Lifeforce review

Tobe Hooper's sexy sci-fi-horror hybrid gets surprisingly spectacular treatment on Blu-ray

A box office flop in the Summer of 1985, Tobe Hooper's $25million sci-fi-horror epic has since been relegated to the status of a 'guilty pleasure', mainly remembered for leading lady Mathilda May's many nude scenes. However, time has been surprisingly kind to the film and – while not without its flaws – today Lifeforce stands out from the bland Hollywood blockbusters that followed in its wake as a unique, astonishingly audacious and brilliantly bonkers special effects extravaganza.

During the investigation of a mysterious spaceship hidden in the corona of Haley's Comet, astronauts are shocked to discover three naked humanoids – two males and one female– in a state of perfect preservation. Unsurprisingly, the trio aren't quite what they seem, and it isn't long before a gorgeous female space vampire is on the loose in London, sucking the lifeforce out of her all-too-willing victims and leaving a rabid army of vampire-zombies in her wake.

While this sounds like a standard piece of exploitation cinema, Lifeforce is much more than that. With a budget $6million larger than the same year's Back to the Future and featuring special effects by Star Wars alumnus John Dykstra, Lifeforce is in fact the world's weirdest blockbuster this side of Howard the Duck. And unlike that flop, Hooper's sci-fi-horror also has a coherent plot to keep you watching between all of the state-of-the-art special effects sequences.

Picture: Arrow's Blu-ray treatment of Lifeforce is nothing less than gorgeous. Overseen and personally colour-timed by Hooper himself, the AVC 2.40:1 1080p restoration boasts excellent colour saturation (particularly the striking red and green primaries) and impressive definition.

A thin layer of natural film grain is also present across most scenes, although it understandably makes its presence felt a little more readily during some night sequences and the film's many optical effects. The latter also make the image appear a little soft on occasions, but this is an unavoidable side-effect of the techniques being used.
Picture rating: 4.5/5

Audio: The film (in both incarnations – see below) is accompanied by LPCM stereo and DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtracks. The former is the more authentic of the two and delivers a satisfying aural balance across the two-channel soundstage. The 5.1 remix makes emphatic use of the surrounds, particularly when people are having their lifeforce drained, but may sound a little too processed for your tastes.
Audio rating: 4/5

Extras: This two-disc set is packed with goodies. Alongside the 116-minute International Cut of the film, the first platter also hosts a trio of chat tracks with director Tobe Hooper, make-up effects designer Nick Maley and visual effects maestro Douglas Smith; a brand-new 70-minute retrospective documentary looking back at the making of the film; interviews with Hooper and actors Mathilda May and Steve Railsback; and a pair of theatrical trailers.

The second disc houses the truncated and rather less satisfying 101-minute US theatrical cut of the film, presented with the same AV specs as the International Cut.
Extras rating: 5/5

We say: Arrow Video has done it yet again, pulling out all the stops for this hi-def celebration of Tobe Hooper's schlocky sci-fi-horror spectacular

Lifeforce, Arrow Video, Region B BD, £25 Approx