Lifeforce (1985) Review (Arrow Video Blu-ray)


Based on the novel, The Space Vampires, by Colin Wilson, transferred to a screenplay by Dan O’Bannon (Alien Trilogy, Return of the Living Dead) and Dan Jakoby (Invaders from Mars, Evolution), and directed by Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Poltergeist), this space-vampire film mixes the genres of horror and sci-fi in a way that feels ahead of its time when you look back on it almost thirty years after its release. It was exciting to see, some months ago, that Arrow Video were putting the film out on Blu-ray, with a brand new HD transfer, a new extensive behind-the-scenes documentary, and other special features.

A space shuttle called “Churchill” is sent on assignment to observe Halley’s Comet, while on their mission the crew members encounter a strange needle-shaped craft hovering around the comet, and they travel inside to investigate. Upon doing this they discover that it is an alien formation which contains a digestive organ like interior, thousands of dead bat-like creatures, and three humanoids, one female, and two male, naked and in glass coffins. The crew take the three specimens back to the Churchill, before losing contact with mission control. 30 days later the Churchill is discovered, burnt-out and with the crew dead inside, but the three cased-bodies appear untouched and fine. Dr Fallada, and his team, bring the humanoids to Earth in order to do some tests and figure out what had happened to the shuttle. They soon discover that the female is, in fact, a space-vampire who drains the energy, or lifeforce, if you will, from her victims, leaving them contorted into a dried up husk. When the authorities dealing with the case find that Colonel Carlson of the Churchill survived by using an escape-pod, they seek him out for answers as to what occurred and what exactly this murderous naked woman is all about. He tells his story as the three aliens escape into the London streets and cause a meltdown with their abilities to suck the souls from humankind.


Tobe Hooper followed up the hugely successful Poltergeist with this strange and niche sci-fi film which has become a cult classic. It holds up so well, the special effects, from John Dykstra, the man responsible for effects in major motion pictures like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars and X-Men: First Class, and his team, is brilliant, and looks fantastic with the new, beautiful HD transfer of the film. The cast are also top notch, especially Steve Railsback as Col. Carlsen, Frank Finlay as Dr. Fallada and the beautiful Mathilda May as the Space Girl. With other acting talent such as Patrick Stewart, Peter Firth and Michael Gothard, it’s obvious why the film is still so watchable today. The scenes in which the space vampires suck the essence from their human victims, causing their bodies to concave, are still done so well, and are often the standout moments.

There is a scene in Lifeforce in which the Space Girl appears, covered in congealed blood, veins and droplets of it dripping from her eyes and lips, before dissipating into liquid and splashing against the floor. This would be an iconic scene if this film was less underrated. The film in general features many scenes like this, brilliant, gory, nightmarish, silly, various moments of sci-fi fun that are truly memorable. It’s funny, it’s strange, it’s wild, and man is it entertaining, I cannot recommend this film enough if you like your sci-fi and horror with a vast injection of joyous insanity.


Arrow Video have done another great job with this release. It looks and sounds amazing, features two versions of the film, and the special features are some of the best I’ve seen yet, especially the 70 minute documentary about the making of Lifeforce. The full list of the contents of this release is below.


  • Limited Edition SteelBook packaging/Normal Blu-ray packaging

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of both the Theatrical and International Versions, transferred from original elements by MGM with supervision by director Tobe Hooper

  • Optional uncompressed 2.0 Stereo PCM and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Surround Sound

  • Isolated Music and Effects Sound Track

  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

  • Audio commentary with Tobe Hooper, moderated by filmmaker Tim Sullivan

  • Audio commentary with Academy Award-winning visual effects artist Douglas Smith, moderated by filmmaker and scholar Howard S. Berger

  • Audio commentary with make-up effects artist Nick Maley, moderated by filmmaker Michael Felsher

  • Cannon Fodder: The Making of Lifeforce – An epic UK-exclusive look at the genesis, production and release of Lifeforce featuring interviews with Hooper, producer Michael J. Kagan, editor John Grover, actors Aubrey Morris and Nicholas Ball, makeup artist Sandra Exelby, screenwriter Michael Armstrong, sound designer Vernon Messenger, artistic designers Tom Adams and Douglas Smith and effects artist John Schoonraad

  • Space Vampires in London: An interview with Tobe Hooper

  • Dangerous Beauty: An interview with Mathilda May, Lifeforce’s iconic star

  • Carlsen’s Curse: Star Steve Railsback looks back on Lifeforce and his career

  • Original Theatrical Trailer

  • Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by science fiction expert Bill Warren, a new interview with Oscar-winning visual effects artist John Dykstra by Calum Waddell, illustrated with original archive stills and posters

Lifeforce is available on 2 Disc Blu-ray and Steelbook, from Arrow Video, now.


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