Event Horizon (1997)
Event Horizon (1997)

Genre: Sci-Fi Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 36 min.

Release Date: August 15th, 1997 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Paul W.S. Anderson Actors: Sam Neill, Laurence Fishburne, Kathleen Quinlan, Joely Richardson, Richard T. Jones, Jack Noseworthy, Jason Isaacs, Sean Pertwee

 


 

I

n the year 2040, deep space research vessel Event Horizon travels out past Neptune … and suddenly vanishes. Seven years pass with no trace of the ship, until a single, garbled transmission is received, bearing the message “save us.” Search-and-rescue spacecraft Lewis and Clark is then assigned the top-secret mission to voyage beyond Neptune to find out what happened to the Event Horizon.

Once there, the crew locates the seemingly abandoned craft, boards her, and begins looking for clues. But what they discover only creates more questions. When the team’s youngest member, Justin (Jack Noseworthy), encounters the Horizon’s gravity drive and is briefly sucked into a mysterious portal, he returns in a coma. After further complications occur due to an onboard explosion, Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne), Lt. Starck (Joely Richardson), Dr. Weir (Sam Neill), medical technicians D.J. (Jason Isaacs) and Peters (Kathleen Quinlan), and the rest of the crew begin experiencing horrifying delusions and ghostly hauntings. When their shipmates begin dying, the remaining travelers must fight for their lives against a force of unspeakable evil.

Techno rock music (The Prodigy’s “Funky Shit”) opens this sci-fi horror hybrid; space can be a frightening place, especially when that bizarrely anachronistic and terribly dated beat finally stops. The opening shot, which explores a dead spaceship, is evidence of that, as it builds an atmospheric, isolated, cold, dark arena for ghastliness. Sound effects and Michael Kamen’s eerie orchestral music additionally helps to erase the oddness of the rock selection, bringing things back into a realm of steady dread. The ships’ interiors (both the Event Horizon and the Lewis and Clark) clearly take a note from “Alien” and “Aliens” (not only in the layouts, coloring, and lighting, but also with organic designs), while also utilizing the tried-and-true elements of claustrophobia, intricate machinery and computer panels, humidity, dangling objects, metal plating, and flashing lights.

“Event Horizon” is also a ghost story, making use of whispers (offscreen), apparitions, hallucinations, and nightmares for a series of effective jump scares. They’re predictable boo moments, but the setups are nevertheless unnerving. And director Paul Anderson, though having only previously directed a PG-13 video game adaptation for the U.S., has a certain fascination with gruesome violence, which manifests itself in something along the lines of “Hellraiser” in space (coincidentally, “Hellraiser: Bloodline,” which premiered a year before, was, in part, set on a space station as well). Nods to “The Shining” are also evident.

Like in “Alien,” a mysterious transmission kicks off an exploration of the unknown. One of the film’s greatest bits of creepiness comes from the transmission itself – a crackling, nerve-jangling jumble of screams and screeches, which are eventually cleaned up into video of over-the-top hellishness. “Okay, we do it the hard way; deck by deck, room by room.” The eight-person crew becomes mere bodies to be killed off one by one as otherworldly possessions coerce self-destruction.

Impressively, everyone plays it straight (save for Cooper, who gets about two utterances of comic relief), allowing fears to convincingly saturate the troubled personas. Some sinister foreshadowing crops up in passing mentions of explosives, scans for life signs, and autopsy tools, while all manner of visual thrills flood the frame – from floating body parts to a coolant leak to blood-spattered walls. Plus, corridors are lined with blades as if a meat grinder, passageways have doors adorned with spikes, and the heart of the ship looks like a giant booby trap. “It’s perfectly safe!” The set decorations, makeup, and practical effects are so stunning that it’s a shame when a few components employ substandard computer graphics.

The picture is also something of a mystery, but with some inexplicable demonic influences – along with a few unmistakable plot holes (chiefly surrounding Weir’s dead wife [Holley Chant]). Of course, as the riddles unfold, characters wander off alone down dimly lit crawlspaces – to be terrorized by spectral visions and, smartly, disbelief from the less superstitious crew members or Weir’s secretive knowledge about the ship’s capabilities. Disregarding the extreme grisliness on display in a couple of choice scenes (“Event Horizon” is, if nothing else, a collection of unforgettably spine-chilling set pieces – including a suspenseful airlock sequence), the environments are creepy all by themselves. And this is despite a literal bloodbath at one point toward the finale. The tension is astounding to match the look, but the unrelenting feel of the horror tends to inhibit the fun; continual frights with no letting up – right down to the expected twists at the conclusion – prevent audiences from feeling much satisfaction with the struggles against peril. But the space-bound, sci-fi/horror subgenre is rare enough that “Event Horizon” is still a welcome inclusion.

– The Massie Twins

  • 6/10