that this is all hand made makeup and prosthetics. No CGI stuff here. The first victims of Spacegirl are great effects, zombie humanoids, who crave the lifeforce and make a truly spooky sound as they cry out. There isn’t much in the way of gore as the zombies suck out the force though a kiss, causing the victims to shrivel into mummy type state. But it’s the sheer size of this film which is its strength. It’s a big movie, with huge stet pieces, loads of locations, helicopters, spaceships and a massive cast of extras. But the key characters make the film that little bit special. The moments in the mental hospital, Stewart, Firth, Morris and Railsback framed on the screen together with brilliant dialogue is just magical.
Tobe Hooper is a horror legend. With a career now in it’s 5th decade, I’d argue that this is his definitive moment in celluloid. Chainsaw is stunningly good, Poltergiest equally as impressive, although Spielberg’s dominant presence steals any traits that Hopper could have expressed. Lifeforce is a much bigger masterpiece than both of these films.