Things are changing around here at the House of 1000 Courses. No longer content to use this blog merely as a tool for letting you know what the next month of movies will be at our Sunday Vegan Potlucks, we’re now expanding it to include film reviews and recipes, and possibly much, much more!
Let’s kick it off with a post for the Final Girl Film Club, hosted by our favorite horror blogger, Stacie Ponder. The movie this month was Lifeforce.
In his autobiography, science fiction author Colin Wilson writes, “John Fowles had once told me that the film of The Magus was the worst movie ever made. After seeing Lifeforce I sent him a postcard telling him that I had gone one better.”
Wilson was speaking of the 1985 Tobe Hooper film, which had been based on his novel Space Vampires. Co-written by Don Jakoby and Dan O’Bannon (of Alien fame), the adaptation wildly diverged from the plot of the original, retaining only a few crucial elements. If you’ve read the book, you can kind of see why Wilson might have been so upset: major characters were either taken out or had their roles severely diluted; a handful of scenes retained were taken so far out of context that they seem either unnecessary or incomprehensible; a good half of the movie (including the nature of the vampires and their plan) was completely invented, with no connection whatsoever to the original plot. In fact, you might say it’s a totally different story, only loosely based on the idea of energy-sucking vampires from space.
…But I’ll try not to get all sci-fi-nerdy and fill this review with moans of “Why wasn’t it exactly like the book in every way oh my god what an atrocity.” Because as a horror fan, and especially as a fan of the undead, I have to admit that this movie kind of ruled.
Here’s the basic premise of the movie: an international space mission to Halley’s Comet discovers a spaceship hidden within it, apparently abandoned. Upon investigating, the crew discovers a number of large bat-like creatures—dead—and three bodies of what appear to be humans, encased in glass “coffins.” They bring the human bodies back on board with them, to take them to Earth. Somewhere along the way, the coffins open, and…well, you know the rest. The only survivor, Carlsen, takes an escape pod and sets the craft to self-destruct, thinking he’ll destroy the creatures they’ve brought on board.
Of course, that never works. Silly man.
The coffins survive the wreck intact, and are brought to a research center. Naturally the aliens escape, sucking the life force from numerous victims, sometimes by way of sexy, naked make-out sessions. These victims return to life after a few hours, and either must feed on someone else’s life force or turn to dust. This pattern, of course, leads to a fast-spreading plague that quickly turns most of London into desperate life-suckers. The three original “vampires” (who are, of course, not human, but have merely assumed a human form) ditch their initial bodies for new ones, and continue to transfer their essence into a new host any time they feel the hounds are too close to their trail.
Here’s where the movie takes a turn for the stupid. Instead of being content to put our heroes up against a rampaging horde of zombies and three deadly, body-shifting, psychic space vampires, the writers had to get a little more epic. Turns out that the vampires are not just turning folks into the living dead to keep themselves alive—they’re somehow transferring the life force to the single female vampire, who acts as a conduit to send the energy back up to the mothership, which has now entered Earth’s orbit. (Oh, sure, that makes….huh?) Just in time, Carlsen and his buddy Caine learn that the vampires can be killed by impaling their “energy centers” (which apparently reside in the solar plexus) and dispatch of the first two fairly quickly. In the final scene, Carlsen realizes that he, too, is a vampire (which explains the psychic connection with the female vampire he’d experienced earlier) and impales a spear through both himself and the vampire as the two of them make love in the glow of the energy beam heading up to the spaceship. Wow.
The zombies in this film are a pretty cool conceit, I think; they really made the movie for me. The “true” vampires are strong, sexy, telepathic, and don’t seem to run the same risk of turning to dust if they don’t feed every two hours. Their poor victims, however, are forced into an existence that requires a single-minded pursuit of more and more bodies to feed on, a never-ending cycle of hunger and feeding. It’s a hierarchy of the undead, really, with the noble, self-controlled vampire lords leeching off the labor of the disorganized zombie masses. And I’ll stop there, lest this turn into some sort of marxist academic paper…
The special effects, by John Dykstra (of Industrial Light and Magic), are pretty rad. Behold.