Time: 96 Minutes
Age Rating: contains violence.
Laurence Fishburne as Captain Miller
Sam Neill as Dr. William ‘Billy’ Weir
Kathleen Quinlan as Peters
Joely Richardson as Lieutenant Starck
Richard T. Jones as Cooper
Jason Isaacs as D.J.
Sean Pertwee as Smith ‘Smitty’
Jack Noseworthy as Ensign Justin
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
When the Event Horizon, a spacecraft that vanished years earlier, suddenly reappears, a team is dispatched to investigate the ship. Accompanied by the Event Horizon’s creator, William Weir (Sam Neill), the crew of the Lewis and Clark, led by Capt. Miller (Laurence Fishburne), begins to explore the seemingly abandoned vessel. However, it soon becomes evident that something sinister resides in its corridors, and that the horrors that befell the Event Horizon’s previous journey are still present.
Event Horizon was a movie that I had been hearing about for a while, particularly for how it inspired the Dead Space video game series. It’s been referred to as Hellraiser in space and it’s also known as director Paul W.S. Anderson’s best movie. Also a lot of the idea of a haunted house in space with like a portal to hell sounds like something interesting, so I was somewhat looking forward to getting around to watch it. While it doesn’t live up to its potential, I think it does work decently enough as a horror flick, and does have some genuinely good stuff to it as well. However, production problems and heavy cuts by the studio really held back the movie from being as good as it could’ve been.
There is a ton of production story explaining what happened with Event Horizon but I’ll try to limit it to the relevant things I’m talking about. Event Horizon has a lot of interesting ideas, the idea of hell being involved is chief among the best, and it wasn’t originally in the script. Phillip Eisner’s original script had alien beings as the cause of the hauntings of the ship but Anderson felt it was too much like Alien, so had a revision of the script done (by Andrew Kevin Walker uncredited) so that it was like a classic haunting movie (like The Haunting and The Shining, there’s even one scene that’s paying homage to the latter), more like a classic haunting movie instead of a monster movie, while also incorporating elements of hell in the movie. I’m thankful that this happened because it’s one of the most stand out parts of the movie. As I said, some of the ideas are pretty good, other aspects can take a little too much from other movies. There’s also some occasionally goofy dialogue and writing that doesn’t ruin the movie but definitely takes you out of it. Now I don’t know if this is the cause of it, but when Paul W.S. Anderson signed on to direct, development had to move quickly cos there was already a release date scheduled (meaning that pre production was likely rushed), so a lot of the script and other elements wasn’t worked on or revised as much as they should’ve been before filming. One thing that really needs to be mentioned is the length, Event Horizon is an hour and 30 minutes long, really quite short. It’s ironic considering that apparently the cut was way too long (even Anderson said that it was too long) and yet it ended up being the shortest length that a typical movie would be. As it is, the movie is fine enough with its length but all the cuts really meant that the story and characters wasn’t really fully realised. Maybe cutting some of the extreme gore (which I’ll get into later) might’ve been understandable and wouldn’t have affected the plot much, but a lot of the plotlines and character development was also cut. 30 minutes were cut from the movie, and I don’t believe that almost all of that was full of extreme gore. There are also attempts at building tension, but the film is cut a lot to speed up the pacing and featuring cheap jumpscares or gore and that can deflate a lot of the tension, no doubt a victim of the tight filming schedule. The ending seems to have 2 endings, and it’s like they couldn’t figure out which one to use so they just used both of them and so it’s just confusing.
The cast is limited but talented, with Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan, Joely Richardson, Richard T. Jones. Jason Isaacs, Sean Pertwee and Jack Noseworthy as the crew. They all do rather well, with Sam Neill and Laurence Fishburne being the standouts. However, a lot of the aforementioned cuts to the movie really affected their characters and performances because a lot of their scenes (including scenes featuring their development and depth) were cut. Something that the Event Horizon (the haunted ship) does is that preys on the crew members’ fears, but we only get to see that with a few of the characters and it just feels like a wasted opportunity. Seeing all of the characters’ fears and having them up against them really would’ve been something great. Even the Event Horizon fear stuff aside, we don’t get to learn about these characters well enough, sometimes making some characters feel out of place and not memorable at all. The biggest example is Richard T. Jones whose character’s development and a lot of his depth was no doubt cut from the movie, and so he just comes across as really goofy and super comedic, like he should be in Jason X (aka Jason Vorhees goes to space) or something. His comedic relief does work fine enough but that’s all there is to his character. Even the characters that work better have been likely affected by the cuts, Sam Neill’s character really isn’t consistent, and even knowing the full plot its difficult to really pin down his whole deal.
This is definitely Paul W.S. Anderson’s best movie and while some of the directional aspects doesn’t quite work, most of it works well. So much of the CGI is dated, particularly when it came to objects floating around in space like in the opening scene, I’m sure that the CGI back in 1997 was more impressive than what was on display here. With that, when it comes to the practical effects and sets, the movie is much better in those areas. So much of the design is very Alien and H.R. Giger inspired, maybe a little too much. Still, the practical sets are great and you really feel like you are in this haunted ship. This movie can also be extremely brutal and graphic but its mostly in brief moments, notably two. Both of these scenes actually went on for a very long time originally and were way more graphic and violent. If you look up what happened, when the movie was shown at test screenings, audiences didn’t take too kindly to the massive amount of gore (to put it mildly) so there were numerous cuts to earn an R rating so it could actually be shown in cinemas and avoid the dreaded NC-17 rating. The makeup and animatronics are also very impressive, Anderson got a lot right with Event Horizon. There are times where you can definitely tell that some things were rushed, particularly the editing. Anderson apparently was only able to do one draft edit for the movie and you can kind of tell that this is the case. For example, Event Horizon at times uses some really stock sound effects, which at times actually deflates a lot of the tension that they were going for. By that I mean that an example is a fight near the end had some goofy 80s action punching sound effects, making it feel really cheesy instead of intense.
Much of Event Horizon’s faults isn’t actually because of Paul W.S. Anderson or his crew but really mostly because of Paramount Pictures, it suffers by some occasionally messy writing and most of all from the numerous edits and cuts made by the studio. It does however have some really good elements, the production design and practical effects are great, the acting is solid, and this haunted ship from hell idea is really something I dig. It was a really good decision on Paul W.S. Anderson’s part to skip directing Mortal Kombat Annihilation for this. I feel like this would be one of those few movies that would be nice to see a remake of, if not at least another movie with a similar idea explored, because we haven’t seen many other sci-fi horror movies go to that place. As for Event Horizon itself, if you like horror movies and you can stomach some occasionally extreme gore, give it a watch, it’s only 90 minutes long anyway. Even if you don’t end up watching it, I highly recommend looking into the production of this movie because it’s rather interesting.