Remember Canon and Empire Pictures? I don't, because I was too young then. I am aware of them though-movies like "Re-Animator", "Trancers", 80's Van Dam vehicles like "Kickboxer" and several others creeped their way into theaters and video shelves in the 80's. One of Canon's most ambitious box office failures was a movie called "Lifeforce", which was directed by Tobe ("Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1 & 2", "Poltergeist," "Eaten Alive", "The Funhouse" and several others) Hooper and co-written by Dan O' Bannon, whose credits include directing "Return of the Living Dead" and "The Resurrected", as well as serving as a writer for "Dead & Buried", "Heavy Metal" and others. Oh, and a little movie called "Alien." The plot dealt with Space Vampires, and well, the plot is essentially secondary due to the fact that the whole thing is bugfuck insane. Plus, explaining it any more would take up too much of the review. That out of the way, the movies mix of Sci-Fi and B-Movie horror thrills seem to have served as an influence on Brad Sykes movie "Plaguers." Too bad the end result falls short.
The plot deals with a spaceship called Pandora, which is harboring something called "Thanatos" (oh, how cleaver.) A band of sexy space pirates (wearing outfits that look like they were rejected from a failed Sci-Fi show from the 60's or 70's) hijack the ship, only for a contagion from Thanatos to get loose. The next thing you know, people in the crew start to become "Plaguers", or mutant zombie hybrids.
Judging from the plot, this sounds like the best movie Canon or Empire pictures never made-an incredibly fun, retro style B-Movie. Well, there are a few moments where the movie almost reaches that (the smart use of practical make up and creature effects which are pretty good, the presence of veteran character actor Steve Railsback-who was in "Lifeforce.") However, the whole thing ends up becoming a massive wasted opportunity. For one thing, the acting is non-existent. People (particularly the space pirate girls) don't really act as much as they do scream and act really bitchy. In fact, you'd think that the whole Space Pirate angle would be fun, but here it ends up being one of the weakest elements of the movie. The pirates themselves are really annoying, and you end up wishing they'd die off sooner.
It also doesn't help that nobody else in this movie is worth any note either. Railsback ends up feeling wasted in his role as a cyborg, and his dialogue is too mellow. The movie also has some really bad fight choreography on display-watching the special features on the DVD, you are amazed that they got professional fighters to choreograph the action scenes. The biggest problem with the movie though, is that it feels at times likes it's being held back. Not by the low budget, acting or gore, but from an exploitation standpoint. It really could have used a bit more pulpiness, maybe a little nudity, etc.-yet it skimps out in that department, instead creating a movie that at times feels incomplete.
I do have to give the movie a little credit-it obviously has no major ambitions, and compared to other entries in the direct to DVD zombie movie cycle, it at least manages to do something different than the usual "let's try to imitate Night of the Living Dead and Zombi 2" formula. Too bad the end result wasn't a better movie.