Hooper heads back to Texas Chain Saw territory and opens the film with a dead serious voiceover by John Larroquette- or at least, I think it's him. According to imdb.com, Larroquette's involvement is "unconfirmed"- is this really an unsolved mystery after nearly 25 years? Has no one, you know, asked him? Regardless, the narrator quickly gives us the skinny on all the space stuff: a joint mission between Brits and Americans has sent the shuttle Churchill tooling towards Halley's Comet in order to check it out.
The Churchill gang makes a startling discovery: there's some sort of craft traveling along near the head of the comet. It's 150 miles long, 2 miles high, and practically begging to be explored. Colonel Carlsen (Steve Railsback) heads up an away team who board the alien craft, only to find:
- it's seemingly derelict
- it's seemingly organic
- there are humongous bat-like aliens on board, all dried-out and dead
- there are three nudies lying in stasis in giant crystals
30 days later, the Churchill is found by another shuttle crew and it's in a terrible state: there's been a fire on board. The escape pod has been launched, but the state of the crew bodies makes it impossible to determine who, if anyone, may have made it out alive. The Crystal Nudies, however, remain intact and unharmed! Naturally they're brought back to London for examination; I'm guessing that in the end, this will prove to be a decision most unwise. Lifeforce lesson #2: The Crystal Nudies is, quite possibly, the best band name ever.
Once on the dissecting table, the beautiful, mysterious, and naked Space Girl (Mathilda May) proves to be decidedly not dead- or is that undead? Either way, the fact remains: she's alive. She grabs an enamoured guard (no one can resist her naked beauty!) and they start to make out. The next thing you know, everything has gone all Spencer's Gifts and there's lightning everywhere, like this:
The poor guard withers away as they make out- it seems that Space Girl is sucking the very life out of him...his lifeforce, if you will! He ends up dead and looking all caca, like this:
Space Girl makes her way out of the Space Research Centre and just like that, the very thing mankind has feared since the beginning of time has come to pass: there's a naked space vampire on the loose! We all knew this day would come eventually, yet we find ourselves so unprepared.
The SAS arrives on the scene, and Col Colin Caine (Peter Firth) is determined to figure out just what the eff is going on. As the autopsy on the dead guard begins, Caine learns at least one thing: the guard may be all beef-jerkified, but he sure ain't dead! He springs back to corpsey life, grabs the closest doctor, and makes with the lifeforce-suckage. As the doctor withers, the guard plumps up again and seems no worse for the wear, although he's understandably confused. Lifeforce lesson #3: space vampirism, like cooties, is easily passed from person to person.
The Churchill's escape pod lands in Texas with Col Carlsen on board. He's quickly brought to London to help piece together this evil naked space vampire puzzle; through flashbacks, we learn that The Crystal Nudies decimated the crew of the Churchill, leaving Carlsen with no choice but to set the shuttle on fire before busting a move out of there so the naked space vampires couldn't make their way to Earth. Nice try, Carlsen, but not good enough.
For the next hour or so, Carlsen and Caine chase Space Girl through London and beyond as she jumps from body to body. They meet lots of interesting characters along the way, from Patrick Stewart as the director of a mental hospital to a nurse at the same hospital who's really into being slapped around. As the alien fleshy umbrella space ship heads toward Earth, the space vampire plague quickly spreads throughout the city and London falls under martial law. People are going nuts running around, fires are breaking out everywhere, and there's a Spencer's Gifts bonanza in the sky- in other words, it's an awful lot like the Cabbage Patch Kid riots of '83.
Can Carlsen and Caine save the world from The Crystal Nudies? Find out in the explosive, ambiguous, and all-nude finale!
The worst thing I can say about Lifeforce is that it absolutely overstays its welcome; at nearly 2 hours, it's more than a bit bloated and parts of it drag like nobody's business.
On the other hand, it's a hell of a lot of fun- I mean, is there ever a time when naked space vampires aren't fun? The effects hold up surprisingly well for a flick from the mid-80s. The animatronic corpses are rad*, there are all manner of space vampire dustings that are bitchin'*, the corpse made out of blood (yes, made out of blood) is gnarly*, and the Spencer's Gifts lightning isn't nearly as cheesy as the moniker implies.
Lest you think that Lifeforce is nothing but a naked effects extravaganza, however, let me assure you: this movie has a deeper message. That message is revealed when, as he tries to explain his attraction to Space Girl, Carlsen states:
She killed all my friends and I still didn't want to leave. Leaving her was the hardest thing I ever did.See? It's all a metaphor for relationships. We've all had at least one of 'em: your girlfriend or boyfriend completely sucks the life out of you, all your friends hate him or her, your friendships fall apart and you're left weak, lethargic, and a mere shell of your former self...and yet, you stay with him or her for no reason beyond the fact that he's cute or she has great tits. Lifeforce lesson #4: relationships will kill you!
This film is probably Tobe Hooper's most ambitious (I'm not counting the shady mess that is Poltergeist) and it's a delightful (though a wee overlong) '80s romp, the likes of which you don't much see nowadays. There really aren't enough naked space vampires in the world of cinema today, don't you agree?
*this review brought to you by 1985 and the totally tubular Mountain Dew
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