Lifeforce

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

A joint US-UK crew on board the space shuttle Churchill is on a mission to investigate Halley’s Comet under the command of US Air Force Colonel Thomas Wolfe Carlsen (Railsback). They find a 150-mile long alien spaceship hidden in the comet’s corona, seemingly derelict. Upon entering the spacecraft, the crew finds hundreds of dead, shriveled bat-like creatures and three naked humanoid bodies (two male and one female) in suspended animation within glass containers. The crew recovers the three aliens and begins the return trip to Earth.

During the return journey, Mission Control loses contact with the shuttle and a rescue mission is launched to investigate. The rescuers discover that the Churchill has been severely damaged by fire, with its internal components (including video) destroyed, and the three containers bearing the aliens are all that remain intact. The aliens are taken to the European Space Research Centre in London where they are watched over by Dr. Leonard Bukovsky (Gothard) and Dr. Hans Fallada (Finlay). Prior to an autopsy, the female alien (May), referred to throughout the film as the Space Girl, awakens and fully drains the “life force” out of a guard, as well as some extra energy from the intervening Bukovsky. The Space Girl (nude throughout most of her appearance in the film) then escapes the research facility and proceeds to drain various other humans of their life force, revealing in the interim an ability to shape-shift.

It transpires that the aliens are in fact part of a race of space vampires that consume the life force of living beings, rather than their blood. To make matters worse, their victims, which are in a mummified state when completely drained, are temporarily revived as zombies that are also capable of draining others of their life forces as well, each victim needing a regular infusion of life energy every two hours lest they disintegrate (some which explode into ashes).

Meanwhile, in Texas, an escape pod from the Churchill is found, with Carlsen inside. Carlsen is flown to London where he describes the course of events, culminating in the draining of the crew’s life force. Carlsen explains that he set fire to the shuttle with the intention of saving Earth from the same fate and escaped in the pod. However, when he is hypnotized, it becomes clear that Carlsen possesses a psychic link to the Space Girl. Carlsen and SAS Col. Colin Caine (Firth) trace the alien to a psychiatric hospital in Yorkshire. While in Yorkshire, the two believe they have managed to trap the alien within the heavily sedated body of the hospital’s manager, Dr Armstrong (Stewart); but Carlsen and Caine later learn that they were deceived, as the aliens had wanted to draw the pair out of London.

As Carlsen and Caine are transporting Dr Armstrong in a helicopter back to London, the Space Girl breaks free from her sedated host and disappears. When they reach London a “plague” has overtaken the city and martial law has been declared by NATO forces surrounding the city, with thermonuclear device being approved for use should the “plague” spread beyond the city boundaries. The two male vampires, previously thought destroyed, have escaped from confinement by shape-shifting into the soldiers guarding them; the pair then transform most of London’s population into zombies. After their life force has been drained by the male vampires, the victims seek out other humans in order to absorb their life force, perpetuating the cycle. The absorbed life forces are channeled by the male vampires, traveling throughout the city in the form of energy bolts, to the female vampire, who transmits the accumulated energy to their spaceship in Earth’s orbit.

Fallada impales one of the male vampires with an ancient sword of “leaded iron”, which has to be driven through the energy center of each of the space vampires, located two inches below the heart. He then later contacts Caine and Carlsen that these space vampires are actually possibly the origin of the vampires of Earth mythology, which Carlsen confirms because he learned from his psychic link that they visited Earth before, they have been involved in the destruction of other inhabited worlds, and that it was possible that they were thriving on each other’s energies as a last resort until the Churchill discovered their ship. Carlsen also confesses to Caine that, while on the shuttle, he felt compelled to open the female vampire’s container and to share his life force with her. She is later found inside St Paul’s Cathedral, lying upon the altar, transferring the energy to her spaceship. She reveals, much to Carlsen’s shock upon his arrival there to try and stop her, that they are a part of each other due to the sharing of their life forces, thus their psychic bond.

Caine follows Carlsen into the cathedral and is intercepted by the second male vampire, whom he dispatches using the leaded iron sword that he has obtained from Fallada, who has unfortunately been converted along with Bukovsky and the rest of the Centre’s team into zombies. Upon entering the church, Caine manages to deliver the sword to Carlsen while he is under the Space Girl’s influence. Carlsen impales himself and the female alien simultaneously. The female vampire is only wounded and returns to her ship with Carlsen in tow, releasing a burst of energy that blows open the cupola dome of St. Paul’s. The two ascend the column of energy to the spaceship and rejoin the revived vampire race, and the ship then returns to its hiding place within the comet, leaving behind a wrecked London.

REVIEW:

I have to thank the guys over at Oneofus.net for recommending Lifeforce to me, otherwise I might not have even known it existed. Sci-fi in the 80s was mostly about space, aliens, etc. Very similar to the genres beginnings in the 50s, as a matter of fact, just with better special effects.

What is this about?

American and British astronauts on a joint mission exploring an alien spacecraft discover that the vessel contains several seemingly human bodies. But after they’re brought back to Earth, they come alive and start turning Londoners into zombies.

What did I like?

Connection. The crew finds what turn out to be energy vampires in the tail of Halley’s Comet. As you can just about imagine, once on Earth, the vampires go about making their own vampire zombie slaves. What I liked was how the writers connected the space vampires to the likes of Dracula, by saying it was possible that they were directly descended. Forgive me for not remembering the exact line.

Development. Something that has been plaguing our films these days is that they seem to spend too much time in one place or another. Take Green Lantern, for instance. Aside from the fact that I may be the only person to actually like it, think about how much time was spent on Earth, as opposed to in space. The Green Lantern Corps are basically space cops, so why was so much time spent on Earth? This wasn’t always a problem, though, as this film proves. They are in space long enough to develop the plot and then come crashing down to earth, where the outbreak begins. A harmonious balance between both. It can be done!

May. It didn’t matter what a film was rated in the 80s, there was going to be a gratuitous nude scene in there somewhere. Forget the scene, Mathilda May, the film’s female lead, is naked throughout the entire picture. The only time she is covered up is in one scene where she is wearing this cloak of some sort. Today if a woman is naked throughout the entire film, they call it porn, even if it is done artistically, like we have here.

What didn’t I like?

Bodies. After the humans are turned into these vampires, they resemble unwrapped mummies. I actually could care less about the look, but when they come to life, it is an obviously dated technique that they use. Normally, I would be all for it, but given the high quality of the special effects being used to create the lifeforce near the end, I have to mention the inconsistency there.

Billing. Patrick Stewart, in more recent releases, has gotten pretty heavy billing. Considering he’s the biggest and only mainstream recognizable name, I can imagine why. That being said, he has such a minor role, you have to wonder why they even bother giving him credit at all. Studios seem to do this, though. There was something I watched the other day and had some huge star, Robert Downey, Jr., I believe, but he had one line, but they had him billed like he was the star! I feel that this does more harm than good to the film because some people watch the film for that person and are highly disappointed when they don’t get as big a dose as they would have liked.

Death. So, these vampires can be killed by impaling them through their lifeforce, which is located underneath where the heart is. Maybe I’m asking for change for change sake, but couldn’t they have come up with something different? These are space vampire after all!

Expectations were not necessarily high for Lifeforce. All that I expected was some cheesy 80s sci-fi and a naked chick in a couple of scenes, because that it what most people seem to remember about this flick. That being said, I was actually more entertained than one would expect to be. Sure, this film has its flaws, but it is nostalgic fun, if nothing else. Do I recommend it? I can’t do that to everyone. This is the kind of film that has a certain audience, and if you’re not in that audience, it won’t appeal to you. So, best bet is to make your own opinion and watch at your own risk.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

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