in Shocktober

Event Horizon (1997)

Not enough sci-fi movies take the bold leap of putting dates by their absurd predictions for the future. That’s probably because most screenwriters have the good sense to know that their outlandish ideas will probably never come true, and they don’t want to run into the 2001 problem. Event Horizon, though, now here is a movie with very little good sense at all. And so when it began by writing about humanity’s permanent settlement on the moon being established in 2015, I knew I was in for a good time.

Our story begins years later, when, in 2047, a distress signal is picked up from the long-lost ship the Event Horizon somewhere near Neptune, a criminally underrated planet. The Lewis & Clark, a rescue ship captained by a man called Miller (Laurence Fishburne), is sent to find out just what in the hell is going on. Toward that end, they bring the troubled Dr. William Weir (Sam Neill), the designer of the Event Horizon, to provide his expertise.

Weir reveals to the crew that the true nature of the Event Horizon was hidden from the public. It was actually the first ship with an experimental FTL drive that allows travel through wormholes – he even does that same fold a paper and poke it with a pencil thing that Matthew McConaughey does in Interstellar to explain; that must just be the go-to move real-life professors do when talking about wormholes in layman’s terms. After its first jump, the Event Horizon disappeared, and hasn’t been heard from in seven years.

The crew also get to listen to the transmission, which is just a bunch of screaming and someone talking in Latin. When they get to the ship, their fears are confirmed as they find blood and guts just about everywhere, and the corpses of the crew in pretty horrific shape. But, as is always the case, instead of immediately running away, they decide to poke around. Specifically, one crewman (Jack Noseworthy) sees the ship’s experimental drive turn itself on and decides the best thing to do is stick his hand in it. He gets sucked in and thrown back out, and along the way the Lewis and Clark is badly damaged.

It turns out that the ship, in traveling through the wormhole, went into another dimension that’s pretty much hell. And now it’s kind of alive? So it starts showing hallucinations of deeply personal fears to each of the crew, and also makes them kill each other or commit suicide. Weir gets the worst of it, as he is haunted by his dead wife until the ship takes total control of him and he starts cutting himself and rips his eyeballs out. Yeah, this movie doesn’t shy away from the grotesque, even though it doesn’t really know what to do with the brutal images it creates. In one instance, a character is strung up and has his guts fall out, but it happens so fast and is so barely shown, it’s hardly as impactful as it should have been.

Little of this movie is actually tense, and none of it truly horrific. Which is disappointing, since space is so harsh and so ripe with potential for existential terror. Instead, director Paul W.S. Anderson relies on loud noises and over-the-top gore to make this movie work. Supposedly he took this project because after Mortal Kombat he wanted to do something R-rated, so I guess it’s not surprising that this movie is full of violence, nudity, and foul language that doesn’t seem necessary.

You’d hope that maybe Anderson’s blunt approach (and some pretty bad performances by the supporting cast) dulled a good script, but some of the blame has to go to the source material too. Event Horizon is an extremely derivative film, which liberally lifts elements from the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, and even Star Trek. That’s my biggest beef with the movie: it was fun enough, but it brings absolutely nothing to the “this haunted house is a spaceship” table, save for maybe Sam Neill’s exaggerated turn as a possessed scientist. I enjoyed this movie in the same way I liked something like The Faculty, but it’s not even as good as that was. Still, I can think of a lot worse ways to spend 95 minutes.