Warning! Warning! This following discussion contains extensive reference to Lifeforce and Dracula along with other related movies, series and novels, contains major spoilers. Read ahead at your own risk…
If you were to ask me to name a perfect retelling of Dracula in a modern world, it would probably be Lifeforce. You may be at the point where you question my decision but hear me out for a second. Dracula is a simple but horrifying story that has been retold and retold again. There’s Dracula, upon Dracula, upon Nosferatu and you get the point. The original novel is fantastic, I love the way it is written and the gothic story of the undead count going after his victims (with themes such as sexuality, belief, blood/you could say lifeforce and technology). Whilst I love vampire movies and mythology, the Dracula films often disinterest me all apart from the Hammer films. It’s not because they aren’t well shot and well done films and series but the fact that the story is repeated over and over again without consideration of how these themes should change with time. Before going further into discussing the film, it is important to actually go through the plot of the film to create some background before we jump further into the hidden depths of Lifeforce.
After discovering strange ship around Halley’s comet, the crew of a NASA shuttle, the Churchill, go and investigate. What they find on the ship (which could be described as if Giger designed the Klingon Bird of Prey) is humanoid bat creatures, long dead, and three pods containing a naked woman and two men suspended within them. Within their pods they are brought back to the Churchill and they begin their journey back to Earth. Only their journey goes less then pleasant as the crew are drained one by one of their lifeforce until their is only one crew member left, Colin Craine. Most of this being presented in a non-linear flashback manner, it is found that Craine is responsible for opening the pod of the naked girl that she found on the ship and they form into one being, taking lifeforce from each other. He being responsible for their deaths as the last crew member left alive takes it upon himself to prevent these creatures they found to be brought to Earth, therefore, causing a fire during an oxygen leak which lead the ship to be destroyed as he escaped in a life pod.
Although he escaped and attempted to destroy the creatures along with the Churchill, NASA find the shuttle hovering out in orbit and here the story truly begins. The alien creatures have been taken back to Earth by the European Space Research Center after investigating the vandalised shuttle. However, it isn’t long before the creatures slowly wake up, the naked girl and leader being the first to drain the lifeforce from her first few victims before escaping. What is left behind by the naked girl is the decayed bodies of staff similar to the crew of the shuttle. It is now a race against time to find the girl before she kills again but to make matters worse, each of her victims have been converted into zombie esc vampires who need to drain life from other humans to stay alive. Now if they don’t find the naked girl and find a way to kill her and the two male vampires who have been brought back to Earth. I think by this point I have concluded the main plot points and if you have watched the movie as I hope you have, you know what happens and if you haven’t, I’ll be going further into that later.
Now that I’ve described the plot enough, it’s time to get back to the main point of the discussion, how it is a modern day version of Dracula. So in fair warning I’m not saying the film versions of Dracula are bad, what I am saying is that they are probably the least interesting vampire movies to me specifically. That is my personal taste, I love Horror…not as much as Science Fiction but nonetheless, it is a very important genre to me. If you were to ask me some of my favourite Horror films, however, none of the Dracula films except for the Hammar Horror versions would be on that list. That being said, I think the original book is excellent and has some great themes (as mentioned earlier) whether or not they be intentional to the story.
Now that we’ve talked about all the plot of Lifeforce and my thoughts on Vampire movies such as Dracula, I think its time to look the themes and elements similar to other vampire films. As I mentioned before, in most great Vampire stories you will find several certain themes: Sexuality, belief, death, good versus evil, lust, immorality and the supernatural. These are topics that should be in every vampire novel, series or movie whether it be a Horror Drama or a Horror Comedy. But now let’s jump into how Lifeforce explores these themes.
First of all is the theme of sexuality and lust that is a way Dracula was very submersive in the very nonobscene Victorian era. Whilst it goes into themes of falling for someone before marriage and being under their power with the character of Dracula, Lifeforce updates this to modern times with how nakedness was viewed at that time, being shunned within the media and of course by religion. Instead of the man trying to seduce and enslave a woman, it is a woman who seduces prodomently men into her grasp. She uses her sexuality as her power and this is something that was only coming into providence throughout the late 20th Century. Instead of the man in power, it is the woman in power. Instead of the brides of Dracula, it’s the male aliens that look after the girl, her being the leader instead of the woman looking after Dracula.
In much sense this gender reversal challenges the expectations in usual vampire flicks which would later be seen as woman in Horror becoming more promanent. Although woman would be very important in Horror of the 1970s with them being the main protagonists. In fact it wasn’t until another vampire flick known as Kiss of the Vampire that a woman would be a main role within one of these films, even playing one of the villains. There’s that sense of how Canon (the studio behind the movie) would later go into very low brow action movie, doing something that uses the gore and sexuality to its full advantage. Instead of as objects, the female character is scary, she is an intelligent and interesting villain.
Instead of characters like Maria and Renfield in Dracula, Carlsen falls under the spell of the girl, he lusts for her with a passion. He would do anything for her and this in essence could challenge what some people would do under the spell of sex similar to how the other victims are attracted and drained of their lifeforce. In essence it looks on the outside like a film about a naked woman kissing the life out of others and in a way it is but it’s also so much more. It is the story of Dracula in a way that can be explained in modern day. Instead of ancient evil, it is the unknown evil from space and in that sense, that gets us onto the next themes of both texts, the battle of Good Vs Evil and the idea of spirtuality.
Good Versus Evil is a huge part of any Vampire story which comes from socities fear of these creatures much like how they would fear immortality and sex of the kind predicted in the film. You have the parallel between the two stories of both Dracula and the girl slowly turning more and more people into creatures of “Satan”, demons of the night who drain the lifeforce of those they come in contact with. It is only therefore that they must be killed to prevent the death of those throughout the world as everyone is turned into some form of life draining zombie (Lifeforce) or vampire (Dracula). Colin Caine acts as the Van Helsing role within the film acting to find and take the life of the Space Girl (I wish she actually was given a name although I guess Space Girl is the next best thing). Meteors and comets are also described to have a evil influence due to their destructive power dating back to the Roman era where they were seen as a bad omen. Lifeforce further goes into this element in how the Vampire’s spaceship is found near Halley’s comet.
To say the very least, if you’re familar with Dracula, you know the story of Lifeforce but its really how deeper it looks into things that makes it more interesting then most adaptations of the story. I think what Lifeforce really brings to the table is the debate between the supernatural and science. What we can see that have a grounded place in our reality whilst the other is something we can’t generally see but is precieved to be there. Although, I would believe the grounded science of things rather the the spirtual, I think it is an interesting debate it makes to a story that is grounded in traditional sense of good versus evil. I think this in particular is embodied by the conversation between Dr. Hans Fallada and Caine.
It’s a debate that is very interesting to think about no matter if you are a person of science, a religious person or someone that doesn’t really bother with either. How the Doctor talks about death is an element that is very important in understanding Lifeforce and why it is important to update it rather then copy the original Dracula book by Bram Stoker. How it comes from space is something that seems more common and rational but where they get their power from is the real interesting part. It’s submersive but not in a sense that breaks the original story. It isn’t a perfect movie in sense of Sci-Fi or Horror storytelling as such but it’s a great film in looking at themes of classic horror and understanding it in a new light. That’s what I feel is the true importance of Lifeforce when it comes to film. It’s an underrated gem and another great example of what to fear in the outer reaches of space.
How we can fall for our fears, how we can be controlled, how we can easily be torn apart by forces greater then our own is general themes that make Sci-Fi Horror such an exciting watch and why I am looking forward to spend the rest of the month looking at this topic. I know that this post wasn’t as long or as indepth as many of my previous posts but there’s more coming this month to sink your fangs into as we have three more posts coming this month. Three even more exciting topics of monsters created by Science and those from the depth of space.
Anyway, with that final note, thank you for reading the first post of Sci-Fi Horror month. I honestly feel Lifeforce is a very underappreciated film in the Sci-Fi genre and a lot of what is does isn’t touched upon enough I feel. There are some problems with the movie that are fixed in The Directors Cut but it still isn’t a perfect movie. It honestly reminds me a lot of Return of the Living Dead, a film I feel that also has many really fun and submersive elements to the Zombie genre as Lifeforce does for the original Dracula story. I just love this movie, I really do and I’m glad I could spend the first official post of the first Sci-Fi Horror month discussing it. However, do you feel I looked at the topic in enough detail? What are your thoughts on Lifeforce or vampire movies in general? Let me know, future thinkers, in the comments below…
Next time, get ready for the next part in Sci-Fi Horror month. I’m also trying to sort out stuff for my next podcast but I’m very busy this month so if it comes out a bit later, then that is why, this isn’t my job, this is just a hobby after all. That will be on Post Dystopia. However, the next topic I will be discussing is Frankenstein and how it is one of the very first Science Fiction stories. I can not wait to discuss that next week. It’s been on my mind for ages and I think it should be an interesting retrospective. The other posts I’m keeping a secret for now. Stay tuned for that future thinkers and until next time…
Michael McGrady, Signing Off.
3 thoughts on ““Don’t worry. A naked girl is not going to get out of this complex”: Lifeforce and Why it is a Perfect Modern Retelling of Dracula…”
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