By Andreas Charalambous

Tobe Hooper must have been in an unenviable position in 1985 when directing Lifeforce . How does one – who has so far found great success firmly in the horror genre – top his horror hits when faced with his first foray into this horror/sci-fi hybrid? On the back of such strong outings as the notorious Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), TV’s Salem’s Lot (1979), The Funhouse (1981) and the massive hit Poltergeist (1982), this is the very position Hooper found himself in.

Based on Colin Wilson’s novel “The Space Vampires”, Lifeforce is indeed a film that must been seen to be believed (I mean that!). Admittedly, there is something admirable about a film that begins as a sci-fi outing with a space mission to Halley’s Comet, suddenly transforming into an alien-invasion film featuring naked vampires from space and then shifting once again into a zombie-riddled end-of-the-world disaster movie.

Armed with a budget of $25 million, Hooper was in impressive company, which included Star Wars visual effects pioneer John Dykstra, Henry Mancini on musical duties and Alien co-writer Dan O’Bannon (The Return of the Living Dead). Even Patrick Stewart, a pre-Spooks Peter Firth, and Frank Finlay are boasted amongst the talent on show in front of camera.

Lifeforce appears to have everything in it – from zombies running around London (Sorry Danny Boyle, but you were beaten to that one!) to apocalypse-bringing energy bolts. In the middle of it all is Colonel Tom Carlsen (Steve Railsback) who has survived the mission to Halley’s Comet and now holds the key to mankind’s salvation. This is put in jeopardy when his return to our planet also brings with it the trio of space vampires as previously mentioned, and he is seduced by the sexy, always-naked one(Mathilda May).

Despite the ridiculous synopsis, there is some pretty straight-faced acting, good visual effects and even some softcore pornography for your enjoyment. As the space vampires feast on the “lifeforce” (no, not the blood) of various extras and minor role characters, they reduce their victims to hideous, shrieking, mindless vessels which in turn seek out the “lifeforce” of others. This is where the destruction of London comes in – which is surprising in how well it is depicted. Some of the set pieces in London’s destruction are right up there with the White House being blown to smithereens in Independence Day, or the wiping-out of Manhattan Island in the Day After Tomorrow.

However, this film is seen as a poor exchange for $25 million – and to put that into context, we are talking $25 million in 1985 money – it leans more towards “Plan 9 from Outer Space” territory rather than its potential to be another Quatermass and the Pit. As you watch on, contemplating if this film can get any more insane, you quickly find that it just did. It has a surprisingly British feel to it – mainly due to the British actors and settings. You can’t help but think that with all the British connections, nudity and horror special effects, that this is a classic Hammer Horror production on steroids.

This film should be approached as a fun film. If you are looking for a serious adventure into the horror/sci-fi realms of film, then you will be left dissatisfied. This is a popcorn film, which serves to entertain you for just shy of two hours. And entertain you, it does – Patrick Stewart doing his best to give a credible performance as he spews large amounts of blood from his mouth, being one example. This isn’t the greatest film ever made, but it is the greatest naked-space-vampires-with-zombies-running-through-a-ruined-london film ever made.

This 2-disc Blu Ray special edition release includes HD presentations of both the Theatrical and International cuts, as well as a plethora of extras including three audio commentaries, a new exclusive documentary – Cannon Fodder: The Making of Lifeforce – and others featuring both cast and crew.

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