Event Horizon

Event Horizon. Paramount Pictures 1997.
Event Horizon. Paramount Pictures 1997.

Before watching the movie:

I guess before just now I didn’t know anything but the title. So apparently a ship that was lost in a black hole has mysteriously come back, and the people who go investigate discover that it brought Something back with it. It seems to basically be a horror story with sci-fi trappings, so I wonder how much it’s indebted to Alien, when I was picturing something more like The Fifth Element or The Black Hole (three films I have yet to see as well). I suspect the main reason I have it connected to The Fifth Element in my head is because of similar looming heads posters and proximity of release dates, but also possibly they were stored close to each other in a friend’s collection. As a tense horror film, I don’t know how much to expect as far as visual and practical effects, and the only name I recognize among the top billing is Laurence Fishburne. So I don’t have much of any foundation for expectations here. After watching the movie:

In the year 2040, the space ship Event Horizon was lost near Neptune, assumed destroyed. Seven years later, it reappears, and the rescue ship Lewis and Clark is dispatched to investigate, recover the crew if possible, and salvage the ship. In addition to the Clark’s crew, Dr. William Weir, the scientist who designed the Event Horizon, is along as the mission expert. He reveals that the reason the Event Horizon disappeared was that something apparently went wrong with its experimental drive that uses an artificial black hole to fold space and jump the ship to somewhere else entirely. However, where the ship went and why it came back are unknown. The crew is found dead and mutilated, the rescue team starts having hallucinations of their darkest hours, and they don’t feel like they’re fully alone.

This isn’t hiding alien monster horror, this is supernatural mindflaying horror. It isn’t Alien or 2001, it’s Hellraiser or Silent Hill in space. It’s The Shining with less ambiguity. The ship has become a cursed house in low Neptune orbit. The collision of genres is interesting in that it doesn’t seem like it should work at all, but the contrast holds attention somewhat.

Unfortunately, this is a bit of a mess to follow. It had a lot of material cut from it to get down to an R, but what’s left feels at best heavily padded. Things happen, more things happen, eventually it starts to fit a nonsensical logic. At times the sci-fi setting seemed to just turn the horror plot to molasses. I don’t like horror, but horror was what was presented and some of the more technical worldbuilding just got in the way.

For all the cutting and recutting this went through, it’s surprising that the obvious Chekhov’s Arsenal gets almost entirely used. Characters’ backstories get invoked later, the staggering number of macguffin devices all get deployed, the only things I was sure were going to happen and didn’t involved some 30-inch spikes that never get used (but I think I saw an indication they did in a deleted scene), and a character I was sure was going to die first made it to the end. It just throws everything against the wall and amazingly most of it sticks.

The space effects were really quite good. I couldn’t tell if the ship shots were CG or physical models. The weight and texture was so convincing as to suggest they were probably models, but the camera moves were so dynamic and fluid they strongly indicate CG. Either way it was a lot of enjoyable showing off what they can do. The orbit of Neptune shown appears to be implausibly in the upper atmosphere, but it makes for some beautiful and mood-setting scenery.The weightless objects inside cabins when gravity is off were much more obviously CG.

I don’t like horror. I especially don’t like this kind of horror. I feel like the emphasis on the sci-fi part tricked me into seeing this movie, but now that I’ve seen it, I know that while it’s a fairly decent specimen of horror, it’s not my cup of tea. It’s a mess that somehow manages to hit its marks, but it’s not for me.

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