Rugged Reviews

Event Horizon – An exercise in wasted horror potential

by Ouroboros on May 11, 2016
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Synopsys

Horror movies set in space seem to have it made easy for themselves. The setting lends itself to inducing a sense of claustrophobia and terror since the only thing that is keeping you alive in the harshness of space is inducing the claustrophobia to begin with. Add in an unknown factor making the lights flicker, systems fail and crew members die one by one, and you have an easy recipe for horror.

Horror movies set in space seem to have it made easy for themselves. The setting lends itself to inducing a sense of claustrophobia and terror since the only thing that is keeping you alive in the harshness of space is inducing the claustrophobia to begin with. Add in an unknown factor making the lights flicker, systems fail and crew members die one by one, and you have an easy recipe for horror.

It sounds like Event Horizon should’ve been a slam dunk. So why is the movie now only remembered largely by a cult following?

Event Horizon was released in 1997. You can tell it’s the mid-to-late ‘90s because of the amount of techno in the opening and closing credits, the still-rough CGI and the young-looking Laurence Fishburne, Jason Isaacs and Sean Pertwee.

It’s basically a haunted or possessed house in space movie. Replace the house with a spaceship and the fact that it won’t let you leave with the limitation of space travel.

According to this 1997 movie, we’ve colonized the moon in 2015… Must’ve missed that…and seem to travel through the solar system without a lot of fuss.The year is 2047 and the spaceship in question is the eponymous Event Horizon, a spaceship that disappeared seven years ago as a result of it testing a new sort of engine. It has now appeared at the very edge of the Solar System.

The overall interior design of the Event Horizon looks like something out of a weird Gothic nightmare. There’s a spinning blade tunnel, doors with spikes and one of the most detailed looking and scary gyroscopes ever put to film. Great things for a horror movie sure, but make fuck-all sense in terms of spaceship design, or design in general.

That being said, the interiors of the ships all look great and are meant to either pay homage to Alien or to reflect a more religious-inspired aesthetic. There are a couple of shots in the movie that are very well composed and look great.

It looks a little bit like Alien. OK, it looks a lot like Alien but if you’re gonna steal something you might as well steal from the best. And there are a couple more references to other classic horror movies spread throughout the film. There’s even an audio reference to the game Doom at the start of the movie.

The CG is pretty not great, they don’t overuse it, but whenever they do it’s really strikingly not great. On the other hand, the movie does have physical sets and the majority of effects are indeed practical. You can easily see the fact that they’re dealing with actual material sets and this helps to build and create atmosphere.

Event Horizon plays it a bit fast and loose with space science but the aim wasn’t to make a realistic or believable space horror movie. It was more to transplant a horror movie tropethe Hellgate – into space. And for what it’s worth, it does that pretty well.

The explanation offered being that the gravity drive created by the Sam Neill character, while it meant to fold space-time to facilitate warp travel, it instead tears a hole into our reality and creates a portal into a different sort-of dimension.

Both the description and the effects of this other dimension sound a lot like those associated with the Warhammer 40K concept of the Immaterium.

The movie suffers in terms of tone as well as character motivation. This is most like due to the very tight deadlines that the movie had to be finished in and it’s a pity because signs point towards a product that could’ve become something much more memorable. Also, thirty minutes of scenes existed in the initial rough director’s cut that are not present in the movie that was released, so I think at least some of those problems would’ve been corrected with a longer run-time.

I mention this because it is rather evident that the movie was supposed to have a lot more gore in it than it does. And while you might hear from gore fans that this would’ve somehow made the movie better, I don’t really think so. It would’ve definitely given the movie more of a characteristic to set it apart when it was launched, so it would have made it a different movie, but not necessarily a better one.

Granted, this is coming from my own perspective. My preferences are definitely skewed more towards the thriller-horror genre, but I found even the quick flashes to be a bit out-of-place, especially when we see the recording of the old crew.

This is probably because my level of suspension of disbelief doesn’t go high enough.

I will accept a gateway to a different dimension of terror and Chaos, but I won’t accept that this dimension has the same laws of physics which would allow for the human body not only to survive but also to experience pain because it’s being horrendously tortured with barbed wire, metal spikes and blades. Where-how-why would those implements exist in a different dimension, even if that dimension is Hell? Is there a hardware store in Hell? Who runs it? Where does it get inventory from and is that where public servants go after they die?

So to wrap things up.

The idea of a Hellgate in space work. The acting and the sets work. What doesn’t work is the fact that the relationships between the characters aren’t very well illustrated, they make bad decisions because the script says so and whilst I appreciate some comedic relief even in horror movies, here it’s used rather unevenly.

Event Horizon ends up being an exercise in wasted horror potential. But it is worth seeing at least once for those of us who really aren’t into the modern trend of horror movies and who like sci-fi in all of its forms.

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