Lifeforce

Typical Hooper: brilliant elements, overall mish-mash
★★
☆☆☆
Released: 
1985
Director: 
Tobe Hooper
Starring: 
Steve Railsback, Peter Firth, Mathilda May
The Setup: 
Aliens from space invade the Earth in this all-in-one alien, vampire and zombie movie.
Discussion: 

Now I've seen this and Invaders From Mars, I think I can make some inferences about Tobe Hooper's films (of course I've seen Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist, but I don't really count those as the first is in a low-budget class by itself, and Poltergeist is rumored to have been substantially directed by Spielberg). The thing that stands out about his work is that there are usually elements that are completely brilliant, marred by surrounding material that is just so silly and shoddily put-together that it brings down the whole.

For me, the brilliant stuff in this film is all in the first 20 minutes. I found it scary! The alien ship design is beautiful and menacing, looking like some bizarre thistle, and the design inside the ship is wonderful, with all those organic-looking shapes and "orifices," taking the organic-looking design from Alien in a different direction. I liked the whole camera-spinning in the first section, giving you an uneasy feeling, and I loved all the floating bat-aliens on the inside. I was expecting them to come to life and grab the astronauts, but alas, no. The direction and editing of the first scenes was also tense and tight.

Alas, it's downhill from there, but as other reviewers have noted, it's still tremendous schlocky fun. Very little of this movie makes any sense, even within itself. My favorite aspect is how London is completely overrun by vampire zombies and is in a state of total chaos--but our heroes, many of whom are government officials, have NO IDEA that this is going on. Turn on a radio, someone! Oh dear... it just keeps going off in so many bizarre and unresolved directions.

Other highlights include the Patrick Stewart blood-beast, and the guys exploding into dust. And, for our straight friends, please note that there’s a naked woman walking around for a substantial portion of this film.

Ah well. It's too bad, because Hooper is clearly very talented at some things, and just needs someone to rein him in. Still, this is a lot of fun to watch.

Should you watch it: 

Yes, I am only disappointed because it had the potential to be better than it was.

Comments

This struck me as a really bizarre movie because there was zero attempt at any kind of characterisation: the characters are defined by their function to the story and seem to have no external life outside of it. It's almost as if we're watching a child tell a story with dolls.

Also: what exactly happened at the end? There were three of us watching and we had no idea if the guy stabbing both himself and Vampire Girl meant they were defeated, or if they simply returned to the ship, which is shown floating off still with the human souls on board when the credits instantly pop up.

I'm surprised I've never seen any suggestion that writer Dan O'Bannon might have gotten the idea for using fast zombies in his next movie, 'Return Of The Living Dead', from this one. Seems obvious to me.

Wish I remembered it well enough to know what you're talking about! I do remember it as being bizarre fun, regardless of how awful it is. Some of the stories around the making of Poltergeist don't paint Hooper as the most organized director...

I'm a little appalled at how bare-bones my review is! Some of my old reviews are so sparse... as to be almost useless. It was before I realized the fun of picking apart every little thing...

Nah, it's cool. It's only been two days and I've forgotten most of it already. It's that kind of film. The movie sounds fun, but rewatching it, I was struck with the sense that a movie about Nude Space Vampires from Halley's Comet leading to London being destroyed by soul-sucking exploding zombies should be a hell of a lot more fun than what we ended up with. There's an dry, stuffy atmosphere that seems almost 50's Hammer Studios, until the mayhem of the final section.

Hooper, bar TCM, seems to be a total mess as a director. I don't believe for a second he had much to do with 'Poltergeist', which feels like Spielberg all the way.

That being said, I've never seen TCM2 - it was banned in Australia for 20 years until quite recently, so I might put that next on my list.

Also, this movie might be relevant to your interests:

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51GVWBAZA3L.jpg

Hehehe, yeah, when you put it that way, Lifeforce is a disappointment, but it's still really bizarro in a fun way.

As for that Chippendales movie, it's a case where we need to know how much HE is in it, and how much coverage HE gets... as I recall, from my extensive research at the time, the mustache guy was the only mustached one and the rest were all quite hairless and dull.

Yeah, I did further research last night watching trailers, etc and came to the same conclusion. The vibe was 'awkward Millennial with an Ironic Hipster Moustache', not genuine 70's sleaze. Waste of time. He's no John Beck.

Thank you for your extensive research!
There are far, far too few John Becks, alas...

Hey Scott, I just listened to the How Did This Get Made episode devoted to Lifeforce and read about it on IMDB. I've always been baffled by this movie and wondered what was intended. I even read the synopsis of the book (Space Vampires) to get a better understanding of the story! Since the movie departs so much from the book that didn't help. The author Colin Wilson was appalled by the film. Apparently the screenplay was discarded or heavily rewritten during production or just before. Haley's Comet was coming back and Hooper wanted to capitalize on it. Originally the ship was going to be in the Asteroid Belt. O'Bannon was pissed. Then Golan Globus ran out of money with at least five or six scenes still left to shoot! There's two cuts of the film, neither more coherent. I think the one I've seen is the American theatrical. I love what the Sci-Fi Encyclopedia said about it: Non sequiturs abound and it contains something to offend almost everyone.

There's a doc on Golan/Globus and Cannon films on YouTube right now, called Electric Boogaloo, and they talk a bit about this film there... don't say much interesting, but everyone [even Hooper] agrees that it was wildly misguided.