I am in a minority on this. Over the years, most of my roommates have suggested, at one point or another, that we should watch Event Horizon. I have listened to horror aficionados wax eloquent about its brilliance, and it was once pointed out to me that I wince painfully whenever the movie comes up. I don't think that's true; I'm pretty sure I don't actually do that.
But I do not like Event Horizon for reasons I can't really explain. I find its plot more pedestrian than most people seem to, I find the characters unlikeable, and it has always seemed to me like an incomplete story. It was only thanks to an Io9 story a couple of months ago that I learned the movie is incomplete. Wikipedia says that 35 minutes of material were cut to create the film we're familiar with. 35 minutes is a staggering amount of time, and the missing footage is (apparently) lost forever, but I don't think I care.
So how did I come to voluntarily watch a movie that I already dislike so much? On Tuesday nights I get together with a group of friends and watch movies. Usually good ones, sometimes bad ones. Our other choices last night were Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter, and Dracula vs. Billy the Kid. When presented with two evils, I, like Mae West, always pick the one I've never tried before. In this case, it's four evils, and I've seen all but Dracula movie. I more or less know that Dracula vs. Bill the Kid will be a masochistic experience, though, so I've been avoiding it. I'd have gone with Killer Klowns, but the group voted and decided on Event Horizon. Yes, I am writing this after the fact, but hey, you got your review yesterday, didn't you? Stop whining.
So, for the uninitiated, Event Horizon is the story of a salvage and rescue mission gone bad. In the year 2040, the Event Horizon, a ship powered by experimental warp technology, disappears on her maiden voyage. Seven years later her distress signal is received from a decaying orbit around Neptune. The Lewis and Clark is been dispatched to Neptune to salvage the ship and rescue survivors, but when they arrive, they find no life, just logs showing that the crew went insane and killed each other. The salvage team begin their work, but they start to have violent and frightening hallucinations. Meanwhile, Dr. Weir, the designer of the warp technology, is having a difficult time figuring out exactly where the ship has been all this time.
Where the Event Horizon has been, apparently, is outside the universe. As Dr. Weir explains, the Event Horizon's gravity drive has the ability to bridge two points in space by generating a black hole. "No big deal," he says. "We also generate a really big cork to stopper it up." No, he doesn't really say that.
Anyway, the ship has been somewhere else, and it has brought something with it. The "somewhere else" might be Hell--that word sure gets tossed around a lot. At any rate, the mission becomes much more difficult when Dr. Weir starts actively trying to return the ship to wherever it's been.
The performances are servicable. Everybody does a good job screaming and being harrowed, and dying in agony when the script calls for it. They say things like, "it shows you things" and "the darkness inside me" with the kind of conviction that only an actor can muster. Laurence Fishburne does a fine job as Captain Miller, the no-nonsense commander of the mission, and when he cracks (because everyone in this movie cracks), it is appropriately tragic. Sam Neill gives Dr. Weir a believable emotional arc until he flies off the rails and scratches out his eyes. It might not work in a realistic drama, but you can get away with that stuff in a horror movie.
You know what I dislike about Event Horizon? It's the fact that every supernatural sci-fi story seems to tread the same ground, as if Science has nothing better to do than open portals to Hell. Do writers really have no other ideas? Has't this dead horse already been pretty well flattened by Doom and Project RAINBOW, and 20% of the stories featuring space marines?1 Event Horizon is Hellraiser in space, but without the interesting characters. Actually, Hellraiser IV: Bloodline is also Hellraiser in space, but without the interesting characters. I will grant, at least, that Event Horizon is a better movie than Hellraiser IV: Bloodline. Slightly.
Actually, maybe the quality of Event Horizon's filmmaking is its greatest tragedy. It's a well-made film that does nothing for me. Paul W.S. Anderson is a good director who makes bad movies (Mortal Kombat, Alien vs. Predator, the remake of Death Race...), and IMDB tells me that he writes most of them, too. He turned down X-Men to make Event Horizon. People trust him with a big budget, so clearly these are the movies he wants to make. I'd like to see his skills applied to a better screenplay, but I'm not holding my breath because he doesn't seem to want to make the kind of movies I want to watch.
Click here for the trailer.
1 The other 80% involve hyper-intelligent beetles.