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Film / Life-Force

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"I mean, in a sense we're all vampires. We drain energy from other life forms. The difference is one of degree. That girl was no girl. She's totally alien to this planet and our life form... and totally dangerous."

Lifeforce (1985), is a science-fiction horror film directed by Tobe Hooper for The Cannon Group. It was written by Dan O'Bannon (writer of Alien), based on an equally strange sci-fi novel by Colin Wilson.

In 1985, an Anglo-American space shuttle mission to Halley's Comet finds in the comet's tail an abandoned spacecraft with three (apparent) naked humans, two men and a woman, in suspended animation encased in glass pods. Later, after taking the pods aboard, the shuttle goes out of contact with ground control. A rescue mission finds that all the crew are dead, but the three people in the pods are still alive. The three not-really-humans are brought to the United Kingdom, whereupon the female wakes up and starts sucking the life out of everyone she encounters before escaping. Meanwhile, the sole survivor of the shuttle's crew, Col. Carlsen (Steve Railsback) returns to earth in an escape pod with a tale of terror.


It's a race to stop the aliens before they drain the lifeforce of every living thing on Earth.

Not to be confused with Life Energy, which is a trope. Also not to be confused with the NES port of Salamander.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Title Change: Lifeforce is an adaptation of the novel The Space Vampires. Part of the reason for the change was a title like "The Space Vampires" was completely at odds with the dead-serious tone of the film.
  • Age Without Youth: A particularly severe example. Anyone drained by the Space Vampires will turn into a husk and explode into dust unless they can suck the soul out of a hapless victim. Every 2 hours.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Space Girl emerges from the pod speaking perfect English. Caine actually takes the time to wonder how that's possible. It's revealed later that they probed the astronauts' minds when they discovered the vampire spaceship and learned English that way.
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  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Caine and Carlson discover the hard way that the Prime Minister has become one of the energy-absorbing zombies and escape the "secure location" in which the London quarantine is being controlled Just in Time — as in, they only need to deal with two zombies trying to climb into their helicopter rather than a massive horde.
  • Artificial Gravity: It uses the surprisingly realistic example of applying constant acceleration to a ship in space, and also shows the crew realistically in zero G after they decelerate to make their rendezvous with Halley's Comet. Of course there's a significant issue with relativity if the ship travels long enough to approach the speed of light, but the movie does not say how long the Churchill was accelerating at 1 G.
  • Artistic License – Space: Halley's Comet is depicted as taking up one-sixth of the nighttime horizon. In Real Life the 1985-86 visit of Halley's Comet was one of the worst ever as far as visibility goes, with the comet barely visible even with telescopes.note 
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: The second of the three guards who briefly corner the Space Girl. Despite having just witnessed her effortlessly zap one of his companions, he rushes towards her armed only with a walkie-talkie. Small wonder she zaps him too.
  • Bat People: The space vampires' real form is some kind of vaguely humanoid alien bat. Most of the colony encountered by the astronauts from the Churchill are mummified corpses, as they spent decades feeding on each other until there were only three left.
  • Big Bad: The vampire space ship. The vampires are just servants or parts of it.
  • Big "NO!": Dr. Armstrong screams it as the Space Girl is torturing him inside of him.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: Space Girl shows these, as black irises, in some scenes.
  • Body Surf: After her escape the female vampire starts switching from body to body to evade capture. And distract the heroes from their plans.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: The only thing that proves effective against the aliens is a medieval vampire hunting weapon that is implied to have been used against them during their previous visits to Earth.
  • Bring It: With a touch of Be Careful What You Wish For. The vampire outside the church to Caine: "It'll be much less terrifying if you just come to me." Caine's response? "I'll do just that."
  • Bus Crash: Bukovsky is a major protagonist for the first half of the film, but then disappears once the narrative starts to focus on Caine and Carlsen. Near the end, Caine inquires about his whereabouts and is informed that he died offscreen during the vampire rampage.
  • Buxom Is Better: Mathilda May is perhaps the ultimate example in cinematic history, representing the "feminine" in Carlsen's mind AND HOW!
  • Catapult Nightmare: While Carlson is asleep, he has a nightmare where he sits up in bed and the space girl visits him. Then he wakes up (for real) and sits upright in bed screaming.
  • Colonel Badass: Col. Colin Caine. Full stop. Wandering through Vampire infected London with the full knowledge of the danger, achieving every objective and coming out alive. Yeah, Badass.
  • Comet of Doom: The arrival of Halley's Comet foretells doom for London, as it contains an alien spaceship that carried space vampires. Discussed, as the characters mention that the appearance of Halley's Comet has been considered a warning of disaster for centuries, possibly because seeing it meant the alien ship within was near enough to allow the vampires to reach Earth and feed.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: By the end nearly all the hero characters are dead or servants of the alien. The alien, after its snack, goes off on its merry way to devour other planets. The one survivor who knows anything about what happened probably won't be believed, so there will be little to no preparation for the alien's inevitable return.Except that after the deaths of thousands humanity will recognise the threat of the spaceship (still in living memory 76 years later) and inevitably nuke it on sight.
  • Critical Existence Failure: What happens to second-generation vampires who go too long without feeding.
  • Dating Catwoman: Carlson is obsessed with the beautiful space vampire he is hunting, even though to touch her means death. They nevertheless make out several times. There's even a Ho Yay moment when he's driven to kiss her while she's occupying the body of a man. He later discovers the reason for his obsession is that she took the image of the perfect woman from his subconscious.
  • Death Seeker: Dr. Fallada is way too obsessed about death and the mysteries it contains for his own good. When he turns out to have been turned into another energy vampire off-screen while killing one of the space vampires with a medieval weapon and he is about five or six seconds away from turning into dust, he is ecstatic.
  • Doing in the Wizard : The movie posits that vampire legends are based on a race of alien Life Energy parasites.
  • The Dragon: The surviving male vampire has assumed this role by the third act, patrolling the streets as a giant orb of light and vacuuming up escaping souls to transfer to the female, who then sends them on to the ship. He resumes physical form to serve as the final obstacle that Caine must face before reaching the female.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Bukovsky dies offscreen, his death only being mentioned at the end of the film.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The vampire space-ship fits the definition almost exactly. It comes from across the universe, turns out to be in fact alive, is utterly inhuman (although its servants assume human form for convenience), arrives to consume the planet, and the heroes have no chance in hell of defeating it. They merely manage to contain the destruction it causes, and it goes back unharmed to Halley's Comet to return in 75 years for its next feeding.
  • Eldritch Starship: The vampire spaceship is an Eldritch Abomination.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: Cain is mentioned to be in the SAS (Special Air Service).
  • Escaped from the Lab: Space Girl's escape from the lab sets off the plot.
  • Escape Pod: Tom Carlsen returns to Earth from the space shuttle Churchill in one.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: The male vampire at the end when he talks to Col. Caine.
    [inhumanly deep] It'll be much less terrifying if you just come to me.
  • Expy: Dr. Hans Fallada is clearly patterned off of Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, and the actor who plays him, Frank Finlay, did indeed play Van Helsing in a BBC production of “Dracula”.
  • Eye Beams: One of the trippy-er posters shows the naked space vampires flying through space strapped to rockets and firing lasers from their eyes.
  • Fanservice: There's a reason why the movie is popularly known as "that naked space vampire movie". This was suggested by writer Dan O'Bannon, who also put a nude girl in his next movie, The Return of the Living Dead. (The expanded soundtrack album's booklet includes two shots of Miss Naked Vampire.)
  • Fan Disservice: When the Space Girl visits Carlsen in his dreams, she proceeds to make out with him while lightning is engulfing the room and animalistic shrieks and howls can be heard all around them. Plus there's all the scenes of the dessicated nude victims.
  • The Film of the Book: The Space Vampires.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: The space vampires took human form by probing the minds of the astronauts for suitable shapes. The human explorers, who presumed they were dealing with Human Aliens, decided to take them to Earth for further study. Their real forms are those hibernating bat-like creatures found inside the alien spacecraft, which are only shown in their full glory when the female vampire visits Carlson in his dreams, and when the second male vampire is killed at the end.
  • For Science!: Doctor Fallada is determined to find out about life after death. He gets to find out eventually.
  • Full-Frontal Assault:
    • The scene where a completely nude Space Girl goes around the Research Center wreaking havoc is memorable, to say the least.
    • Happens again when the two male vampires break free of their casings, and then a third time when the naked corpse of the first victim springs to life during his own autopsy and attacks the coroners.
  • Gainax Ending: The movie makes it patently unclear just what happens to Space Girl and Carlson after he stabs her at the end. The novel the movie was based off was named "The Space Vampires" and, as Carlson was designated to be her new lifeforce gatherer as the prettyboy vamps had been; essentially their replacement, he wasn't taking chances of ending up alone and drinking lives, possibly for eternity.
  • Gender-Inverted Trope: A gender inversion of the Dracula model where a male vampire with a couple of 'brides' dominates Weak-Willed females — here we have the beautiful Space Girl (with her two male brides) manipulating the desires of Carlson and other random men. This point has been missed by those critics who accuse the film of being misogynist (misogyny in this film exists in plenty of other scenes, such as the scene with the "natural masochist" and the voyeur - the behavior of the protagonists in that scene was not exactly RACK or SSAC compliant).
  • Girl of My Dreams: A dark version. Carlson becomes obsessed with the beautiful naked woman he finds on an alien spacecraft who turns out to be a Life Energy-sucking space vampire. She later informs him that she probed his mind long before his ship approached hers, taking from it an image of his perfect woman.
    Carlson: What are you? Why are you so human, so perfect? What were the bird-creatures on the [space]ship?
    Space Girl: Our bodies are unimportant. As you and your men approached in your ship, we changed them for you. We entered your minds, and found there new bodies. I took my shape from your mind. I took your language. I became the woman I found there, in your deepest thoughts, your deepest...needs.
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: Briefly mentioned. The Space Girl's first victim outside of the Research Center is a woman. Two men who saw them wander off together admit to doubling back, hoping to see it.
  • Gorn: Two guys have their internal blood supply burst out rather messily, reforming into the shape of the Space Girl.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Kudos to that security guard that thought that luring the Space Girl with a half-eaten biscuit was the smartest thing to do.
  • Homage: The interior of the spaceship is obviously based on the H.R. Geiger designs in Alien, which was also written by Dan O'Bannon.
  • Horny Devils: The female space "vampire" seduces human men to drain their Life Energy, who in turn become quasi-zombies that further spread the disease.
  • Horror Hunger: What human victims of the space vampires suffer—they need to drain others of Life Energy or they will literally shrivel up and die.
  • Human Aliens: When the astronauts explore the vampire spaceship they are astonished to discover a humanoid crew in stasis pods. Subverted when it's discovered that they're actually shapeshifting monsters who assumed human form to more easily find and seduce human victims to snack on their Life Energy. Their real form is some sort of extraterrestrial, winged bat creature.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The space vampires may have taken attractive human forms, but they're anything but.
  • Hypnotic Eyes: Space Girl has Red Eyes, Take Warning eyes in some scenes, and in some closeups she is shown to have apparently hypnotic spirals in her irises.
  • Immune to Bullets: When the two male vampires (in human form) attack the guards, they are shot multiple times (resulting in bloody bullet wounds) but keep right on coming. They are only stopped by grenade explosions.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: "Space Girl" walking around the streets of London stark naked as she has no concept of modesty.
  • Interspecies Romance: Space Girl seduces Carlson to become her mate so she can establish a link between vampires and humans to learn more about them. Carlson finds himself driven to pursue her as she's destroying the world, even when Caine reminds him that she's nowhere close to being human.
  • Kill It with Fire: After Carlsen returns he reveals that the reason the Churchill was found completely burnt out on the inside was that he set it on fire in an attempt to kill the vampires. He failed, as they remained protected inside their spooky space coffins.
  • Kiss of Death: Space Girl kills (and zombifies) her victims by sucking out their lifeforce with a kiss.
  • Life Energy: What the vampires feed on.
  • Light Is Not Good: The female vampire dons a pristine white robe at the climax while the males transform into brilliant masses of light that drain souls and devastate buildings.
  • Liquid Assets: The humans' titular lifeforce.
  • Living Aphrodisiac: Space Girl is very beautiful, but the extent to which her victims became helpless, infatuated wrecks when confronted with her implies there is more to her allure than just appearance. One of the doctors who survived an encounter describes her as "the most overwhelming feminine presence I've ever encountered". In the case of Carlson, his obsession with the Space Girl is explained by her taking the form of the perfect woman from his subconscious desires.
  • Living Ship: The spacecraft is either this or a Eldritch Abomination Space Whale.
  • Monstrous Cannibalism: Implied to be why there are only three vampires on board their ship that haven't been reduced to shriveled husks by the time it's discovered.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Spectacularly gorgeous French actress Mathilda May, playing "Space Girl" (really), starts the movie wearing absolutely nothing, and then graduates to wearing next-to-nothing.
  • A Mythology Is True: The aliens are determined to have been to Earth in the distant past and were the origins of vampires from myths and legends.
  • Nice Guy: Bukovsky, Caine and Fallada are the most prominent examples of this.
  • Name of Cain: Subverted. Special Air Service Colonel Colin Caine stays completely heroic.
  • No Name Given: Sorry, "Space Girl" does not count. Ditto with the other two members of her species that show up.
  • Not Quite Dead: The two male brides are supposedly blown to bits while trying to escape. Turned out they took over the bodies of the soldiers. And all the victims of the vampires become active again after two hours.
  • Nuclear Option: NATO quickly opens possibility of the nuclear option if the British army can't contain the vampiric outbreak in London from spreading any further.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Whenever Caine loses his cool and starts panicking and/or cursing, you know the shit's hit the fan and is about to go right through the ceiling.
  • Oh, Crap!: Several moments in the film, the discovery that the Prime Minister has been turned being a notable example.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Turns out that the vampire myth stems from these space "vampires," who visit Earth with Halley's Comet to suck the Life Energy from humans. They look like giant bats while hibernating inside their spaceship, but they transform into regular humans to seduce their prey. Also, while a stake can kill them, it has to be made of leaded iron, and stabbed two inches under instead of through the heart.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Humans fed on by the vampires become zombie-type creatures which hunt for other humans to suck lifeforce from. Other than being without souls, they appear like normal people until a few hours' wait causes them to start decaying unless they replenish themselves by feeding on someone else.
  • The Peeping Tom: Parodied when Colonel Carlson interrogates a woman whose body was taken over by the psychic female space-vampire.
    Col. Carlson: Despite appearances, this woman is a masochist. An extreme masochist. She wants me to beat the information out of her. If you can't handle it, wait outside!
    Col. Caine: Not at all. I am a natural voyeur.
  • Pillar of Light: From London's Cathedral (where the Space Girl is located) to the vampire spaceship in orbit. All the human souls are sucked up through it.
  • Psychic Link: Between Col. Carlsen, the only survivor from the original space mission (Steve Railsback) and Space Girl. Later, between Carlsen and the people Space Girl used as vessels—he can read the mind of the red-headed woman at the asylum that Space Girl inhabited for a while.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The vampires are stopped from harvesting the entire planet, but at a heavy cost. The entire downtown metro-area of London is dead, and the infection may have spread even further before Caine stops it by slaying the second male vampire, killing off the zombies. It is unclear what happened to Carlson, but he's no longer on Earth. And the ship itself regenerates and returns to Halley's Comet, so it can return in another 75 years to try to do it all over again (assuming humanity don't just nuke it on sight).
  • Really 700 Years Old: Space Girl may look like a twenty-something woman, but that's only because she can shapeshift. She's actually a nigh-immortal space bat who has been roaming the cosmos devouring countless souls for God knows how long.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Colonel Caine is this in his investigation of the Space Girl, taking the witnesses' words seriously and even working with resident expert Doctor Hans Fallada to find out the truth.
  • Reduced to Dust: If a zombie can't quickly drain more Life Energy after waking up, it explodes into dust.
  • Regularly Scheduled Evil: The space vampires attack the Earth to consume souls when their spaceship departs from Halley's Comet every 76 years when it's in close enough proximity to Earth.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Colonel Carlsen and Colonel Caine respectively.
  • Safe Zone Hope Spot: The secure location trying to deal with the space vampires and the energy-absorbing zombies has already been invaded by one of said zombies. Who is the Prime Minister. Caine and Carlson barely manage to escape. And it also turns out that the researcher that found out the vampires' weakness has been infected as well, which Caine finds out when he goes to see him.
  • Scenery Censor: One that isn't really fair. We see every square inch of Mathilda May at one point or another, but the scenes with the two male vampires are always carefully framed and blocked so that something is covering their naughty bits.
  • Sexy Silhouette: The Space Girl shows off her backside in shadow as she walks up the stairs.
  • Shapeshifting Seducer:
    • The female space vampire doesn't change her form again onscreen after she settles on the shape of a beautiful girl, and she has a habit of walking around in the buff. She took this shape directly from the mind of Colonel Carlson, as the image of the girl is his conception of the perfect woman, and uses it to draw him to her and seduce him so she can use his lifeforce in her Evil Plan.
    • The two male space vampires have the looks of pretty-boy, 1980s "glam" models or rock singers, which were likely taken from the desires of the two women astronauts on the Churchill.
  • Soul Fragment: The Space Vampire gave a part of herself to Carlson in order to understand humanity, resulting in a telepathic connection.
  • This Was His True Form: When one of the male space vampires receives a metal stake through his chest courtesy of Colonel Caine, he turns back into his giant bat form as he dies.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Colonel Carlsen is a space vampire himself. At least that's what the Space Girl tells him.
  • To Serve Man: The film has an unusual spin on vampire mythology: vampires are actually aliens who visit humanity from time to time to suck us dry of Life Energy.
  • Touch Telepathy: Colonel Carlson can see into the mind of a human possessed by a space vampire when he touches them (or vice versa).
  • Vampires Are Sex Gods: Rather overtly literal, as Space Girl is practically a succubus. She seduces her victims with her otherworldly attraction, then devours their life force in the process of making out with them.
  • Vampire's Harem: Inverted. The Space Girl Vampiress has two Pretty Boy vampires following her around; all three of them are constantly nude since they don't care about human conceptions of decency.
  • Vampiric Draining: Naturally. Given an explanation of how Our Vampires Are Different — it's not blood but rather life energy.
  • Villainesses Want Heroes: Space Girl establishes a psychic link to Carlson and offers him to rule by her side, intent on making him another of her "brides". She even went through the effort of reading his mind to assume his dream of the ideal woman (her real form being... not very pretty).
  • The Virus: The majority of the population think there's a deadly plague with a two-hour gestation period loose in London. Though, the spread of the vampire zombie condition is similar to a virus that needs physical contact.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: To Dracula. With a bit of H. P. Lovecraft's mythos as well.
  • Wooden Stake: Played with. The space vampires are vulnerable to leaded iron stakes, and they have to be stabbed a few inches below the heart to actually kill them.
  • Your Soul Is Mine!: The life force that the vampires consume is strongly implied to be the human victims' actual souls.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: London seriously gets out of control towards the end.

Alternative Title(s): The Space Vampires