Written by Andy Kubica
Warning, this review contains spoilers so proceed with caution!
Event Horizon is the type of science fiction/horror film you want to love, but end up finding too many faults within once you start to think about it.
The premise and first act very much mimic the beginning of Aliens. The crew of a deep space craft, Lewis and Clark, awaken after a long hypersleep, along with a special guest, only to discover their actual mission. Instead of losing contact with a colony on planet LV-426, this time the spacecraft Event Horizon has reappeared after being missing and presumed lost after 7 years and this new crew has been sent to investigate. Their new companion, Dr. William Weir, explains he created a “gravity drive” within the mysterious vessel to assist it into achieving faster than light speeds in order to be able to fold space and time to traverse great distances within minutes instead of years. After the Lewis and Clark makes contact with the seemingly abandoned craft they dock and board to investigate.
Unfortunately, a subsequent explosion within the Clark forces the crew to come aboard the Horizon and make it their new home even though they haven’t fully fleshed out its various rooms and discovered the final fate of the dormant crew. Once aboard, the crew discovers eerie details and gruesome evidence the Horizon crew met with untimely deaths seemingly at the hands of each other. Crew members begin to experience unique and haunting hallucinations of events from their past, mostly involving deaths of friends and family members. It is discovered and presumed the Horizon passed through an unknown region of space during its absence and brought with it some demon, devil or spirit now contained within its walls.
Ultimately, Dr. Weir, now consumed with the presence of one of these entities, continues to deevolve from human to demon, ultimately attempting to keep the remaining Clark crew members from detonating the ship and returning back to Earth.
Several typical Hollywood maladies handicapped the production and release of Event Horizon and really kept it from becoming a critical or financial success. The post production of the film was rushed once director Paul WS Anderson agreed to have the film released on the specific date Paramount required after it moved the release of Titanic to the holiday season of 1997. Also, Anderson removed over 40 minutes from an original run time of 130 minutes to just over 95 minutes for the theatrical cut based both from studio pressures and after test screening feedback stated the movie was “too violent” and graphic during some of the bloody nightmarish crew gore sequences.
It was unclear to me whether or not Dr. Weir knew what he was going to encounter when we first meet him and he is describing the mission and his work on the gravity drive of the Event Horizon, or the crew hauntings they encounter while in the depths of space were a surprise to him as well. His character’s arc felt rushed and I felt like there was a lot more exposition and additional scenes of his gradual decay from human to monster that were left on the cutting room floor. Sam Neill was excellent in his portrayal of Weir, giving him both charm and wit as well as sinister demonic guile. He is one of those actors you can both root for in his heroic works (Jurassic Park, Dead Calm) and hate him for when he plays nasty (The Final Conflict, Daybreakers).
The production design of both spaceships was eerie and excellent although feeling a little too like Aliens at times. The gravity drive itself was complex and beguiling and the drive room was dark, unique and something audiences definitely had not seen before. The Horizon itself providing a brooding landscape for creatures hiding in shadows and for the manifestations the crew experienced, causing the, to be terrifying from either within their own minds or physically there beside them. The let down with the production budget was the visual effects. CGI usually doesn’t age well and some elements floating across the screen or pools of gestating liquid looked artificial, which removed you from the story at times.
A highlight was the unique soundtrack blend from composer Michael Kamen and techno group Orbital. The thunderous opening rhapsody as we are immediately barreling toward a black hole in space hooks you immediately and prepares you for what is to come. I had it turned up loud and the entire house was booming. At other times, the subtle nuance made the scary, gore scenes even better.
In thinking back to other similar mid 90s genre films, Event Horizon is still a cut above the likes of Virus, Phantoms, Deep Rising, Sphere or Deep Star Six, but nowhere near sci-fi horror classics like Alien or The Thing. With the modern desire or embrace of extended or director’s cuts, there is a move to acquire and piece together the “definitive cut” of Event Horizon. Director Anderson has previously stated since the film was made before DVD and the interest in this type of fan content, much of the unused footage was not kept in good condition, preserved or even saved making this type of effort challenging. Studio Scream Factory, who is releasing this updated Collector’s Edition later this year, is even soliciting help from the public at large for leads in tracking this footage down.
I sincerely hope one day to be able to view the director’s original vision restored and remastered to today’s standards.
Verdict: 3.5 out of 5