No Sleep October: Event Horizon (1997)

I really like the idea of “Event Horizon” more than the movie itself.

In 2040, the Event Horizon, a ship outfitted with a special gravity drive designed to make interstellar travel easier, disappears on its maiden voyage to Proxima Centauri. Seven years later, the ship’s distress signal reaches humanity, and the Lewis & Clark is dispatched on a rescue mission to find the experimental ship and its crew. What they find is nothing short of hell.

Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne), Doctor D.J. (Jason Isaacs), Lt. Starck (Joely Richardson) and Dr. William Weir (Sam Neill) are among the crew of the Lewis & Clark, and as soon as they board the derelict Horizon they being experiencing visions of their greatest fears and regrets. Abandoned children, dead former crew members, tortured pasts; soon they find video footage of what happened to the Horizon’s original crew: Satanic torture, blood orgies, rape, murder, unthinkable horror. It’s apparent they were driven mad by something picked up during the voyage through dimensional space, and that whatever happened is still happening.

Writer Phillip Eisner and director Paul W.S. Anderson present something of a super-remix of classic horror and science-fiction movies. The visual design of the Horizon is something like a medieval torture chamber; it’s not clear if they designed it like this before it was sent into space or if it took on this visage after passing through unknown realms. It lacks the raw and disturbing sexuality of “Alien” but tries for a similar tone. Many of the deaths involve “Hellraiser”-level gore and dismemberment. Echoes of “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “The Shining” can also be felt.

All of this sounds awesome. The actual movie itself isn’t. It feels like a grand beast that died in the editing room or maybe even before; the cinematography is so flat, so dull that it breaks the attempted atmosphere. There’s no real terror beyond gore and quick-cut jump scares. Neill as Weir, the designer of the Horizon, is naturally fun as hell. His explanation of how the ship jumping through the hell-dimension gave it a malevolent sentience is candy for the imagination, but it just isn’t that fascinating in practice. I read on Wikipedia that considerable amounts of content were cut from the movie. Perhaps it would’ve been better if it has been able to go full-bore on awfulness and evil.

To some extent, “Event Horizon” has become a cult classic in horror sci-fi communities, but I fail to see what it added to either genre. It rehashes what came before but not in a way that furthers those disparate parts. Glad I watched it; not recommended.



Administrator of Midwest Film Journal. Previously a staff writer for TheFilmYap.com, Evan has been writing film criticism in the Indianapolis area for over half a decade. He is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. He also reviews Oreos.


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