Review: Lifeforce (1985)

Lifeforce is stupid but fun.

Let’s get this straight – Lifeforce is stupid. It is a stupid film. There may be a cult following surrounding Tobe Hooper‘s 1985 sci-fi horror but, since the internet made all the information in the world available to everyone, there’s a fan corner for every film ever made. That’s not to say that Lifeforce is terrible, because it isn’t. It isn’t terrible at all. In fact in places, it’s pretty damned good. It just doesn’t really add up to much.

Maybe it’d be different if someone were exposed to this film as a child, accidentally. It’d be burned into the psyche then, on rewatching as an adult, it’d be a pretty fun experience. There’s a lot in Lifeforce that is really not suitable for children at all, but the overall tone doesn’t feel very grown-up. It has the feel of E.T., or an episode of Stingray, interspersed with extremely gratuitous shots of the perma-nude female alien’s behind. Never the male aliens. Only the female.

Three humanoid aliens are discovered in the ruins of an investigatory ship that encountered problems thirty days previously. Those creatures, two male and one female in appearance (and completely naked) are rescued and brought back to Earth. Much leering goes on over the female-looking alien who, as you’d expect, has her revenge, but not before the audience has had ample opportunity to get a good look at her physique. At one point the camera is actually below her as she walks up the stairs, panning to follow her ascending buttocks. It’s not prudish to feel that is a bit unnecessary, especially when no such shots occur when the male-looking aliens are around. Nary a penis nor a pubic hair displayed at all, while we see the female alien in gory detail. This isn’t a big deal in the theatrical US version, as much of the nudity is cut out. This here Blu-ray release consists of the international cut as well as the theatrical, so if it’s humanoid ass you want, go straight for the international cut.

Perviness aside, the film also falls down in terms of performance. Every male character is played as uber-standoffish and in direct competition with one another – a trait which, when performed by talented actors, can lead to a small amount of dramatic tension. When performed by the cast of Lifeforce – including a young Patrick Stewart, no less – it’s just annoying. Every conversation becomes a meaningless tension exchange of point scoring and manliness, and screaming at the TV for someone to just do something doesn’t make a blind bit of difference. This works if interpreted as a misandrist tract on the inefficacy of the scientific governmental community, but Tobe Hooper probably didn’t intend it to be read like that. Maybe ask him though?

It’s not all bad though. The special effects, especially rendered here in Blu-ray, still stand up today. The alien’s first victim is rendered really well, and there’s a moment involving him during the film that seems to have influenced Se7en‘s jumpiest moment. Say no more. It’s throwaway, but it’s better than it could have been. Should have kept the original title “The Space Vampires” though. Works much better.

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