Everyone has that movie that they absolutely love, only to be shocked when they discover that critics hated it. Paul W.S. Anderson’s Event Horizon is that movie for me. Released on August 15, 1997, critics generally hated this sci-fi/horror film and audiences collectively shrugged their shoulders – it was a box office dud. But I’m going to make a case that Event Horizon is criminally under-appreciated.
Set in 2047, Captain Miller’s (Laurence Fishburne) rescue ship, the Lewis and Clark, is sent to investigate a distress signal from the Event Horizon. An experimental space station, the Event Horizon mysteriously disappeared seven years ago on its maiden voyage. With the station’s designer, Dr. William Weir (Same Neill), in tow, the Lewis and Clark arrive to find no survivors and a cryptic message filled with the screams of its crew. Soon Captain Miller and his crew begin experiencing haunting visions. Weir believes that the Event Horizon’s revolutionary gravity drive took the space station to another dimension and, on its return, has brought something back with it.
A Great Concept and Gothic Aesthetic
Event Horizon delivers a great twist on the traditional haunted house film. There is not necessarily anything groundbreaking or innovative about Event Horizon. But Anderson assembles a chilling merger between tried and true elements of ‘haunting’ with science fiction concepts. In particular, the visual design of the Event Horizon evokes some pure Gothic imagery in spite of its outer space setting. From its hallways to the gravity drive chamber, the Event Horizon has a claustrophobic feel and becomes an increasingly omnipresent source of dread over the course of the movie.
A horror film set in space will inevitably draw some comparisons to Alien. Those comparisons are a little unfair in the case of Event Horizon, which takes a much different narrative path. Despite taking a haunted house approach to its material, Event Horizon still maintains a sense of mystery to the source of its evil that keeps viewers engaged throughout the movie. Characters haunted by past sins and regrets is certainly not a unique concept. Yet the time rift element of the story and the incomplete transmission from the Event Horizon’s original crew adds an interesting wrinkle to the plot.
If Event Horizon is somewhat lacking in originality, it more than makes up for it with some gruesome and disturbing imagery.
Disturbing Imagery and Suspense To Spare
If Event Horizon is somewhat lacking in originality, it more than makes up for it with some gruesome and disturbing imagery. As the film progresses, the visions haunting the crew of the Lewis and Clark become increasingly gruesome, putting some impressive make-up effects on display. The video log of the former crew is a brief and quickly edited scene that still delivers some haunting and grotesque images. Its final still of the former captain, eyes gouged out, and holding up his own eyeballs while speaking Latin is nightmare-inducing stuff. Weir’s transformation by the film’s conclusion along with one character’s ejection from the station add more than enough viscera for hardcore horror fans.
Excellent Cast and Score Bolster Event Horizon
For a critically-maligned film, Event Horizon boasted an impressive cast. In addition to Fishburne and Neill, Event Horizon included Jason Issacs, Kathleen Quinlan, Joely Richardson, and Sean Pertwee. This isn’t the type of movie that’s going to leave an impression because of its performances, but the story is certainly anchored by believable turns from all the cast. Indeed, it’s Sam Neill’s performance that adds credibility to the film’s final descent into chaos. Neill is an underrated actor and he turns in another first-rate performance in Event Horizon.
Kamen collaborated with electronic music duo Orbital to create Event Horizon’s memorable and unique sound.
While Michael Kamen’s score may not be as memorable as some of John Carpenter’s best work, he still orchestrates an impressive original original soundtrack for Event Horizon. If you’re not old enough to remember, for a brief period of time in the 1990’s, electronic music or electonica enjoyed mainstream popularity. Kamen collaborated with electronic music duo Orbital to create Event Horizon’s memorable and unique sound. To date, the original soundtrack for Event Horizon remains one of the better genre scores.
While some of the criticisms of Event Horizon have merit, original reviews were unnecessarily scathing and really missed the mark. Over the years, this sci-fi/horror offering has developed a cult following that belies the early critical consensus. Not entirely original or innovative, Event Horizon is still a well-made and very much scary horror film that has lost none of its impact in the years since its release.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: B+