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Lifeforce (1985)

Whether you think Lifeforce is great depends a lot on your criteria for enjoying movies. It has to be said that Lifeforce is a big, stupid film - full of pointless, spectacular deaths, pointless, spectacular nudity and yes, pointless, spectacular explosions. It was never going to win the Best Picture Oscar, but who cares? If they were giving out Oscars for "best use of a pair of enormous gazongas", I'm sure it would have made runner-up, at least.

What makes Lifeforce even better is that it has a load of bad sci-fi thrown in, and even better (for me, anyway) it gives us Brits a chance to be part of the space race, firing off in space shuttle Churchill for a rendevous with Halley's Comet before cocking it up spectacularly in typically British sweaty style, and having to be saved by the Yanks in Columbia.

The SFX are pretty good too (which puts it apart from pretty much every other Brit horror apart from American Werewolf), the first scenes being the Churchill in space, approaching a massive alien spaceship hidden in the tail of the comet. The astronauts fly through the alien ship with their rocket packs and find thousands of dead giant bats floating around inside... but that's not all...

Three "perfectly preserved" naked humans (one girl, two blokes) are in the centre of the craft, housed inside giant crystals. As the astronauts make plans to bring them back with them, the alien ship starts to change, and one of the crew members starts mumbling to himself, "something's happening to me.... what's wrong?"

Before you can say "loads, probably", the stricken Churchill has drifted back into Earth's gravitational pull, and the Columbia is sent up to find out why they're not answering transmissions. The ship has been burned out, with no-one alive - but the naked aliens are still there...

Back on Earth in a top secret military establishment, the girl wastes no time in waking up, sucking the life out of a passing pervert, and buggering off in spectacular style. ("Come to daddy," leers one ill-fated security guard, waving a sandwich at her).

Call for Colonel Kane of the SAS, a bubble permed mummy's boy in a turtleneck sweater and raincoat ("That's not for publication" he barks at a pressman of his arrival). He meets up with Frank Finlay's doctor (who happens to be an expert on life after death) and they start piecing together the mystery of the killer naked woman, on the way discovering that her dessicated victims have the rather unfortunate habit of waking up after two hours and sucking the life out of the nearest living person ("I had an idea it could be passed on," says Finlay. "I wouldn't be surprised if we were dealing with a pattern here..."). The other two aliens have also woken up, and shown themselves to be impervious to bullets and grenades... oh-oh...

Over in Texas, the Churchill's escape pod has landed, containing one survivor, Col Tom Carlson, who immediately starts babbling on about how he "couldn't expose the world to what we brought back with us... I was determined to destroy them all!"

"Part of me didn't want to leave... she killed all my friends and I still didn't want to leave. Leaving her was the hardest thing I ever did."

Even in the world of lame Brit horror heroes, Col Carlson is a drip. He's got a mental link with the female vampire for some reason, so they decide to use him to track her down (the scene where she attacks him in bed and rubs her knockers in his face is pure Hammer Horror) and eventually find that she's swapped bodies and pulled a flat-capped farmer with his own Volvo. Cue entertaining rant by a sweaty Carlson: "She's... pulling... up... her skirt..." etc.

Then, without any kind of warning at all, we suddenly find that there are zombies - zombies, I tell you - in the shadows of Big Ben (symbolising the fact that the undead have taken over the capital, I suppose, but it's anyone's guess, really). Meanwhile, the girl has made her way to Thurlstone, an asylum for the criminally insane in Yorkshire, which is run by Dr Armstong (Star Trek slap-head Patrick Stewart). Carlson slaps her about a bit, then snogs her, but the alien has long since vacated her body, and entered that of Jeffrey Sykes, a child murderer.

Keeping up? It doesn't matter really. She's not actually in Sykes' head, and everyone jumps to the conclusion that she's actually in Armstong's. The poor bloke gets beaten up, drugged by his own staff and piled into the back of the helicopter, Carlson realising that she's been luring him away from the capital, where all hell is breaking loose...

Anyone who's seen Hammer's Quatermass And The Pit can guess what's coming next, as a welter of London landmarks are destroyed by cannibalistic zombies in an orgy of sub-Michael Jackson's Thriller violence. The film ends with more nudity, some spectacular chases and much head exploding pyrotechnics. Lifeforce is a brilliant film, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. It makes no sense, but who needs sense? If you want clever-clever, go and watch Vanilla Sky. If you want huge soul-collecting alien spaceships, zombie prime ministers and London under NATO martial law, track down Lifeforce, switch off your brain and enjoy.

"She's not a woman, she'll destroy you!"

"She's destroyed worlds..."

Director: Tobe Hooper Writer(s): Don Jakoby Dan O'Bannon Colin Wilson (novel The Space Vampires)

Cast: Steve Railsback - Colonel Tom Carlsen, Peter Firth - Colonel Colin Caine, Frank Finlay - Prof. Hans Fallada, Mathilda May - Space Girl, Patrick Stewart - Doctor Armstrong, Michael Gothard - Dr. Bukovsky, Nicholas Ball - Derebridge, Aubrey Morris - Sir Percy Hazeltine, Home Sect., Nancy Paul - Ellen Donaldson, John Hallam - Lawson, John Keegan - Guard, Christopher Jagger - 1st Vampire, Bill Malin - 2nd Vampire, Jerome Willis - Pathologist, Derek Benfield - Physician, John Woodnutt - Metallurgist, James Forbes-Robertson - The Minister, Peter Porteous - Prime Minister, Katherine Schofield - Miss Haversham, PM's Sect., Owen Holder - 1st Scientist, Jamie Roberts - Radio Officer Rawlings, Russell Sommers - Navigation Officer, Patrick Connor - Fatherly Guard, Sidney Kean - Brash Guard, Paul Cooper - 2nd Guard, Chris Sullivan - Kelly, Milton Cadman - 1st Soldier, Rupert Baker - 2nd Soldier, Gary Hildreth - Police Surgeon, Edward Evans - Doctor, Nicholas Donnelly - Police Inspector Peter Lovstrom - 1st Boy in Park, Julian Firth - 2nd Boy in Park, Carl Rigg - 1st Radar Technician, Elizabeth Morton - 2nd Radar Technician, Geoffrey Frederick - Communications Officer, David English - 1st Crewperson, David English - 1st Crewperson, Emma Jacobs - 2nd Crewperson, Michael John Paliotti - 3rd Crewperson, Brian Carroll - 4th Crewperson, Richard Oldfield - Mission Leader, Christopher Barr - Trajectory Officer, Burnell Tucker - N.A.S.A. Man, Thom Booker - 1st N.A.S.A. Officer, Michael Fitzpatrick - 2nd N.A.S.A. Officer, Richard Sharpe - Rescue Ship Crewman, John Golightly - Colonel, William Lindsay - Colonel's Aide, David Beckett - Soldier, Sydney Livingstone - Ned Price, Ken Parry - Jeffrey Sykes, John Edmunds - B.B.C. Commentator, Haydn Wood - Helicopter Pilot


Last updated: February 24, 2010

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