Feb 19, 2013


Until rather recently and in part due to its questionable reputation, I had never seen Tobe Hooper’s science fiction horror epic Lifeforce (1985). Undoubtedly, one of the reasons for this is due to the fact that, aside from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and its silly yet sardonic sequel The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986), I have always considered Hooper a hack and Hollywood hooker (with Spielberg being his one-time pimp) of horror especially considering that he has yet to direct a decent film for the genre in nearly three decades, not to mention the fact that he sold his soul to the celluloid devil himself, Steven Spielberg. Of course, a great film is a great film no matter who directed it nor whether the film was a commercial failure that lost a celluloid battle at the box-office with retard Ron Howard’s empty elderly-ploitation flick Cocoon (1985). Indeed, I was so shocked by how enthralling my initial viewing of Lifeforce was that I actually watched it again the next day – a compulsive childhood habit that I broke with long ago, even with films I like – and, to my amazement, the film was still just as potent with its big-budget killer, albeit accidental, kitsch of the curiously charming and infectious celluloid space vampire sort, thus making a sort of "2001: A Space Odyssey of horror." Based on British ‘New Existentialist’ novelist/philosopher Colin Wilson’s novel The Space Vampires (1976) – an unconventional sci-fi/horror hybrid inspired by the supposed phenomenon of ‘psychic vampirism’ about a group of ill-fated astronauts who make the mistake of investigating a beauteous castle-like alien spaceship full of vampiric extraterrestrials who can take human form, thus inadvertedly exposing the hostile yet erotically hypnotic beings to planet earth where they take the bodies of human beings – and a screenplay written by Dan O'Bannon (Alien, The Return of the Living Dead) and Don Jakoby, Lifeforce is a rare epic of science fiction that actually contains an erotic component in the form of a female vamp from outerspace played by French model/actress Mathilda May (Naked Tango, The Tit and the Moon) who is totally au naturel for the majority of the film, hence her lethally lecherous life-draining properties. Originally planned to be titled The Space Vampires instead of the lifeless “Lifeforce” (Cannon Films felt the original title sounded too much like the low-budget exploitations they were known to release), the cinematic work was the first film in a three picture (Invaders from Mars, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) deal that Hooper had with Cannon Films that would ultimately signal in the beginning of the end of his prestigious Hollywood horror filmmaking career, but at least he proved before his fall that someone could actually direct a film featuring aliens, vampires, and zombies that appeals to people other than those who spend their lifesavings on getting autographs from faded stars at fanboy horror conventions.

You might as well be cursed when you’re a member of a space shuttle named Churchill, or at least such is the case for the astronauts of a spaceship named after Great Britain’s most famous bloated drunkard. After discovering a 150-mile long spaceship, members of the Churchill investigate and find a dead army of mummified bat-like creatures and three nude Europid humanoids – a beautiful woman (Mathilda May) and two twink males (Chris Jagger; Mick's brother, and Bill Malin) – seemingly in a comatose state suspended vertically in something that looks like a glass coffin. Clearly not something they should just leave behind in space, the crew takes the three sensual somnambulist-like creatures back to earth, but on the way, mission control loses contact with the shuttle, which is badly burnt when it finally reaches the home planet with the three aliens being the only things that remain. The exotic extraterrestrial beings are taken to the European Space Research Centre in London and in no time the fem-alien has sucked the “life force” out of a gulky security guard and eventually escapes from the seemingly secure building, thereupon wrecking havoc upon the British city. It is revealed that the three aliens are from an ancient and highly aggressive race of shape-shifting space vampires who prefer draining the “spirit” of the person as opposed to mere hemoglobin like your typical Eastern European bloodsucker. It turns out that one man, redneck Texan Colonel Tom Carlsen (Steve Railsback), did survive the Churchill spacecraft via an escape pod. Naturally, Carlsen is flown to London where he reveals how the “life force” of his crew was drained over time. Under hypnosis, it is also revealed that Carlsen has a special psychic link to the venomous space vamp, thus allowing him to have some metaphysical insight into finding the soul-sucking succubus. Carlsen hooks up with SAS Col. Colin Caine (Peter Firth) and they travel to a psychiatric hospital in Yorkshire, but the out-of-this-world femme fatale has only deceived them and the American astronaut is instead treated to an unwanted kiss from Patrick Stewart (playing a hospital manager who has been put under a spell by the aberrant alien). While flying back to London, the succubus (contained inside Star Trek Stewart’s body) inevitably escapes from her humble host. Meanwhile, the two male aliens have escaped the Space Research Centre by shape-shifting into the soldiers that were guarding them and they penetrate the city, causing what Morrissey might call ‘Panic in London’ by turning its perturbed populous into zombies who further spread the disease by trying to drain the life of other humans. It is revealed that the male aliens are merely the ‘worker bees’ of the female alien as they deliver all the life force to her, which she transfers to a spaceship in earth’s orbit. The queen bitch alien is eventually found on a church altar delivering the human energy to her spaceship. While Caine fights off the male aliens, Carlsen struggles to ‘penetrate’ the evil alieness and fight mind over cock and balls to save

Since the release of Lifeforce, Cannon Films (and its parent company The Cannon Group Inc.) has gone out of business and Tobe Hooper’s filmmaking career has plummeted to the point where he has resorted to remaking exploitation films like The Toolbox Murders (1978) that are inferior to his own breakthrough horror film The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) released around the same time. While Hooper’s greatest financial success as a filmmaker was undoubtedly Poltergeist (1982), co-writer/producer Steven Spielberg’s celebrity and ‘E.T.’ imprints can be seen all over the film thus eclipsing the horror director’s notoriety and earning Mr. Shoah of show biz all the glory. According to Hebraic midget Zelda Rubinstein, Spielberg was the 'de facto director' of Poltergeist, in part, due to the claim that Hooper was high on the set, or as the actress stated, “allowed some unacceptable chemical agents into his work.” As Spielberg in a maniacal fit of Aspergers induced narcissism candidly stated of Hooper himself while working with him, "Tobe isn't... a take-charge sort of guy. If a question was asked and an answer wasn't immediately forthcoming, I'd jump in and say what we could do. Tobe would nod agreement, and that become the process of collaboration." Indeed, being a cuckold of S.Spielberg is probably not the most prestigious way to be remembered as a filmmaker, but I will always remember Hooper as the man who created the only two decent TCM films, as well as the one fellow who directed the single redeemable vampire-alien-zombie horror-sci-fi hybrid, even if Lifeforce is the cinematic equivalent of reading one of H.P. Lovecraft’s less wonderful Weird Tales while sitting on the balcony of an expensive vacation resort at night while under “unacceptable chemical agents.” 

-Ty E

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