Movie Review – Event Horizon (1997)
I saw Paul W.S. Anderson’s Event Horizon when it first came out in 1997. Preparing for a re-watch, I recalled really liking the premise but being less impressed by the execution, especially the ending. Though it received mostly negative reviews when it was first released, in recent years its reputation has grown and many genre fans appear look upon it fondly. With this in mind, I decided to give it another go, hoping I’d find more to appreciate this time around, as I have with some other 90s films like Wes Craven’s Scream (1996).
The premise is indeed intriguing. In the screenplay by Philip Eisner we follow a rescue crew who are investigating a spaceship called the Even Horizon that disappeared to the outer reaches of space and has now mysteriously returned. Unlike the 90s trend of sending franchise monsters into space for no good reason, here we have a legitimate premise for a sci-fi horror film. To my sincere disappointment, that’s where my favorable views of this film, like a real event horizon, end.
Instead of finding more to appreciate on my most recent watch, I found more criticize. A really cool idea is bogged down by poor dialogue, thin characterizations, and an incoherent plot. A character is smart one minute and stupid the next, depending on the needs of the story. In just one instance of idiocy, one woman goes chasing after what appears to be her son after we’ve already established that her son is safe back on Earth and that the ship is haunted and trying to kill them with mindfuckery.
What I remembered as being nods to Aliens (1986) and Hellraiser (1987) feel more like rip-offs, especially as Pinhead was killing people in a space station just a year prior (Hellraiser: Bloodline). Worst of all is Dr. William Weir’s change, which is wholly unconvincing and turns him into a poor-man’s Pinhead. Sam Neill is a fine actor, don’t get me wrong, but he’s simply not scary. Lastly, while the special effects are pretty good, the scares they serve often don’t make sense and, worse, are generally cheesy.
Anderson has claimed that there is about ten minutes of footage that was cut from the film to please producers and that, if put back in, would solve many of the pacing and narrative problems. Unfortunately, most of that footage has either been lost or damaged. As it currently stands, Event Horizon is a mess of a film kept afloat by a great sci-fi setting and good special effects. But it’s too much style over substance, and rather than only disliking the ending this time I found myself irritated with the movie shortly after the halfway point.