EVENT HORIZON - 1997
Rated: USA: R
Where Horror is concerned, this is an "A" movie that has a lot going for
A wonderful cast is headed by Lawrence Fishburne (THE MATRIX), Sam Neill (IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS, JURASSIC PARK, JURASSIC PARK III) and Kathleen Quinlan (TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE). All the rest of the actors turn in great performances, boosting the script even in it's weak spots. This is also a Science Fiction movie as well.
As far as Hollywood goes, the Science is reasonably good (that
ain't saying much, but it won't make you choke) But mainly first
and foremost, this is a horror movie. From the opening scene where we
see a butchered, eyeless corpse twirling toward the camera, we know that
we are in for a gorefest.
starts out in text format reminiscent of Alien, where we are told that
the EVENT HORIZON was a spacecraft
that was lost in on its maiden voyage past Neptune and so became the worst
space disaster ever.
So now you know.
After a little
bit of shock to kick off the movie, we meet Dr. Weir (Sam Neill) who is
having nightmares about the Event Horizon and still
mourning the loss of his wife. Now the ship has been found and
he has been sent on a Top Secret Mission aboard a Search and Rescue ship,
The Lewis and Clarke, to go and find out where she has been for seven
Unfortunately, this particular rescue ship has a very overworked crew who did not get
the leave promised due to the emergency call of taking Doctor Weir out
to Neptune. The last rescue attempted that far out resulted in the loss
of both victim and rescue ship. This crew is insanely high strung and
edgy. NOT the kind of folks with whom I'd want to spend next 8
months in lock up.
The Captain (Lawrence Fishburne) is abrupt and short tempered to his guest, Dr. Weir, and his crew even more so. The only two
who appear to have any maturity are the ship's doctor (Kathleen
Quinlan) and the First Mate, Lt. Stark (Joley Richardson). As much as the crew dislikes Dr. Weir, they are very
fond of, and look out for, each other; so it makes sense how they can
operate compatably even in the worst of times. They are not generally
mad, but Dr. Weir is their reason for not getting their well deserved
leave. Dr. Weir didn't ask to be put in such a situation, faceless high
mucky-mucks simply screwed the poodle on the work billet. From the beginning
you just KNOW that things aren't going to go well. Things don't
get any better when Dr. Weir informs the crew of their destination. You
see, up 'till now the folks at home were told that the EVENT HORIZON blew up.
The real story is different, and the last recorded message of the crew
is a bit nasty and unsettling. The true nature of the EVENT
HORIZON's maiden voyage doesn't win Dr. Weir any new friends and before we even get to
the derelict ship, tensions are going from bad to worse.
At any rate, they get to the EVENT HORIZON,
get onboard, and Merry Mishaps Ensue.
The original crew is dead, no surprises there. The twirling corpse should have tipped
you off. What is a surprise, and a delightfully gruesome one, is how they
died: they behaved like British soccer fans after losing a game to France!
Or perhaps French Soccer fans in Columbia! Not a good idea anywhere, but
particularly in the confines of a spaceship.
Seeing as how there WAS no soccer game at the time, the crew of the Lewis
and Clarke must spend the rest of the movie trying to discover what did
set off the EVENT HORIZON crew.
It's an interesting, if not fresh, little mystery; one that weaves ancient mythos into the
mix. Good thing it does too because the basic plot of EVENT HORIZON is the
old cliché of "Science taking man beyond where he was meant
to go!" (in fact, this line is actually used
in two variations in the movie)
This movie uses a lot of "Bump & Gotcha!" to work its Edge-of-Seat
jitters on you. The well-worn time honored Horror movie shtick of the
Hand-On-The-Shoulder is used here to good effect; like an old vaudeville
joke that you see coming from a mile off, but love to hear all the same.
Why it is that, no matter how many times we see it, we always get a goose
from the Hand-On-The-Shoulder bit or the Cat-In-Your-Face routine? Even
when it is Science Fiction Horror (ALIEN, JURASSIC PARK)? It's just
one of life's little truisms.
These are the things that still give us a shock, even in real life.
If you doubt me, then hide in the dark of your house tonight and when your spouse /
lover walks by, calling out your name and looking for the light, throw
a cat in their face! You see? It really works doesn't it? Isn't life funny?
Anyway . . .
The heart of the Event Horizon is
an engine powered by an artificial gravity well. This engine room is far
more reminiscent of late 19th century designs for futuristic machinery
than anything modern. Heavy metal gears, plates and long pointy spikes
(that you just KNOW will be used for nasty
purposes) make up the engine room. The walkway that leads to the
engine room is a rotating cylinder with jutting blades that, as Mr. Justin
(Jack Noseworthy: IDLE
HANDS, CECIL B. DEMENTED)
puts it, "Looks like a meat grinder to me."
Now, as good
as this movie is, it fails on these accounts: When a movie gives you the
ways and the means, and then does nothing with them, you can't help but
feel let down. EVENT HORIZON, from the very beginning, sets you up for a horror film propelled by gore. But this never happens.
Don't get me wrong, there is action aplenty and unexpected twists and all kinds
of nightmarish things going on.
But that spikey engine room with the meat grinder walkway! The way that engine
room is set up you just know that, SURELY, this will be the set
of the grand and gruesome finale. You are sitting in the audience Preparing
and Tensing yourself for the gory wickedness that this movie is surely
leading up to, AND IT JUST NEVER HAPPENS!
Imagine ALIEN where the creature simply dies on the Nostromo during the blast, or TERMINATOR
2 ending with that skinny robot cop freezing solid, breaking apart,
drop the curtain. EVENT HORIZON's ending,
while not anti-climatic, is certainly all right turns from the direction
the movie was taking us.
Where does the fault lie?
You get the
feeling that this was not the writer, Philip Eisner's doing. While he
is a little too heavy handed with the flash personalities of his characters,
overall the story is balanced with flawless progression, scene to scene.
Kudos also to Martin Hunter, the film editor.
Production Designer, Joeseph Bennet and Costume Designer John Mollo, threw creativity
out the window and settled for a Ron Cobb "used look" that we
have become familiar with both from STAR WARS and ALIEN. It's not original,
but it works with the story.
Director of Photography, Adrian Biddle, gives us a lush, eye-feast in every frame
of the movie, you know by looking at this flick that it was made by high
The Techno Industrial score is hashed out well by Michael Kamen, with
some techno hip-hop thrown in by Prodigy.
But when you are attempting Horror and Science Fiction together, then you have
to have some tight Special Effects people from all sides. After all, you
are not simply trying to suspend your audiences' disbelief, you are trying
to make them care about people that are distanced by both time AND space. Nowhere in a film like this can you rely on people sitting in the dark and thinking "Gosh! I hope that never happens to me!"
Paramount eschewed the overused Special Effects houses of ILM and Dreamworks in
favor of smaller studios that really did their job well.
Mass. Illusion, Cinesite (Europe) LTD, and Computer Film
Company (London) did a first rate job on
the crafts, space, and planet effects. Special Effects Supervisor, Neil
Corboulo headed the staff that kept all the separate contractors working
together including prosthetics & Animatronics by Image Animation,
Weir-Beast EFX by Animated Extras, and a Visions of Hell sequence by Nicholas Wayman - Harris, chopped
up into tiny worthless bits. The question is, why?
Scary movies do not need to be propelled by gore, but when you start off your film
with a bloody butchered corpse, you are telling your audience, "Hey
gang! This one is going to be gross! NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, type gross!" The movie sets us up and never knocks us down, but leaves
us standing there at the end thinking, "That's all?"
Director Paul W.S. Anderson, is of course, responsible. While he gave us an action packed,
entertaining movie, he never the less failed to deliver. You see something
interesting here and something interesting there and when you get to the
reason for it all the answer is unsatisfactory. Anderson saw what
the story needed, saw what his Special Effects artists created for him,
and backed away from it all. The threatening and deadly looking engine
room remains pristine and like a long anticipated, but bland meal, you
can't help but feel let down. This movie isn't bad, but it could have
been so much better. Paul should have been given a script more
to his liking and Philip Eisner's story should have been given the treatment
EVENT HORIZON gets 3 Shriek Girls.
copyright 1999 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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