Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson
Seven years after it disappeared, a mysterious signal is received from the experimental vessel Event Horizon. Now the crew of the Lewis and Clark that has been dispatched to investigate comes face-to-face with Hell.
Both Sam Neill (Dr. Weir) and Lawrence Fishburne (Captain Miller) were on a career upswing when this movie came out. I honestly felt when I first saw the movie that this was a bit of a step down for both of them. I was happy quality actors were in this movie, but this struck me as one of those things done for the paycheck and not for the creative experience. Some actors you have trouble picturing in certain genres or film types. I felt this despite knowing that Neill was in Omen III and Fishburne was an orderly in A Nightmare on Elm Street III: Dream Warriors.
I guess when it came to Neill, his Alan Grant character from Jurassic Park was still very strong in my mind. To see him play the murderous Weir was a surprise. Weir was a man mourning the death of his wife and warped by a malevolent entity from a Hell dimension into being a soulless killer.
The story follows the rescue ship Lewis and Clark as it is dispatched to find out what happened with Weir accompanying since he designed the ship. Aside from Fishburne as Miller, the crew is rounded out with Kathleen Quinlan as Lewis and Clark Medical Technician Peters, Joely Richardson as Communications and Executive Officer Lieutenant Starck, Jason Isaacs as the ship’s doctor D.J., Sean Pertwee as the pilot Smith ‘Smitty’, Richard T. Jones as Rescue Technician Cooper, and Jack Noseworthy in his most famous role as Chief Engineer Ensign Justin.
You can believe that these characters have worked together for some time. Their banter between each other is natural. They have the comradery of a group of working stiffs that have been together for awhile. They belong together.
The design of the titular ship is fantastic. I love the look of the Event Horizon. It is one of the better designs I have seen in science fiction. It strikes me as being inspired in part by the look of Star Wars vessels. The rear portion of the ship is said to be designed to look like a cathedral on its side. The interior of the ship definitely has that feel with the central corridor being vast and open with the functional areas having an arched design similar to what you would find in a cathedral.
And the sets were convincing. They were not bare bones. There is a level of detail that I was mostly unaccustomed to outside of a Star Trek film or even a Star Wars film. You could believe that computer system a character was at had a specific purpose. Or that area they were in was for whatever the stated purpose was.
The only time this rule is broken in my view is engineering and the engine. Anderson liked the Hellraiser films and was attempting to emulate the look and feel of the infamous puzzle box. I am not sure he quite got it there. It looks cool and weird and lets you know it is a place of very bad things, but it never gets to its supposed inspiration. The design though does not flow with the rest of the ship.
The visuals are pretty good for the era and even good by current standards. A little dated at moments but overall, the effects are not bad still. There are a few instances where the CGI is blatantly obvious. I for one am surprised there was CGI in this. I do not recall noticing it when I saw it. The opening rotation shot of the station is still particularly impressive and is said to have taken a third of the total effects budget.
Event Horizon is not the greatest film in the world, but it is very entertaining. It is bad but in a good way. This film has achieved a bit of a cult status and deservedly so. It would never win an Academy or wind up on a greatest film list of some critic. Of general film fans maybe but not of a critic with a reputation they wish to protect.
This is supposedly a horror film, but it is not really scary. I find the imagery presented more disturbing than anything. I was made uncomfortable. What you see on the screen is just bizarre. Reports are that what did not make it into the film was even worse. There is a scene early in the film featuring the crew of the Event Horizon itself. It is in a video log taken from the ship’s computer and shows what can best be described as a bloody orgy with gore and blood everywhere. Images of rape and dismemberment are said to be throughout the original version. What we get in the final product is a bloody few seconds of sex and somebody presenting someone’s eyes in their hand. This lovely moment was filmed with porn actors to make it more realistic.
The film is almost as famous for what did not make it into the film and the behind the scenes issues. I remember seeing this in theaters and thinking it was good but could have been so much more. Something to me was missing. I was unaware of the behinds the scene chaos at that time but knowing what I know now, I understand why I got the feeling.
Production was rushed. Paramount was aiming for a hit film before Titanic got to theaters and pressured Anderson to complete the film faster than normal which he agreed to. I think the film is perversely enjoyable as is but what is said to have been lost sounds like it might have been as good but in a completely different way. There are supposedly bloodier alternate takes of scenes. Some scenes were originally longer but were cut for content. And there are a few bits that flesh out relationships. All missing with little hope of any of it still existing. This was in the days before DVDs filled with extras and this was not a prestige picture in the eyes of the studio, so no real effort was made to preserve material.
I do have a place in my heart for this film. It has an undeniable appeal. It gets your attention and holds it. It is not because of gore or shocking imagery though. It has good actors in good parts giving good performances. The story about a ship that travels to Hell and back should be silly, but they take it seriously and end up with something very entertaining.
Event Horizon may not be great cinema, but it is entertaining cinema. It really is an attempt at a haunted house in space that mostly works. You will enjoy this if you watch it. See it!