Outer space lends the perfect horror setting: an isolated realm confining a group to a small area. Although the notion had certainly been employed before, “Alien” set a standard in 1979 that few followers have achieved. Though not quite on par with “Alien,” Paul W. S. Anderson’s 1997 “Event Horizon” offers a terrifying experience complimented by gorgeous visuals, and a tag-team effort from Laurence Fishburne and Sam Neill.
It’s the year 2047, and the rescue ship “Lewis and Clark” has been assigned the task of following the distress call of the ship “Event Horizon.” Captained by Cpt. Miller (Laurence Fishburne), the crew consists of Dr. Weir (Sam Neill), Trauma Dr. D.J. (Jason Isaacs), Rescue Technician Cooper (Richard T. Jones), Lt. Starck (Joely Richardson), pilot Smith (Sean Pertwee), Ensign Justin (Jack Noseworthy), and Medical Technical Peters (Kathleen Quinlan). According to a debriefing, the “Event Horizon” contained a gravity drive which created a black hole, allowing quick jumps in space time.
Arriving at the ship, the crew of the “Lewis and Clark” discovers the “Event Horizon” to be derelict and seemingly abandoned. Unfortunately, the gravity drive activates, crippling the “Lewis and Clark.” Soon after boarding the “Event Horizon,” they each begin experiencing bizarre, frightening images, which is explained when they finally decipher the ship’s video log.
“Event Horizon” bears undeniable similarities to several precursors, notable “Alien.” There’s the ill-omened distress signal, the group dynamics, and of course the interstellar setting. However the set design really imbues an “Alien” vibe, with intricate construction evoking H.R. Giger’s work. Similarly, much of the buildup plods along mounting tension.
Paul W. S. Anderson’s film sets itself apart though with an explosion of gore. The finale is shockingly intense, and apparently the theatrical version was heavily edited. Unfortunately the script stumbles, bordering on laughably bad in spots. Luckily, with veteran actors Laurence Fishburne and Sam Neill at the helm, it’s not a complete abomination. After viewing a particularly gory video on the ship’s log, Captain Miller simply states “we’re leaving.” Only Fishburne can utter such gross understatements and avoid eye-rolling. Rather, he provides a stoic leadership which extends from his character to the entire film. While not the deepest movie thematically, “Event Horizon” pays homage to films like “Alien,” and “Hellraiser,” with compelling visuals and a hearty dose of cringe-worthy gore. It’s a tragically overlooked film, and perfect horror flick for those with the stomach to endure the graphic violence.