Hooo boy. This is a really weird movie, even by horror’s freakishly bizarre standards. Focusing on the strange reappearance of an abandoned starship, the movie blends elements of possession films and gore horror with a sci-fi setting, leading many to expect something akin to Aliens. The movie was nothing like that however, resulting in a critical and box office panning of this film, despite strong home video and DVD sales. In today’s Halloween Horror Showcase, I’ll be playing devil’s advocate for one of horror’s biggest box office blunders, Paul W.S. Anderson’s Event Horizon.
Event Horizon (1997)
Far from a critical success, Event Horizon ended up scoring a 2/4 from Roger Ebert himself, in addition to similarly scathing reviews from other critics. The fact that it was directed by Mortal Kombat and Underworld’s Paul W.S. Anderson doesn’t exactly help either, but many viewers (myself included) happen to disagree with the critics on this particular flick.
Are there issues though? Unfortunately yes, primarily where cut content is concerned. You can still see many of the movie’s most brutal moments in the Hell sequences, but they’re only there for a split second, and can easily be missed. The film also purposely drags out the dialogue scenes, saving the gore and demons for the movie’s climax. There’s a few jump scares, as well as a very screwed-up scene involving the ship’s video log. And honestly, given what did end up making it past the censors, one has to wonder if the uncut version was perhaps too much for the average, moviegoing audience. Is the movie still good? Absolutely but, in my humble opinion, it certainly could have been a lot better.
Despite the glaring issues, there’s quite a lot to like about this movie. Laurence Fishburne does a spectacular job playing Captain Miller, a character who can effortlessly go from Star Trek-style technobabble to fire-and-brimstone monologues about watching his crewmates burn to death in zero-G. Everything he says has a wonderfully grim tone to it, and he really sells the whole concept of the Gothic, sci-fi setting, weird as it may be. Sam Neil’s role as Dr. Weir was also wonderful, and he ends up getting some pretty spectacular (if somewhat cheesy) lines towards the end of the movie. The other actors, while not as stellar as the previous two, do a great job playing their respective roles, ranging from grim military types to silly comic relief. The set design is another point in this film’s favor, with badass interiors that blend Gothic cathedral aesthetics with industrial sci-fi sensibilities.
To this day, I’ve yet to see a movie, comic or game outside of the Warhammer 40k universe that melds the two styles so flawlessly. And while I’d normally complain about the lack of background info we’re given in this film, I honestly think it adds to the grim mystique of the setting, letting your mind fill in the scary details the movie purposefully leaves out. And honestly, despite my earlier complaints about cut content, the horror elements not only hold up, but are a lot scarier than 90% of mainstream horror fare that arrives in theaters. You think Annabelle is scary? Please, let me show you the terrors of space.
So in conclusion, Event Horizon is a pretty good film. Not great mind you, but certainly worth a watch. The concept alone makes it a must-see, and for the most part it’s done pretty well. That said, fans of more action-heavy horror flicks should probably steer clear of this though, as a die-hard Lovecraft fan, I really enjoyed this unorthodox take on cosmic horror. It may not be for everyone, but I’ll take creepy starships and eye-gouging demons over the terror of Paranormal Activity’s moving furniture any day of the week.
And speaking of 40k, this film is totally an accidental Warhammer prequel. Think about it, the Event Horizon accessed the Warp, resulting in Khorne and Slaneesh doing their thing, and boom, possessed ship. It’s canon ’cause I say so.
Enjoy this film? Think I’m crazy for liking it? Let me know in the comments section and tell me what you think!