Cult Movies

Cult Movie Essentials: Lifeforce (1985)

Lifeforce is a 1985 science fiction film directed by Tobe Hooper and written by Dan O’Bannon and Don Jakoby, based on Colin Wilson’s 1976 novel, The Space Vampires. Featuring Steve Railsback, Peter Firth, Frank Finlay, Mathilda May, and Patrick Stewart, the film portrays the events that unfold “after a trio of humanoids in a state of suspended animation are brought to earth after being discovered in the hold of an abandoned European space shuttle.” The film received mixed to positive reviews, and was a box office bomb.


  • Steve Railsback as Col. Tom Carlsen
  • Peter Firth as Col. Colin Caine
  • Frank Finlay as Dr. Hans Fallada
  • Mathilda May as Space Girl
  • Patrick Stewart as Dr. Armstrong
  • Michael Gothard as Dr. Bukovsky
  • Nicholas Ball as Roger Derebridge
  • Aubrey Morris as Sir Percy Heseltine
  • Nancy Paul as Ellen Donaldson
  • John Hallam as Lamson
  • Sidney Kean as Brash Guard
  • Chris Sullivan as Kelly


A joint US-UK crew on board the nuclear-powered space shuttle Churchill is on a mission to investigate Halley’s Comet under the command of US Air Force Colonel Thomas Wolfe Carlsen (Railsback). They find a 150-mile long alien spaceship hidden in the comet’s corona, seemingly derelict. Upon entering the spacecraft, the crew finds hundreds of dead, shrivelled bat-like creatures and three naked humanoid bodies (two male and one female) in suspended animation within glass containers. The crew recovers the three aliens and begins the return trip to Earth.

During the return journey, Mission Control loses contact with the shuttle and a rescue mission is launched to investigate. The rescuers discover that the Churchill has been severely damaged by fire, with its internal components (including video) destroyed, and the three containers bearing the aliens are all that remain intact. The aliens are taken to the European Space Research Centre in London where they are watched over by Dr. Leonard Bukovsky (Gothard) and Dr. Hans Fallada (Finlay). Prior to an autopsy, the female alien (May), referred to throughout the film as the Space Girl, awakens and fully drains the “life force” out of a guard, as well as some extra energy from the intervening Bukovsky. The Space Girl (nude throughout most of her appearance in the film) then escapes the research facility and proceeds to drain various other humans of their life force, revealing in the interim an ability to shape-shift.

It transpires that the aliens are in fact part of a race of space vampires that consume the life force of living beings, rather than their blood. To make matters worse, their victims, which are in a mummified state when completely drained, are temporarily revived as zombies that are also capable of draining others of their life forces, each victim needing a regular infusion of life energy every two hours lest they disintegrate or explode into clouds of ash.

Meanwhile, in Texas, an escape pod from the Churchill is found, with Carlsen inside. Carlsen is flown to London where he describes the course of events, culminating in the draining of the crew’s life force. Carlsen explains that he set fire to the shuttle with the intention of saving Earth from the same fate and escaped in the pod. However, when he is hypnotized, it becomes clear that Carlsen possesses a psychic link to the Space Girl. Carlsen and SAS Col. Colin Caine (Firth) trace the alien to a psychiatric hospital in Yorkshire. While in Yorkshire, the two believe they have managed to trap the alien within the heavily sedated body of the hospital’s manager, Dr Armstrong (Stewart); but Carlsen and Caine later learn that they were deceived, as the aliens had wanted to draw the pair out of London.

As Carlsen and Caine are transporting Dr Armstrong in a helicopter back to London, the Space Girl breaks free from her sedated host and disappears. When they reach London a “plague” has overtaken the city and martial law has been declared by NATO forces surrounding the city, with thermonuclear device being approved for use should the “plague” spread beyond the city boundaries. The two male vampires, previously thought destroyed, have escaped from confinement by shape-shifting into the soldiers guarding them; the pair then transform most of London’s population into zombies. After their life force has been drained by the male vampires, the victims seek out other humans in order to absorb their life force, perpetuating the cycle. The absorbed life forces are channelled by the male vampires to the female vampire, who transmits the accumulated energy to their spaceship in Earth’s orbit.

Fallada impales one of the male vampires with an ancient sword of “leaded iron”, which has to be driven through the energy centre of each of the space vampires, located two inches below the heart. He tells Caine and Carlsen that these space vampires are possibly the origin of the vampires of Earth mythology. Carlsen confirms this, having learned from his psychic link that the aliens had visited Earth previously. Carlsen also confirms that the vampires have been involved in the destruction of other inhabited worlds, and that it was possible that they were subsisting on each other as a last resort until the Churchill discovered their ship. Carlsen also confesses to Caine that he felt compelled to open the female vampire’s container and share his life force with her. She is later found inside St Paul’s Cathedral, lying upon the altar. She reveals to Carlsen’s shock that they are “part of each other” due to the sharing of their life forces, thus their psychic bond.

Fallada, Bukovsky and the rest of the Centre’s team become victims of the “plague”. Caine follows Carlsen into St Paul’s Cathedral and is intercepted by the second male vampire, whom he dispatches using the leaded iron sword. Upon entering the sanctuary, Caine delivers the sword to Carlsen while Carlsen is physically entwined with the Space Girl on the altar. Carlsen impales himself and the female alien simultaneously. The two ascend the column of energy to the spaceship and join the revived vampire race, and the ship returns to its hiding place within the comet, leaving London ruined but surviving.



Categories: Cult Movies

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