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Lifeforce (1985): Movie Review

I thought that, for my latest Mysterious Universe article, I would do a review of one of my favorite movies. It’s a sci-fi film, which is a rarity for me. Indeed, many people are very surprised when they find out that I’m not a fan of sci-fi – at all.

The only Star Wars movie I have ever seen is the 1977 original (and 1977 was the only time I saw it). Things like Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, etc., just bore me. And I think that superhero stuff (whether in movies, TV, or comic-books) is just plain ridiculous. So, for me, it’s rare that I can say I’ve seen something sci-fi-based that I really enjoyed.

Granted, I thought the first (and only the first) Matrix movie was good. Dark City, Quatermass and the Pit, and the first Terminator movie were very good. But, hardly any others spring to mind. But, there is one I really like a lot.

A 1985 movie, Lifeforce was directed by horror legend, Tobe Hooper – who also directed the groundbreaking 1974 movie, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the acclaimed 1979 mini-series version of Stephen King’s novel, Salem’s Lot.

That the movie featured many well-known actors, including Patrick Stewart (who, in 1987, took on the role of Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation, of which I have never watched even a single episode, I’m pleased to say) should have made Lifeforce a big hit. Unfortunately, it was not a hit. Cinema-based earnings didn’t even reach half of the $25 Million budget that had been allocated for the production of the movie. That said, for zombie fanatics, Lifeforce – based on Colin Wilson’s novel, The Space Vampires – should not be missed.

The movie begins in outer space, in 1986, the year that Halley’s Comet made its most recent appearance. A team of astronauts embark on a mission, in a NASA Space Shuttle called the Churchill (named after British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill), to rendezvous with the gigantic comet.

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On doing so, the crew is shocked to find that deep within Halley’s Comet there is a huge spacecraft of alien origins. Not only that, the ship is filled with numerous, dead, winged monsters and three very human-looking beings: two men and one woman.

Unbeknownst to the astronauts, the three entities are not, as is first suspected, fellow Homo sapiens that have been abducted by the gargoyle-like creatures. They are one and the same. In other words, the aliens have the ability to morph into human form and back again. It isn’t long before all three are secretly brought to London, England for study at the fictional European Space Research Center.

Despite being heavily guarded by British Army personnel, that’s when the trouble begins.

Clearly not dead, the trio of non-humans appears to be in a collective state of deep, suspended animation. Until, that is, they wake up. The woman, using what might be termed a form of extraterrestrial hypnotism, entrances one of the troops and – utterly naked – moves towards the man, seemingly to kiss him on the lips. This is no normal kiss, however.

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As the alien female embraces the soldier, she drains his body of its vital energy – the life-force, in other words, of the movie’s title. His body falls to the ground, as a withered, shrunken husk, and the alien escapes from the facility. A couple of hours later, a shocking development occurs.

While the military team overseeing the project – and acting to keep everything under wraps and away from the public and the media – tries to figure out what is afoot, word comes in that the body of a woman has been found in nearby woods. She, too, is as withered as an old, leathery Egyptian mummy.

When her body is brought to the space center for study, it reanimates – as does the body of the dead soldier. They, too, are now crazed undead entities needing to feed on vital life-energy. A doctor is then violently attacked and bitten. He also dies and returns as a savage monster. And with the morphed alien on the loose, it’s not long before London is engulfed in an epidemic, one in which the living first become the dead, but who then mutate into something far worse.

In a neat twist, the team comes to believe that these energy-sucking aliens – and the people they infect – are responsible for our centuries-old legends and folklore of bloodsucking vampires. But, in reality, it’s energy, and not blood, that the reanimated so badly need. And they don’t dress like cloaked Count Dracula, either.

One hundred percent zombie-like in appearance, the ragged dead rise up in violent style, rampaging around the streets of London in huge throngs, attacking the living, sucking them dry, and ensuring their victims soon become marauding killers, just like them. The fate of the entire human race is now precariously hanging in the balance.

It’s accurate and fair to say that Lifeforce is an unusual and highly alternative production that blends together three, distinct genres that are generally kept poles apart from each other: zombies, vampires, and science-fiction. Notably, however, all three are successfully fused into what is an entertaining – but unfortunately much under-appreciated – storyline and movie.

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Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.
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