Monday, August 4, 2008

Lifeforce (1985)

Note: This review was originally posted on Bridge To Better Days. I am reposting it here for archival purposes. It has been backdated to the date of its original posting.

I just watched a movie called Lifeforce (1985) that I ordered recently. It's an action/sci-fi/horror kind of mix that can, really, best be described as Space Vampires. It's a fantastically outrageous film. I got tuned in (turned on?) to it because I heard that the head space vampiress spends the whole film completely naked. On the one hand, I think that claim is highly exaggerated, as she doesn't spend the /whole/ film naked, and there are large sections of the film where she doesn't show up at all, BUT, it is true that she does spend a considerable amount of time naked, and there are also some nice (and tasteful) sexy scenes.

The story starts out in space, as the crew of an apparently British space shuttle approach Halley's Comet and find a really large dormant spaceship riding its tail. Investigating, they find large, decayed batlike creatures, and three capsules with perfectly preserved (and naked) human specimens - two male, and one female. Taking them aboard, disaster naturally ensues, although you don't find out just what happens until much later in the film.

In the meantime, the shuttle is guided back to Earth without communication, and the only thing surviving on the ship is the three "alien" specimens. It doesn't take them long to wake up, break out, and start wreaking havoc. Turns out they're some kind of vampire race, and they feed on the lifeforce of the people they run into. Their victims become zombie-like creatures who then must also feed on other people's lifeforces or else dry up and become dust. London is quickly turned into a pretty standard zombie apocalypse town - even down to the quarantine and the threat of nuclear "cleansing".

In the meantime, a group of characters - some scientists and military-types - are working round the clock to figure out just what's going on and how to stop it. The captain of the space shuttle that originally found the space vampires eventually turns up when the escape pod reaches Earth, and his insight goes a long way toward fighting back against the vampires and their likely attempt to drain the lifeforce of the entire planet. The space captain is played by a familiar actor who I quickly remembered as the unforgettable abductee Duane Barry in a couple early episodes of The X-Files. And while we're talking about familiar actors, the head doctor at the asylum ("Isn't that an asylum of some sort?" "Yes - for the criminally insane.") was none other than Patrick Stewart, who I guess is well known to Star Trek fans, though I remember him as Professor X.

The above-mentioned space captain has a mental link to the head vampiress, which helps him track her down, and there's a really fascinating plot point that explains the vampiress' form as having been chosen out of the subconcious mind of the captain when he first boarded the alien ship - to represent his idea of perfect beauty, and thus explaining the otherworldly desire she holds over him and the trouble he has trying to resist and fight her. What would you do if the potential destructor of the planet showed up in the form of your perfect dream mate - not just on a physical level, but also on a spiritual and deeper level? Would you be able to resist? Furthermore, the vampiress hints that the space captain may have some ancient connection to the vampire race (in his blood perhaps?), but the details are left unstated. It is suggested, however, that these space vampires had been to Earth before, and were responsible for the original legend of vampires.

There's a lot of fascinating stuff going on here, and they manage to make a crazy idea like space vampires sound almost plausible. The effects are pretty nice, some of them downright creepy. The movie itself is just so epic, ranging from sci-fi space drama to zombie survival horror to a mystery-style vampire hunt... If this film is anything, it's ambitious. But it doesn't take itself too seriously, which is why I think it works.