Lifeforce Blu-ray Review
What’s It About? When the space shuttle Churchill comes across a spaceship hidden in the corona of Halley’s Comet they investigate and find three humanoids. Returning to Earth with their new cargo soon proves costly as the aliens turn out to be life-sucking space vampires that start to infect the populace of London by taking their life force. It’s left to Churchill astronaut Col. Tom Carlsen (Steve Railsbeck) to prevent certain destruction by this alien race.
Verdict: There’s a sinister vibe given off in the first third of the film that should amount to an explosive finale, because a survival film plays deep to our emotions. Sexy vampires in space should be a winning formula, especially as Lifeforce’s original release was during one of the high periods of the sci-fi genre. Yet it feels far too disjointed for the film to hit the genre hard and be crowned as a classic alongside masterpieces such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Alien. Sadly Lifeforce doesn’t hold its high tempo for the middle third of the film and instead it troops from one research lab to another without any special results, and as such the plot becomes dull and incredibly repetitive. It digs itself out of its slumber in the final 20 minutes when it goes all out for the end of the world. Whilst this is rather exciting and fast-paced, it comes too late to recapture the the initial glint of a great sci-fi film.
The acting is a bit too stiff-upper-lip British to care about anyone, except the sexy female space vampire, played by Mathilda May, who gives a great course in seducing and then sucking life from those drawn to her. If you’ve seen Hooper’s work in Poltergeist (did he really direct?), then you instantly recognise the blue swirling mist, but this time it’s a life force energy rather than a ghost. It still looks the same and has that creepy, strange vibe to it that can only signify mysteriousness. The effects were ahead of their time when it was originally released, and they still hold up very well now with care and attention being paid to all effects and make-up throughout the film. The deterioration of the human form is particularly chilling to watch and rather beautifully done.
Extras: This double Blu-ray pack has got fans of the film covered, including three separate commentaries from director Tobe Hooper, Academy Award-winning visual effects artist Douglas Smith (some great stories about how they produced and shot the lifeforce) and lastly from make-up artist Nick Maley (who talks about the extensive make-up jobs required for the draining scenes). There are individual interviews with Tobe Hooper, Mathilda May and Steve Railsback that look back on their time filming. But the real winner in this release is the UK-exclusive ‘Cannon Fodder – The Making Of Lifeforce’, a one hour documentary about the highs and lows of making such a ground-breaking film. The second disc has the original theatrical release, which runs at fifteen minutes less than the original version.
Final Words: Without the sloppy and rather dreary middle third, Lifeforce would have been a sci-fi classic. Vampires in space get morphed into an end-of-the-world disaster movie that loses its way and never fully regains it. Forever to remain in the space between cult and fandom.
Lifeforce is available on Blu-ray from 14 October 2013.