Event Horizon (1997)
Event Horizon is a curious movie hybrid, mixing plot elements from classic sci-fi and horror genres. I've heard it labelled "Hellraiser in Space", although I think there's more to it than that. Perhaps a more apt description would be a Gothic horror story in space. The movie has also garnered a reputation since its release in 1997, as being somewhat gory. It does indeed have some quite shocking imagery but the lightening editing does not show as much as some would think. Paramount forced director Paul Anderson to reduce the original one hundred and thirty minute running time down to a more manageable ninety, after unfavourable test screenings. Much of the gore was allegedly removed as a result of that process. Dedicated fans still await a restored directors cut, although the most that has emerged so far is a VHS workprint.
Event Horizon is the name of an experimental spaceship which went missing on its maiden voyage. When the ship mysteriously re-appears in orbit above Neptune, a rescue mission is launched by the authorities. The ship's designer Dr. Weir (Sam Neil) is assigned to the rescue vessel Lewis and Clark, commanded by Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne) and his crew; Lieutenant Starck (Joely Richardson), pilot Smith (Sean Pertwee), Medical Technician Peters (Kathleen Quinlan), Engineer Ensign Justin (Jack Noseworthy), Rescue Technician Cooper (Richard T. Jones), and Trauma Doctor D.J. (Jason Isaacs). Upon arrival they find that the Event Horizon is empty and the crew dead or missing. The ship's last transmission contains human screams and a cryptic message in Latin. Subsequently the rescue party start experiencing horrific hallucinations along with a growing sense that unease.
There are many positive aspects to Event Horizon. The cast of character actors are more than competent and the production values are very high. The sets are opulent and the production design is handsome. The visual effects have not dated too much although some of the CGI are a little primitive. The prosthetics and animatronics are exceedingly good (and unpleasant). Bob Keen and his creative team were involved in the production although much of their work unfortunately doesn't make it into the theatrical version. The movie also manages to maintain a disquieting atmosphere, punctuated by some effective jumps. Sadly the screenplay lurches from the good to the bad and is somewhat inconsistent. The denouement does succeed in explaining the evil entity that is linked to the ship but I would have preferred some further insight. However these narrative inconsistencies may be due to the re-edit that took place prior to release.
However despite these issues, Event Horizon is sustained by its ambition, tone and grotesque visuals. Director Paul Anderson has produced a tense and atmospheric blend of genres, despite the studios interference in post-production. The blend of advanced technology with Hieronymus Bosch style visions of Hell is quite compelling. Certainly the movie deserves more critical praise than it gained upon release in 1997. If director Paul W S Anderson does manage to create a restored cut of the film, I would be very interested in seeing it. It might fill the gaps in the narrative as well as showcase the horror FX work in all their glory. Considering that Clive Barker has managed to achieve a full restoration of his movie Nightbreed, perhaps such a project is not so unlikely. We live in hope.