Case Number 25723


Shout! Factory // 1985 // 119 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // May 24th, 2013

The Charge

In the blink of an eye, the terror begins.

Opening Statement

Are you in the mood for a sci-fi movie? How about a sci-fi movie that's kind of a horror movie? How about a sci-fi horror movie that has as much nudity as a late night Cinemax flick? Well you, my friends, have come to the right place, as we present Shout! Factory's special edition Blu-ray release of Lifeforce.

Facts of the Case

Leading a deep space expedition, Col. Carlsen (Steve Railsback, The Stunt Man) and his crew discover an enormous alien spacecraft home to long dead alien bats and odd crystal tubes housing three naked human bodies. After the ship loses communication with the British Space Agency, it eventually crashes back to earth seemingly abandoned, except for those three naked bodies. As a team of scientists work on figuring out the mystery behind these creatures, the female of the group (Mathilda May) suddenly awakens and begins to suck the life out of everyone she comes into contact with. The three eventually make their way into the heart of London, which is now overrun by life sucking vampires from outer space. In the meantime, a shaken and terrified Col. Carlsen is discovered in a separate crashed space pod. Good thing he survived, since he may be the only one who can stop this extra terrestrial force from taking over the planet!

The Evidence

The career of Tobe Hooper has exhibited one very brief peak, followed by an expansive valley he has never been able to climb out from. Hooper is the guy who brought us the 1974 horror classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Because of its cult success, Hooper immediately shot to the top of the list of talented horror directors, following it up with the 1977 low budget crocodile feature Eaten Alive (featuring a pre-Freddy Robert Englund) and the 1981 cult classic The Funhouse, and two other films in which he was summarily replaced by other directors (1979's The Dark, and 1981's Venom). It looked like Hooper had struck gold again with 1982's Poltergeist, but the controversy over who actually directed the picture -- many believe it was producer Steven Spielberg -- undermined any credit he may have received.

On the heels of that controversy came Lifeforce, an adaptation of author Colin Wilson's 1976 novel The Space Vampires, which turned out to be an enormous disappointment at the box office, bringing an end to the studio that financed it (The Cannon Group). Still, there's no denying this movie is a huge pile of celluloid crazy that's never garnered the accolades it deserves.

Sure, Lifeforce is flawed. It's also a wacky, weird, strange, gory, tasteless sci-fi/horror hybrid that never fails to entertain. The screenplay by the late Dan O'Bannon (Alien) and writing partner Don Jakoby (Arachnophobia) is some kind of awesome in the way it takes different elements -- an English police procedural, souls slurping vampires, outer space -- and mashes them together into a somewhat cohesive whole. You can say a lot of things about the film, but it's hard to dismiss the sheer audacity of trying to be all things to all cult film fans.

How strange is it? Well, in one scene we find a group of astronauts inside of a giant alien spacecraft that looks like a mutated artichoke surrounded by freeze dried vampire bats. A few scenes later, a naked woman walks around a medical complex sucking the life out of security guards. The movie then shifts to some clearly foam rubber corpses strapped to a slab that flail about, before exploding into a giant cloud of dust. Meanwhile, London gets overrun by vampire zombies as a huge blue light sucks souls up to a spaceship. By the time Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation) shows up, we finally relent and give in to all the ridiculousness on screen.

Presented in 2.35:1/1080p high definition widescreen, Shout! Factory's genre sub-label "Scream Factory" has done an excellent job of offering up a crisp looking transfer with solid colors/black levels. Lifeforce has truly never looked so good. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track does a nice job with the directional effects, never over compensating or making this feel like a forced remix. We also get a remastered 2.0 mix in DTS-HD, along with English SDH subtitles.

Bonus features include a few featurettes sporting new interviews with the film's stars ("Dangerous Beauty with Mathilda May," "Space Vampires in London with Tobe Hooper," "Carlsen's Curse with Steve Railsback"); a vintage making-of featurette; a commentary from director Tobe Hooper and a second commentary from make-up effects designer Nick Maley; a photo gallery; a few TV spots and some theatrical trailers; and a standard def DVD copy of the film.

Closing Statement

If you've never seen Lifeforce, the experience will almost certainly be a shock to the system. Call it weird, odd, bizarre, titillating, and grotesque, but you can never call it boring. The way it transitions from one scene to the next, you never know what you're going to get. Now *THIS* is a movie I can wholeheartedly get behind. It has such a kooky, off-the-wall spirit, you can't help but embrace it like an ugly stepchild no one wants to love. Just watch Steve Railsback's performance in which he repeatedly goes off the rails. In fact, the whole picture is a testament to what happens when filmmakers are allowed to run free and just have a ball. I wish Tobe Hooper would have been given more opportunities to do what he did here, because lord knows the world could've used more movies like Lifeforce.

The Verdict

Not guilty, by reason of insanity.

Review content copyright © 2013 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 95
Audio: 95
Extras: 87
Acting: 85
Story: 85
Judgment: 86

Perp Profile
Studio: Shout! Factory
Video Formats:
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English)

* English (SDH)

Running Time: 119 Minutes
Release Year: 1985
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary
* Featurettes
* Deleted Scenes
* Image Gallery
* TV Spots
* Trailers
* DVD Copy

* IMDb