It’s a unique time in the world of home video, as everything slowly but surely transitions into the world of high definition and there are a handful of studios that are shining up some forgotten gems and cult classics for us all to enjoy. Heading all the way back to 1985, Lifeforce is one of those rare films where two genres blend almost perfectly together.
A scientific mission to investigate Halley’s Comet discovers a phenomenon that’s even rarer; an alien spacecraft masked in the head of the comet. Following a deadly confrontation, the aliens arrive on Earth where their seductive leader (Mathilda May) begins a terrifying rampage to drain the life out of everyone she encounters. The more victims she creates, the more the cycle perpetuates itself as the planet itself is in mortal peril. The mission’s sole survivor (Steve Railsback) has an unusual psychic connection to the beautiful alien and knows that he must destroy her, even though she is the most compelling creature that he has ever met, but also the most horrifying creature that he has ever seen. He comes face-to-face with the object of his every desire knowing that he must destroy her, or succumb to her fatal charm.
Best known for his work on the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, director Tobe Hooper takes the novel of The Space Vampires and forms it into a near perfect blend of horror and science fiction that despite never really taking off with audiences in North America has grown into a beloved cult classic that is revered even to this day. While on paper this could have just been a cheesy affair, this material was treated with the utmost respect as everyone played it straight. Even having it set in the UK gave it an aura of class as it never leaned on a straight horror or science fiction storytelling tropes and blended between the two exceptionally well.
The visual effects by John Dykstra and the score by Henry Mancini add to the overall sense of quality to make for a sweeping visual tale, one that you’d never expect from a film about naked space vampires. Hooper embraces the serious and the fun aspects of the story and the screenplay by Dan O’Bannon and Don Jakoby, who have a huge resume crafting some of the more iconic science fiction and horror films of modern memory, allow the viewer to go vicariously on this thrill ride that satisfies devotees of two of the more discussed and picked over genres in cinematic history. However, films like this can also go down the tubes pretty quickly if the ensemble cast doesn’t buy into the narrative, and thankfully everyone in this film sold it for all that it was worth.
Railsback, who is best known from The Stunt Man and some of the more memorable episodes of The X-Files in the 1990′s, is at his best here as Col. Tom Carlsen; the leader of the ill-fated space mission. His heroic yet battered down leader who gets sucked into the web of seductiveness is a fun ride as he battles with his demons of the task at hand while being conflicted by it every step of the way. Peter Firth manages a great action hero swagger as Col. Colin Caine of the SAS; a man that is charged with solving the unsolvable. Mathilda May as our “Space Girl Vampire” will be forever remembered by sci-fi/horror loving men (and probably a few women) as the raison d’être that not only spurred a love of genre films in a lot of us, but probably some other emotions that best aren’t mentioned here. The great Frank Finley, Aubrey Morris and Patrick Stewart round out a marvelous ensemble cast that push this sci-fi/horror tale along beautifully.
Lifeforce never quite gets the attention it deserves when looking back on the history of both of these genres, but outside of the original Alien film by Ridley Scott (that Dan O’Bannon also co-wrote) this might be the best blend of sci-fi and horror that has ever been put to screen. If you’re a fan of either genre and haven’t caught up with this film yet, what are you waiting for?
The sound and picture quality on the Blu-ray are exceptionally clean. The set includes the original theatrical cut as well as the longer Director’s Cut that has an additional 15 minutes of footage. Special features include a feature length audio commentary track with director Tobe Hooper, a series of retrospective featurettes with star Steve Railsback, director Tobe Hooper and star Mathilda May. There’s also a vintage making-of featurette, theatrical trailers, TV spots and a stills gallery.
Cast: Steve Railsback, Mathilda May
Directed by: Tobe Hooper