(The above trailer for LIFEFORCE features NSFW material)
I mentioned LIFEFORCE in the text-piece for DRACULA WORLD ORDER, and I worry that many people may not be familiar with the film. I do recommend it. Not because it’s a great film, but because it’s a great experience.
Based on Colin Wilson’s THE SPACE VAMPIRES, the film is a hodgepodge of vampire, alien, and Lovecraftian cosmic mythos. The first act of the film is space horror akin to Ridley Scott’s ALIEN (Dan O’Bannon, the co-writer of ALIEN, is the screenwriter for this film). When the film lands on Earth, and Great Britain in particular, there’s a paranoid relationship with the unknown that feels thematically similar to Britain’s Quatermass series. The third act culminates in scenes that combines tropes of zombies (O’Banon is also the writer and director of RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD), aliens, and vampires. It’s the vampire myth, here in one of its most sexually potent realizations (Mathilda May must hold a record for on-screen nudity) that strings along such disparate concepts. At the core of the film is the obsession between May’s exotic alien vampire and Steve Railsback button-downed astronaut, an obsession that seems to reveal many of the supporting players’ personal kinks. This is not the smoothest road story-wise but for those looking for juicy ideas to contemplate concerning what horror fiction can do, LIFEFORCE has a lot to offer. Tobe Hooper directs the film with great vigor, and it’s clearly one of the biggest productions from legendary cult film studio Cannon Films (THE APPLE, DELTA FORCE, the MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE film, and much more).
It’s rare to find a film that is both a positive inspiration and a cautionary tale, but I have one in LIFEFORCE. It’s ambition and versatile use of vampires was very much on my mind when crafting DWO. I also saw that traveling between big, heady concepts is delicate work. I do admire LIFEFORCE for striving from one batshit idea to the next with such confidence. That’s half the game. Including explanations for the audience that is in itself interesting and satisfying is the other half. LIFEFORCE isn’t too interested in that.
As Leonard Maltin says in his review “you got to meet [LIFEFORCE] halfway.” If you do you are in for a film that arrives from a different world, where summer tentpoles are interested in strange and disturbing subject matters as much as special effects.