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Event Horizon


‘…Event Horizon isn’t a great movie…but it’s a beautiful ruin, far better to look at than most 90’s films, and the mix of CGI and physical effects gels on an aesthetic level….’

We can do requests at; you don’t have to slip us $100 virtual notes in a Patreon scheme, because we’re always open to watching new or reviving older films of any vintage, if there’s a good reason to do so. A few requests have come in for Paul WS Anderson’s Event Horizon, but that’s been on hold for various reasons, not least that the only viewable cut of the film is reputedly not the complete one. That 97 minute version that I viewed WOR in August 1997 wasn’t the big genre game-changer we were seeking at the time; a haunted house in space shocker, Event Horizon lacked a fresh alien culture, gelid creature or single visual idea to justify its big budget, starry cast, or liberal borrowings from Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining. Fast forward a quarter century and Event Horizon is becoming a cult-classic, but there’s no sign of the full 130+ minute cut, and despite fan enthusiasm, nor is there likely to be…

‘Are you telling me that this ship is alive?’ is just about all you need to know plot-wise; yes, the Event Horizon is alive, having just passed through a black hole and come back as part of the testing for a gravity drive invented by Dr Billy Weir (Sam Neill) who designed the missing Event Horizon ship. He’s now a passenger with hidden baggage on the Lewis and Clark, a rescue ship which makes contact with the Event Horizon and attempts to discern the fate of the original crew. Surveillance tapes are discovered, showing the original crew feasting on each other sexually and in a violent, cannibalistic way, and a Latin warning saying “Save Me” turns out to be warning the unwary ‘Save Yourself’…

I pretty much deleted Event Horizon from my memory bank after seeing it at a late-night screening before release; without a clear hook, I felt it wouldn’t play with audiences and it didn’t. But a quarter of a century later, it’s easy to see why a wander through the sinister ruins of Event Horizon is still sucking in customers. The film has great costumes (by John Mollo of Star Wars), a futuristic Gothic look that’s part Warhammer 4000 and part Tarkovsky’s Solaris; the ship’s interior is referred to as looking like a ‘meat grinder’, and the over-qualified cast are the meat. And younger viewers will be surprised to see crew-members Neill, Laurence Fishburne, Jason Isaacs and Sean Pertwee looking so spruce and young. But in this truncated Anderson’s film borrows too heavily from The Shining without shame, from the curtain of blood pouring down on the action to Weir’s dream of cozying up to a beautiful naked woman who turns out to be a rotting eyeless corpse.

Event Horizon isn’t a great movie; it lacks humour, the plotline fizzles with badly edited scenes, and the whole enterprise leaves more questions than answers. But it’s also a beautiful ruin, far better to look at than most 90’s films, and the mix of CGI and physical effects gels on an aesthetic level. The idea of a spaceship as a ‘bad place’ where the personal demons of interlopers can be turned against them in physical form, is a good one, and it’s a shame that Event Horizon’s cult status hasn’t led to any kind of reboot or re-thinking. Anderson has carved a different niche for himself with enjoyable movies like The Three Musketeers and Pompeii, but Event Horizon still seems to haunt our dreams and nightmares, living rent-free in our heads with a vision of hell beyond earth that’s still pungent and disturbing.


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    • And yet, quite different from each other if you look closely. There are no monster trucks in Solaris, no gay panic shower scenes in Andres Rublev. But we can all agree that they are perfect examples of their genres. A buddy cop movie with explosions. And an endless beyond serious mediation on something which leaves you in the dark so long contemplating nothing that you wildly over praise it once it’s over. They are two cinematic halves of the same cinematic epiphany.

      Did you catch the translation of Uncle Vanya in Space into Latin?

  1. Because you deserve all the credit, I’m giving you exclusive blow by blow replays of my foreign Solaris film watch, live.

    SUBTITLES. Nobody told me there would be subtitles.

    The beginning credits run for like 5 min, on a black background while pipe organ music plays. I’m bored already!

  2. I know I’ve seen it, but I can only vaguely remember it, I’ll keep it in mind for the something-to-watch-when-desperate list, but I’ll forget in a couple of days so probably nope.

  3. I keep meaning to rewatch this. I saw it on first release, and was broadly unimpressed and I’d mostly forgotten it. Until recently, that is, when I keep seeing cult murmurings of it being a lost masterpiece (or something) if only they’d release the Snyder cut. I can’t say I’m convinced as I only vaguely remember a passable, enjoyable but scarcely original movie, but perhaps I should check it out again as you did to see what I was missing on first watch.

    • I watched it last night on the Film4 player. I’d forgotten about it the minute I saw it. Once you know there’s no physical monster, and that is derivative, it is a more than decent B movie. But because a lot of back story info has been cut, it feels truncated and even wowed by the production design, I still can’t see a masterpiece, just a beautiful looking ruin…

    You review a good movie, even if your summation lacks verve and correctness. Because it is a good movie. The End.

    I would love to see a directors cut of this, but as you note, that probably is never going to happen. At this point, I’d even settle for some sort of remake. Haunted spaceships are awesome after all.

    I thought Neill did a great job acting like a crazy obsessed nutjob. I felt like he was the human half of the demonship and had to act for himself and the entity inhabiting the ship. Not a small order and I thought he pulled it off.

  5. Sure you take requests. We all remember how long it took you to get to the Aristocats.

    I like the way the warning message is in Latin (though critics have pointed out it’s incorrect Latin), and that one of the crew actually knows Latin.

    It’s an enjoyable bad movie.

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