Event Horizon is one of my favorite films of all time. I’ll be as unscientific in my approach as to say it just plain kicks ass. I’d make the argument that the story is essentially what you’d get if you made Hellraiser in Space, except that Hollywood already churned that movie out a year before in 1996’s Hellraiser: Bloodline, and that turned out to be a tightly coiled lump of concentrated failure. So instead, I’ll give you a short summary in case you didn’t get a chance to see this masterpiece yet.
Written by: Frank Whitecastle
In 2040, mankind builds the Event Horizon, a ship that can create black holes to travel at faster-than-light speeds, only to disappear on its maiden voyage. Many years later, a distress signal is detected on a ship orbiting Neptune, and it turns out to be the Event Horizon. Enter Lawrence Fishburne, Captain Miller of the Lewis & Clark, and his plucky search-and-rescue team including the likes of Kathleen Quinlan and Jason Isaacs. Rounding out this batch of victims, err, crew, is Sam Neill as Dr. Weir, a man internally tortured with the suicide of his wife. She killed herself while he was busy being a workaholic designing the Horizon’s gravity drive.
Once the team begins trying to put the puzzle of what happened to the Horizon together, things start to go downhill fast. The cast experiences all manner of unpleasantries, until they discover the piece de resistance, an unscrambled video log depicting the original crew doing horrible, horrible things to one another. At this point, wise Captain Miller decides it’s time to leave the Horizon before they all end up as so much red mush plastered to the wall, but the ship isn’t done with them yet. Escape plans get ruined, Dr. Weir gives in to the dark forces consuming the ship, and the rescue team starts dropping like flies in very nasty ways.
So what separates Event Horizon from every other science fiction horror movie out there? There is a satisfying sense of dread dripping from every frame of this film, which sets it apart from a lot of the other genre fare currently available. The ship itself looks like a giant meat grinder, from the spike-covered doorways to what I can only refer to as a blender hallway. Its great details like the sinister set that help set up the creepy mood.
When D.J. (Jason Isaacs) fully translates an audio log in Latin left by the previous crew revealing that the Horizon really made a dimensional jump into Hell, and that the ship is now crawling with the evil of that place, the chaos dial gets turned to 11 and all heck breaks loose. Interesting artistic choices such as revealing the ship’s original destination in Latin, the control room’s main cross-shaped window and the crucifix design of the ship itself give off a holy-terror-of-hell vibe to the bloody proceedings.
One thing that sets this movie up as one of my favorites is that it isn’t a safe, predictable slasher flick to watch with your girlfriend on date night – there are some truly disturbing moments and gory images that quickly flash across the screen to remind you that you aren’t in Kansas anymore.
Of course, I happen to like practical gore effects, so I ended up pausing the movie to savor each tasty morsel of macabre manslaughter. One of my favorite death scenes was where D.J. is disemboweled by a possessed Dr. Weir, his body left hanging on hooks over the surgical table containing his innards, and another is Peters (Kathleen Quinlan) running after an image of her crippled son until she falls onto (and into) a grated metal walkway.
There are a few flaws in this otherwise entirely entertaining flick that should be mentioned, such as the some of the special effects show their age worse than Helen Thomas at a press conference, and Lawrence Fishburne’s occasionally hammy line delivery. Another sore point is the subplot in the final act of the movie involving Cooper (Richard Jones) as the wisecracking recue technician that got shot out into space. It was just a tad goofy in a movie with an otherwise serious tone.
My overall impression of is that while this movie may be a little too over the top for some viewers, most horror fans will enjoy this hellish romp. So if you are down for a night of sci-fi-flavored dismemberment, put down your copy of Alien and give this movie a shot. You may be surprised by how much fun it is to pull out your own eyeballs, because as Dr. Weir says, we don’t need eyes to see where we’re going.