The first time I saw Lifeforce (1993) it was a new release in the theaters. I thought it was good in a twinky sort of way. I certainly was glad to have seen it. I was quite startled in years that followed to see it on lists of "worst films."
Much later I viewed it again & it seemed to have aged awfully fast into a cheezy film. But not all cheezy films are all bad. I certainly hadn't remembered that the real star was the largely nude body of Mathilda May as the vampire queen, probably because the initial American release was missing fifteen minutes.
Then when I saw it yet again on DVD, I was most happy to see Patrick Stewart as the psychiatrist, who I didn't remember being in the film at all. I probably hadn't even know who he was on previous viewings, since I never bothered to watch an episode of Next Generation until it was in rerun syndication.
On latest assessment, this was overall a terrific film, & it is easy to overlook the fact that it is based on some of Colin Wilson's goofy convoluted epic novel The Space Vampires (1976).
Dan "Alien" O'Bannon's scripting helped a lot. And director Tobe Hooper whether at his best or his worst always has never failed to entertain me.
Astronauts Carlson (played by the excellent character actor Steve Railsback) leads the space mission to investigate the tail of Halley's Comet. Therein they discover a weird spaceship deepfreeze with three humanoids who'll turn out to be vampires, one of them the queen.
When the queen is brought out of dormancy she will do her darndest to establish a new hive on Earth, sucking out the lifeforces of humans to re-charge her space ship, & reducing all of London to a zombie zone.
There are times that this looks like a Quatermass film but without Quatermass, & I don't say lightly that one of the truly great science fiction horror films is Quatermass & the Pit (1967).
It's remarkable that an American B-horror director immortalized by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) could so closely capture the distinctly British Quatermass appeal.
Visually it strides the margin between widescreen big-budget slick elegance & some of the cheeziest cheapest bad FX & dashes of humor amidst gruesome happenings. This narrow line between big-budget & grindhouse seems intentionally trodden & is campily delightful.
The film is strangely sexy despite being invested with jokiness, & I think the last season of the sex-obsessed sci-fi channel series Lexx with its ultra-evil vampire queen & tongue-in-cheek attitude was partially cribbed from this film.
One reviewer called Lifeforce "worse than Plan 9 From Outer Space" (1959). But I just don't see it as a bad film, nor even merely a so-bad-it's-good sort of thing. It is honestly effective & amusing B fare that captures everything that's right & good about B fare, forgoing everything that's dull & bad about B fare.
Continue to next vampire film:
Decadent Evil (2005)
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