31 Days of Horror: “Event Horizon” (1997)



Title: Event Horizon (1997) [Blu-ray]
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Posted October 11, 2016 by

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Growing up, my two favorite movie genres were horror and science-fiction, and I am happy to report that this has not changed. Producing a motion picture that can effectively combine the best of both worlds can be a tricky proposition, but when done well, can also yield spectacular results. Films like “Alien” (1979), and “The Thing” (1982) both serve as fine examples. What sorts of things can one expect from a good horror/sci-fi flick? Fantastically imaginative landscapes; an eerie tone; mind-bending special effects; and nervous tension punctuated by moments of sheer terror, or the promise of sheer terror just around the corner. “Event horizon” is a horror movie built on a sci-fi platform, and it has plenty to offer fans of both genres.

The story takes place in the year 2047, when Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne), Dr. William Weir (Sam Neill), and six other crew members embark on a top secret rescue mission. Their target is the “Event Horizon”, an experimental spaceship that vanished without a trace on her maiden voyage, only to inexplicably reappear seven years later. Minimally, the team must try to determine why it disappeared, where it’s been all this time, and what happened to the original crew.

Upon boarding the ship, the rescue party discovers evidence of a bloody slaughter, but no apparent signs of life. In spite of this, It is not long before they begin hearing disturbing noises, and having terrifying hallucinations. Is the ship alive? Is it possessed? Nobody really knows for sure, but at the heart of it all is the craft’s revolutionary gravity drive, designed by none other than Dr. Weir. As the evil forces become increasingly more menacing, the crew is forced to abandon the original mission, and an all-out battle for survival ensues.

The film is visually stunning, and holds up well, even by today’s standards. The set designs show a lot of imagination, and impressive attention to detail. They provide just the kind of dark, shadowy atmosphere the movie requires to tell its haunting tale. The visual effects-both CGI and practical- are top notch, and are seamlessly interwoven throughout the feature. There are fires, explosions, floods, floating objects, and plenty of blood, but courtesy of the film’s 60 million dollar budget, all look very authentic. Why is this so important? Pictures like “Event Horizon” rely heavily on our ability to buy into the story, and if we can’t believe the environment is real, we won’t care about what happens to the characters either. On this level, the film was a definite success.

event-horizon-2The acting is mostly impressive as well, especially the performances of the two main characters. Fishburne seems completely at home as the rescue team’s leader, a role he more or less reprised two years later in “The Matrix”. Neill also has a lot of fun in his role as a brilliant but quirky scientist turned villain. The story, which contains a lot of twists and turns, remains engaging throughout, and the musical score, though a little overbearing at times, does a great job of helping to sustain the tension.

Yet despite all of these positive attributes, the movie performed poorly at the box office, and was generally panned by most critics. I suspect that the main reason for this has to do with the fact that many of the questions raised during the film, remain largely unanswered at the end. For example, apart from vague references and random speculation, we never quite find out exactly what happened to the ship during its seven year disappearance. Captain Miller: “Oh my God, what happened to your eyes?” Dr. Weir: “Where we’re going, we won’t need eyes to see”. Personally, I don’t mind when a film challenges its audience members to draw some of their own conclusions, but those looking for clear-cut explanations may find this deeply unsettling. I should also mention that 1997 happened to be big year for blockbuster features, with the likes of “Titanic”, “Men in Black”, Jurassic Park: The Lost World” among others, all making their debut. Now that’s some serious competition!

If I had to pick just one word to describe “Event Horizon”, it would be “underrated”. It is well worth seeing for the visual experience alone, and is generally much better than the box office revenues or initial reviews would have you believe. Strap yourself in, put your thinking cap on, and enjoy the ride. I certainly did.




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