Event Horizon: A Criminally Under-Appreciated Gem

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. Audiences just 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.

Synopsis

Set in 2047, Captain Miller’s 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. With the station’s designer, Dr. William Weir, in tow, the Lewis and Clark arrive only to find no survivors. All that remains is 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. How and why it returned is a mystery. But Weir believes his space station brought something back with it.

Event Horizon Boasts A Great Concept and Memorable Gothic Aesthetic

Event Horizon delivers a great twist on the traditional haunted house film. No, there isn’t necessarily anything groundbreaking or innovative about the movie. But director Anderson merges the tried and true haunting elements with the movie’s more science fiction ideas to chilling effect. In particular, the space station’s visual design evokes some pure Gothic imagery in spite of its outer space setting. From its hallways to the gravity drive chamber, it has a claustrophobic feel that becomes an increasingly omnipresent source of dread in 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. Over the course of the movie, the visions haunting the crew of the Lewis and Clark become increasingly gruesome. Impressive and wickedly inventive make-up effects will prompt some squirming among audiences. The former crew’s video log is a brief and quickly edited stand-out scene. After 20 years, the visuals still deliver 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, Jason Issacs, Kathleen Quinlan, Joely Richardson, and Sean Pertwee were all along for the ride. While this isn’t the type of movie that’s going to leave an impression because of its performances, the otherworldly premise certainly benefits from the cast. Indeed, Neill’s performance adds a lot of credibility to the mvoie’s final descent into chaos. Neill is an underrated actor, and he turns in another first-rate performance.

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.

Event Horizon

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+

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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