Lifeforce (1985)

R   |    |  Action, Horror, Mystery


Lifeforce (1985) Poster

A race of space vampires arrives in London and infects the populace, beginning an apocalyptic descent into chaos.


6.1/10
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  • Peter Firth and Bill Malin in Lifeforce (1985)
  • Lifeforce (1985)
  • Mathilda May and Steve Railsback in Lifeforce (1985)
  • Lifeforce (1985)
  • Peter Firth and Steve Railsback in Lifeforce (1985)

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3 February 2004 | vhsiv
7
| ***an underrated gem
Like several other reviewers here, I'm surprised to see many negative reviews on this film. Dan O'Bannon's previous effort was the groundbreaking 'Alien' of 1979. Because it and 'Star Wars' introduced the stylistic approach of 'Used' or 'Dirty Space' in art-direction for these kinds of features doesn't mean that this was the only way to produce them.

Rather than dismiss 'Lifeforce' out-of-hand as a sort of schlock and primitive exploitation feature, it's important to recognize that the film draws upon the 'esteemed' traditions of British horror and science-fiction - specifically Hammer and American International features like Quatermass (specifically 'Quatermass and the Pit', 1967), Doctor Who and 'The Day of the Triffids' (1963), if not the works of Gerry Anderson ('UFO', 'Space:1999' and 'Thunderbirds'). But none of these influences would be a surprise if other reviewers recognized writer O'Bannon's genre-scholarly appreciation for 'Queen of Blood'(1966) and 'It! The Terror from Beyond Space'(1958) - the immediate sources for 'Alien' (1979).

Granted this film has some 'legacy' elements, but perhaps it's worth comparing this film to its more immediate peers - 1981's 'An American Werewolf in London' and 'The Company of Wolves' (1984) - other 80's films that share a 'looking-back' while they adapt those stories to the 80's zeitgeist. All three films drew on earlier incarnations of the same, but substantially sexed-up their themes (because they could), and, at the same time they recognized the tongue-in-cheek, humorous aspects of their projects.

Neil Jordan's 'Wolves' played to many of the psychoanalytic memes floating around at the during the '80's, while 'American Werewolf' curdled its theme as a 'coming-of-age' film. It's called artistic license, and the adaptations of these three films are no less valid than the latter-day dramedy inherent in the 'Scream' franchise, 'I Know What You Did Last Summer' and 'Final Destination'. But these teen-targeted, films seem to be part of a box-office trend, whereas the 80's films like 'Lifeforce' belong a canon of British sci-fi - even if this one was written by an American.

In many ways this film holds up much better than latter-day disaster and alien-invasion flicks ('Independence Day', 'Armageddon', 'Deep Impact') in that the 'solutions' don't reside in gun-battles, weaponized payloads and testosterone. At the opposite end of the pole, it is unfortunate that Steven Soderbergh and James Cameron didn't examine Tarkowski and Lem more closely before they remade 'Solaris'...

The goal of this film was fun, not ponderousness or stupidity.

7/10

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