Here is a major studio film, with a substantial budget for high-quality produciton value, that somehow manages to look little better than low-budget Roger Corman productions like BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS. Part of the problem rests with the 1990s obsession with computer-generated imagery. The anti-gravity effects achieved with this technique may be eye-catching, but they are never convincing. They are too glossy and shimmery, like a hyper-real cartoon; they might work in a fantasy or surreal context, but in this supposedly high-tech science-fiction environment, they are out of place.
An even bigger part of the problem rests with an overall lack of vision. Director Paul Anderson shoots things to look cool, and he sometimes achieves this, but he has no grasp on how to modulate the visuals to carry the audience gradually into the deepening nightmare of the plot and the increasingly dire straights of the characters. Ultimately, Anderson’s work is functionally competent, in terms of getting the camera coverage to to tell the story, but he is unable to elevate a story barely worth telling.
This is best exemplified by the scene in which Justin (Jack Noseworthy) suffers the horrible fate of having his eyes explode in the vacuum of outer space. Anderson captures the splattering aqueous humour in loving close-up, but not for a moment does the imagery impact the audience as anything more than gratuitous gore. Anderson does not make you feel scared, nor are you emotionally battered by the tragedy of a character suddenly struck blind. It is simply an “ain’t it cool” moment intended to send the gore-hounds into paroxysms of joy.
The script posits the notion that the lost ship Event Horizon may have gone to Hell and back while making a faster-than-light jump into hyper space. Apparently, it brought back some of the Evil with it, or at least some kind of malicious alien intelligence inhabiting the ship as a whole. But this is about as far as it gets in exploring the premise, which turns out to be just a lip-service explanation to justify killing off most of the crew of the Lewis and Clark rescue ship.
Also suggested is the idea that the horrible visions plaguing the rescue crew are not supernatural events but hallucinations dredged up from the subconscious by the ship. This would be fine if the characters’ inner neurosis were developed with any kind of depth, but a very strong cast is left playing the most undefined of characters; in fact, they are so undifferentiated that you almost wish the script had resorted to cliched stereotypes just to distinguish them from each other.
Ultimately, the idea of astroanuts plagued by physical manifestations of their inner demons was handled better in producer Roger Corman’s GALAXY OF TERRORS. And while we’re noting similarities with other films, did we really need a an amalgam of the above-mentioned titles, along with THE BLACK HOLE, SOLARIS, and THE SHINING?
EVENT HORIZON has been released on disc several times. The December 30, 2003 release on Blu-ray includes bonus features previously available on DVD: a commentary track with director Anderson and producer Jeremy Bolt, plus several featurettes.
EVENT HORIZON (1997). Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson. Written by Philip Eisner. Cast: Laurence Fishburne, sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan, Joely Richardson, Richard T. Jones. jack Noseworthy, Jason Isaacs, Sean Pertwee.
Copyright 1997 Steve Biodrowski. This review originally appeared, in slightly different form, in Cinefantastique magazine.