“Lifeforce” – Blending Alien Horror and Vampire Lore

The Sci-fi and Horror genres have always gone hand in hand. The unknown and the supernatural are a perfect fit to tell stories that take us to places that we can only dream of. And allows us to delve deep into the human psyche to understand who we are and what we fear the most.

And what better way to understand ourselves than to encounter beings from another worlds. Just hope that they are friendly… or prepare to face unspeakable terrors from beyond the stars!

Welcome my friends to our new monthly segment of…ALIEN ABDUCTION APRIL!

Each week this April, I will be covering a sci-fi, horror-themed film that focuses on alien encounters. Whether they involve abductions and/or invasions, be prepared for close encounters of the scary kind.

Up first is the 1985 Tobe Hooper sci-fi horror cult classic Lifeforce.

Vampires from Space
Based on the novel “The Space Vampires” by British sci-fi writer Colin Wilson, the film begins in 1986 with the arrival of Halley’s Comet. A joint maned British-American Space Shuttle called the Churchill under the command of Colonel Tom Carlen (played by Steve Railsback) while on a mission to study the comet instead discovers a mysterious elongated vessel.

The ship’s design was really cool and stands out.

During their infiltration of the alien vessel, they discover a race of dead bat-alien species, along with containers that house three naked humanoid creatures (two male and one female). However, upon returning to Earth with these 3 mysterious alien beings in tow, mission control loses contact with the Churchill and a rescue party is dispatched.

Very unusual and horrifying events unfold as various scientists and team members become dehydrated, mummified corpses after examining the creatures. When discovered, these corpses then reanimate and begin feeding upon the “Lifeforce” of people nearby in order to survive.

Eventually through the course of the story, all three of the alien beings escape the facility, beginning to steal the life force of London citizens.

It’s an awesome effect and a gruesome way to die!

Meanwhile in Texas, the escape pod is found with Colonel Carlsen inside. He is brought to the European Space Research Centre to recount his time aboard the ship to Colonel Colin Caine (played by Peter Firth, who is in no relation to Colin Firth). He describes the events that took place after he returned to the ship with the mysterious creatures.

He also recounts a consist dream of the female space creature (played by Mathilda May) who continues to tempt him with her seduction. Because of his direct encounter with her on the ship, he develops a psychic link that allows him to track her down throughout the story, discovering that she can leap her mind from body to body.

This psychic link helps Carlsen and Caine to find her whereabouts at a Yorkshire psychiatric hospital run by Dr. Armstrong (played by Sir Patrick Stewart). There they learn of her true plan: as part of a race of space vampires, they feed upon the life force of other creatures. Her goal was to lure the two men away as her male counterparts extract as much Lifeforce as possible from the people of London, ultimately to be siphoned back to their mothership. Her physical body remains back at St. Paul’s Cathedral as the extraction point to channel all the life force returning to their ship.

As they arrive back in London, where it has literally turned into a war zone as the space vampires continue to turn London citizens into zombies who now roam the streets to feed upon the life force of anyone who comes near. The two learn from Dr. Fallada of how the vampires escaped via stealing their victims’ identities and ultimately how to kill them off, as he was able to kill one of them.

Both men then go their separate ways: with Carlsen going to St. Paul’s Cathedral and Caine seeing Dr. Fallada to get the weapon needed to kill off the vampires for good.

All of this leads to a climatic showdown with Carlsen, Caine and the head female space vampire at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Vampire or Alien Film?
Some major differences between the novel and the film include the addition of Halley’s Comet as the plot device that propels the story forward, the story in the novel set in the late 21st century vs. 1986 in the film and that the space vampires themselves are portrayed more as traditional vampires vs. the concept that Colin Wilson had envisioned in his novel.

Lifeforce-Church 1
While they come from space, these vampires definitely have the gothic look and feel that we’re familiar with when it comes to vampires.

While this does feel more like a vampire movie with the unique twist of them being energy sucking vampires from outer space, it still has some great charm to it.

I for one enjoyed the slow, but gradual buildup to the climatic end of the film. Director Tobe Hooper knows how to build great atmosphere, which helps the viewer become invested in the worlds that he creates. And while it does borrow heavily from the Dracula mythos, it does still put its own unique thumbprint on combining the horror and sci-fi genres in such a way to make it stand out from the crowd.

The movie itself has a very Alien meets Dracula aesthetic.

Plus, it does have one heck of an alien invasion that literally turns downtown London into a war zone! Complete with hordes of energy-sucking zombies hellbent on chasing down Carlsen and Caine as they become humanity’s last hope in stopping these energy sucking space vampires from conquering their world.

We have a solid cast for this film, with actors Steve Railsback, Frank Finlay, Mathilda May and Sir Patrick Stewart being the main standouts. Each one offering a great performance that makes you feel invested in the characters that they portray on screen.

Tobe Hooper really puts his years of working in the horror genre (with various horror classics such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Funhouse and Poltergeist under his belt) to great use, showcasing some fantastic practical effects with how the drained, mummified scientists look and behave at the beginning of the film. Just the way that the life force gets sucked from their bodies to leave a dehydrated, withering husk is enough to give you chills.

Lifeforce-Skeleton 2
They just don’t do practical effects like this anymore.

The film’s story itself has that classic, sci-fi pulp feel, with all the crazy, over-the-top twists and appeal that has helped it to develop a cult status years after its release in theaters.

A high recommendation from me to check out if you are looking for a more unique take on the vampire genre while helping to satisfy your craving for an alien invasion storyline.

Four UFO Saucers Out of Five.

Next week I’ll be covering our founder’s favorite sci-fi horror film of all time: Fire In The Sky.

So until next week dear readers, keep your eyes on the skies…and watch your neck.

For more reviews, news, rankings, and other fun horror/sci-fi/fantasy content, follow Halloween Year-Round on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube!

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