Lifeforce

101 minutes

Director Tobe Hooper seriously overplays his hand, losing the shape of this 1985 film in a barrage of overblown special effects and screaming Dolby stereo. It's a shame, because the screenplay—by Dan O'Bannon and Don Jakoby, from a novel by Colin Wilson—could have yielded a classic in the hands of a filmmaker with a halfway decent grasp of pace, narration, and performance. The plotline is as broadly and bizarrely imaginative as the best of H.P. Lovecraft; I couldn't begin to reproduce its baroque turns, so let's just say that it represents an insightful linkage of the Victorian vampire tale (with its overwhelming horror of sexuality) and the determined asexuality of the post-Kubrickian science fiction film. Kubrick's prissy, idealist vision of extraterrestrial life—as something clean, spiritual, and symmetrical—finds its answer in a group of aliens who revel in passion and chaos, as the repressed returns with obscene zeal. The cast, hopelessly adrift in Hooper's sea of exploding corpses and spurting blood, includes Steve Railsback, Peter Firth, Frank Finlay, and Mathilda May.

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