This morning was the first day where I had absolutely no idea what the daily movie was going to be. Thankfully I had another Scream Factory one in the reserves so I busted out Lifeforce, a 1985 sci-fi horror film directed by Tobe Hooper (Poltergeist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). I knew literally nothing about this movie going in so I figured it would be an interesting one to take a look at.
Interesting may not completely be the best word to describe Lifeforce.
We kick things off in typical sci-fi fashion by having a space ship crew investigate Hailey’s comet where they stumble upon a ship loaded with alien bat creatures and three naked people asleep in glass containers. You know, space shit. On their return journey, contact is lost with the ship and a rescue mission is launched to recover it. They find it completely destroyed by fire, with the escape pod missing and only the three naked aliens (two men and a female for the record) remain on board. They are taken back down to Earth where we quickly learn they are all some sort of alien vampire creature who sucks the lifeforce (and now you understand the title) out of people and then can shapeshift and also be psychic and make people into aliens and skeletons and it’s all pretty fucked up I’ll say that.
Also Patrick Stewart shows up about halfway through the movie to sound all pimp and Stewart like for a few minutes before he spends the rest of his scene flipping out and screaming alien shit and then being dubbed over by a lady. Then he almost makes out with a dude. It doesn’t top his performance in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, but his presence is always welcomed.
I should note that Lifeforce comes in two different cuts – the 101 minute theatrical cut and the 116 minute director’s cut. I tend to almost always go with the longer cut as my assumption is that this is how the movie was always intended to be viewed. I made the same choice here and it actually led to my biggest criticism of the film – it’s far too long. There is not enough going on here to sustain a near two hour running time and during the middle stretch of the film I was not very engaged. I obviously can’t say what the significant differences are between each cut, but I have to believe that no matter what a shorter length would greatly benefit this movie.
The opening half hour and the final half hour are definitely the highlights. The opening works well since it establishes these bizarre bat alien vampire creatures and the idea of them turning people into skeletons by sucking out their life force, all of which is undeniably original ideas. It all sets-up a lot of potential for what’s to come and sets an appropriately bizarre tone. However we then get to spend the ensuing hour watching a lot of plodding scenes. It does not make good on that initial promise and is largely dull. The stuff about the alien lady having a psychic connection to the male lead is not particularly interesting and there is a lot of focus on this plot thread during this chunk of the film. You still get the occasional flash of crazy like when the bat creature shows up in a dude’s bedroom and then morphs into a hot naked lady, but these moments are too sparse.
Speaking of hot naked ladies, I mentioned earlier that the aliens they find are nude, but did I mention that the female alien walks around naked for about 90% of her onscreen time? And she’s in the movie a lot, so at any given point during this movie there is a very good chance you’ll be looking at boobs. The boob odds are good with this one, so that’s something the juvenile part of me feels needs to be pointed out.
The final half hour picks up the pace when London is taken over by a bunch of zombie vampire alien bat things so the characters have to make their way through all of the chaos. It livens things up considerably, even if I could definitely have used just a little bit more bat action.
The effects and make-up work are very impressive across the board. The creatures never look too silly and the puppets and make-up that are used to represent people who have had the life drained out of them look fantastic. You can see examples of this in some of the pictures I’ve used here. The man who did the effects (sorry I don’t recall his name) even said he is the most proud of the work he has done in this movie, and this is the guy who fucking made Yoda. So you know it’s well done stuff.
Lifeforce is an ok movie but the length really takes away from it. It has some interesting ideas and some great effects work; it’s just often very slow and not at all engaging. The shorter cut definitely seems like the way to go with this one; I imagine cutting things down for a leaner experience would make all the difference.