Event Horizon Movie Review
Reviewed By: Katy Whitton on 11 October, 2021
Genre: Horror, Science Fiction
UK Release Date: 22-08-1997
Studio: Golar Productions, Impact Pictures, Paramount Pictures
This review is part of the Spooky Season Film Review Series – read all the reviews here
It’s amazing how advanced they thought things would be in the 21st century when viewed through the lens of 1980s and 90s cinema. We were all supposed to be living in some sort of futuristic utopia with flying cars and jet packs when in fact we can’t buy petrol and there is a shortage of Quality Street.
Event Horizon is set in 2047, humankind has advanced to the stage where we have colonized the moon and are actively mining on Mars. In order to expand our reach even further a new generation of space craft is being built and the titular Event Horizon is the prototype.
Using a revolutionary Gravity Drive which is able to fold space and time the Event Horizon sets out to its launching point just outside Neptune’s orbit. The idea is that the ship will test its drive by jumping to Proxima Centauri, a distance of just over 4 light years. The control team are expecting to lose contact with the vessel for a short time but after the ship jumps and doesn’t return it becomes obvious that the ship is lost in what they call “the worst space-related disaster in history”.
When a distress beacon from the missing ship is heard seven years later, a rescue vessel named Lewis & Clark, under the command of Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne), is dispatched to investigate and bring back any survivors and data they can find.
The crew of the Lewis & Clark are a bit of a ragtag bunch and certainly rough around the edges and as such they are at odds with the expert on the Event Horizon that has joined them, the ship’s designer Dr William Weir (Sam Neill).
After a short stint in statis, the crew set a course to approach Neptune and the location of the distress signal that they are receiving. Dr Weir explains how his gravity drive works and that the ship can’t actually travel faster than light due to the theory of relativity but what it does instead is fold space and time around it and punches through from the originating point to the desired destination. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, quite a lot as it turns out.
Unbeknownst to the crew of the Lewis & Clark, the Event Horizon didn’t make it to Proxima Centauri, instead when the ship folded space and time it ended up in a hell dimension which caused the original crew to go insane.
As they perform a flyby of the ship to check its structural integrity they listen to the last message that the crew sent out which is a mixture of garbled speech, screams and demonic wailing sounds. Ships medic D.J (Jason Isaacs) thinks that part of the speech is in Latin and they are saying “save me”. Unfortunately his translation is wrong which will have dire consequences for everyone on the ship.
The Lewis & Clark docks with the Event Horizon and a team is sent aboard to check out the sporadic life signs they are seeing on their sensors and to secure the ship. While he’s trying to get power online, engineer Justin (Jack Noseworthy) notices that the gravity drive seems to have activated and the centre has turned into a black pool. When he goes to investigate, he’s sucked into the pool which causes a massive energy pulse to shoot through the ship and damage the docked Lewis & Clark.
Rescue technician Cooper (Richard T. Jones) rushes to the engine room and sees that Justin’s safety line is leading to the black pool where the core should be. He manages to pull Justin out only to find him catatonic.
Cooper takes Justin to the sickbay where he tells the others what he saw. Dr Weir tells Cooper that he must be mistaken as there is no way that the gravity drive could operate on its own but what he doesn’t know is that it’s still connected to the hell dimension and is drawing its own power from it.
While Smith (Sean Pertwee) and Cooper are repairing the damage to the Lewis & Clark, the others are trying to make sense of what happened on the Event Horizon by viewing the log entries which show an unhinged crew behaving violently.
The crew start to notice things aren’t quite right on the ship, medical technician Peters (Kathleen Quinlan) sees her sick son who is back home on Earth, Miller sees the burning body of a former crewmate that he couldn’t save, and Weir sees visions of his dead wife.
The more time they spend on the ship, the stronger the visions and feeling of unease become. Second-in-command Starck (Joely Richardson) is going over the logs and internal scans and comes to the conclusion that the ship is somehow now alive and it’s reacting to the Lewis & Clark crew being onboard, treating them like a virus. The hallucinations are getting worse as the ship has a stronger and stronger reaction to the human presence onboard.
Just as the ship’s reactions seem to be reaching a peak, Justin wakes from his coma and locks himself in an airlock. He keeps muttering about what he’s seen “on the other side” and that he can’t live with the visions. Just before the airlock opens Justin snaps out of his reverie but it’s too late to stop the door opening. Justin is sucked out into space without a space suit in what is probably the most accurate depiction of what would happen if you took a space walk in just your pyjamas. Fortunately Miller is outside the ship and is able to force Justin back into the airlock. Justin’s badly injured (I mean, obviously, he was just turned into a human popsicle) but he is alive.
The translation he made earlier isn’t sitting well with D.J and he keeps listening to the message. To his horror he realises he was wrong and the message wasn’t “save me” it was actually “save yourself…. From Hell” – IF ONLY HE HAD FIGURED THAT OUT SOONER!
Miller decides that the Event Horizon is a lost cause and should be destroyed so that no one else can be harmed. He orders Cooper and Smith to quickly finish the repairs to the Lewis & Clark and says that they will blow the Event Horizon up to prevent anyone else setting foot on it.
Weir isn’t happy with Miller’s decision, after all the Event Horizon is his life’s work. He put everything he had into its design and it literally cost him his wife’s life. It’s this dedication and sacrifice which perhaps explains his bond with the ship and why it seems to treat him differently to the other crew members on board.
Almost as if the ship knows what Miller is planning, it intensifies its attacks on the crew with deadly consequences. Will anyone survive or are they doomed to remain aboard the Event Horizon for a cursed eternity?
Event Horizon was released in 1997 in a limited number of cinemas and I was lucky enough to see it on the big screen. When the crew first board the derelict ship we see the effects of zero gravity with the personal effects of the missing crew spinning eerily through the main corridor. For its time, this CGI was amazing, I’d never seen anything like it before and while it’s not quite up to today’s standards it still holds up very well.
It’s a shame that the film didn’t receive a wider release – it was initially panned by critics (unfairly so in my opinion) which stopped a wider distribution and it only made $42 million on a budget of $60 million (ouch).
One problem was that the studio decided to rush the release in order to fill a gap because Titanic was running late, another (perhaps larger issue) was that test audiences were repulsed by the initial cut with audience members fainting during the screening (source and source – warning graphic content). This meant that director Paul W.S Anderson’s (Mortal Kombat (1995), Resident Evil, AVP: Alien vs. Predator) vision was curtailed. It didn’t help that the studio made Anderson cut over half-an-hour out taking the runtime down from 2 hours 10 minutes to 1 hour and 36 minutes.
The film began to enjoy a cult status when it was released on VHS (and later DVD) and there were calls for a directors cut to be released (which I would love to see). Unfortunately Anderson’s original cut and all of the original film stock was destroyed after being stored in a Transylvanian (I kid you not) salt mine or thrown out (WHAT?) so we’ll never know what his vision was for the film (although we know it was going to be a lot gorier that the theatrical release).
Because the film was hacked about a bit, there are a few plot holes and questions that remain unanswered (like why was someone shoving stakes up people’s arses for starters) but it’s still a great movie that is hugely underrated.
I’m going to let you into a little secret here…. Event Horizon is probably one of my favourite films of all time. Yup! A film that failed miserably at the box office is in my top 5 movies. I feel lucky I was one of a handful of people to actually get to see it at the cinema (which happened by accident, I think I was supposed to go and see Cop Land and I am glad that I didn’t as that film was a hard watch).
Why do I like it so much? It has everything you could possibly want in a film: fantastic acting (you’ve seen the cast list, right?) Great direction, the lighting? Chef’s kiss. The music? Fantastic if you ignore whatever the heck happened with the end credits music – The Prodigy “Funky Sh!t”? WHY? I guess it’s very much of its time but makes no sense in the context of the film.
Here, have the main title as a palette cleanser!
The editing is superb even after knowing how hacked about the footage is and the Event Horizon ship design…. Woah! That thing has a personality man, the bow of a ship looks like a face with a giant maw that wants to eat your soul, how apt.
And the interior set design? You can see the cathedral influences which is in direct opposition to the hellscape that the ship slowly becomes. Fantastic.
If you haven’t seen this film then please, please, please check it out as it really deserves to reach a larger audience. Sure it’s a bit gory in places but no more so than a small child puking pea soup like in The Exorcist. I guarantee that if you watch it you won’t look at another science fiction film in the same way again.
Fun Fact! The film is often dubbed “Hellraiser in space”. Interestingly, Anderson redesigned the look of the ship’s gravity drive from a flat disk to the interlocking rings as an homage to the puzzle box seen in Clive Barker’s Hellraiser film.