Does it live up to its cult status?

The 1997 Quick and Easy Review Event horizon is “what the hell was that?”, a sentiment that seems to have been shared by critics and moviegoers upon its initial release. The film has since become a verifiable cult classic and enjoyed a reappraisal that leans more favorably towards it. Is it however deserved?

The plot itself is relatively simple. In 2040, the Event Horizon, a spacecraft, disappeared and was presumed destroyed, until seven years later, when a distress signal from the ship prompted the rescue ship Lewis and Clark to be dispatched. Along for the ride with the crew of Lewis and Clark is Dr. William Weir (Sam Neil), the designer of the Event Horizon. Along the way, Weir reveals that the Event Horizon was not destroyed, but disappeared into a black hole created by his experimental gravity drive, and has only just reappeared. When they reach the ship, they inadvertently damage their own, so the entire crew must board the Event Horizon. Slowly but surely, the ship reveals its dark secret: it has passed beyond the known universe into a world of chaos and evil. He’s literally been to hell and back, and now the ship itself is possessed and needs a new crew.

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In all honesty, that makes it really dumb, because there’s much, much more to the movie to chew on visually and intellectually. The foreground reveals the Event Horizon, which from the outside looks like a cross, which is just the start of the religious imagery the director Paul W.S. Anderson uses throughout the film. The ship’s interior resembles a dark cathedral, with interiors that blend the look of stained glass and gothic structure with sci-fi elements. We then cut to Weir, who wakes up harshly after seeing his deceased wife alive and with her eyes gouged out in a nightmare. The station he is in has a barren, white aesthetic, the first indication of Anderson’s use of shades to convey the journey into darkness the rescue ship is embarking on. While in stasis, Weir experiences another nightmare, again involving his wife. Shortly after, the whole crew wakes up. The aesthetic of the rescue ship is decidedly gray at this point, as Weir gives the crew the details of the mission, a shift to the darker element ahead. It’s also the first time they’ve heard the distress call, which sounds like painful cries and a dark voice speaking in Latin, another interesting connection to Catholicism, and which is mistakenly translated as “Save -me”.


When they arrive at Event Horizon and are forced to board while repairs are being made to the Lewis and Clark, it becomes very apparent that something very, very bad has happened, but no clue as to what. The crew members investigate the ship, and the first sign that things are about to fall apart is when the gravity drive turns on (which Weir says is impossible) and drags Justin (Jack Noseworthy) in, forcing Cooper(Richard T. Jones) to rescue him. Justin is withdrawn but completely catatonic. Soon, the crew members begin to have visions: Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne) sees a young man he was forced to leave when he died, Peters (Kathleen Quinlan) sees the son she left behind and Weir sees his wife again, who urges him to join her. It’s at this point that it’s not just the background that’s black, but now Weir is seen in shadow, or sitting in a chair that makes him look like something else. world, predicting its turn into total darkness. The crew find the captain’s diary and look at it, only to be bombarded with gruesome images of mutilation and sexual deviation, and the entire Latin message is fully translated by the doctor, DJ (Jason Isaac). It’s not “Save Me”, it’s much more disturbing: “Save Yourself From Hell”.


RELATED: “Event Horizon’s Spiritual Successor: Revisiting 2009’s ‘Pandorum’

Lieutenant Stark (Joely Richardson) correctly infers that the ship itself is alive, and that the visions and other disturbances are the actions of the ship itself, and Miller realizes that the ship has been at what can only be described as the epitome of church-held hell, a realm of indescribable evil. Weir gives in to evil through his wife, who gouges out his eyes as he comes into possession. Miller, Cooper and Starck, the only remaining crew, plan to blow up the tunnel that connects the control room to engineering, freeing the control room like a “life raft”, only Weir prevents Miller from escaping, forcing him to set off the explosions and release the life raft, saving Cooper, Starck and Justin, barely alive but in stasis. The film ends on an ambiguous note, suggesting that they may not have escaped at all.


Anderson proves to be a master at increasing the tension with simple camera effects and sets, a skill he has proven in other of his films. There are a number of disconcerting shots taken from offbeat angles, and a memorable shot where Peters sees his “son” standing in a coffin-shaped doorway before he dies. A very, very subtle technique he uses that adds to the tension of the situation is static shots that aren’t actually static shots, as if the camera isn’t on a stand but held in the hand . This gives the shot a slight jolt, disorienting but not necessarily. It’s really clever, and it’s the only flippant movie that even uses it.

One of the film’s early criticisms was its excessive gore, and make no mistake – there’s definitely some gore there. It’s just that gore is, well, interesting. For the most part, the gore is seen in montages or brief glimpses, such as when the crew watches the captain’s log, Weir pushes images into Miller’s mind, and the end result of Weir’s vivisection of DJ. But these images are disturbing, haunting and, yes, excessive, especially the Captain’s Diary where the original crew are seen in a bloody, hedonistic and deadly orgy. It certainly gets worse (one director’s cut was rumored to be significantly gorier), but it deserves its reputation that way.


The acting in the film is, overall, average at best. To be honest, the story doesn’t give the actors much to grasp for their characters, but the supporting actors seem more “star trek redshirts” as opposed to people the audience cares about. Fishburne definitely sends him off, playing Fishburne. There are two exceptions: Isaacs rises above the script and nails the character’s gradual change from vocal cynical to haunted believer Neill clearly has fun inhabiting Weir’s descent into the mad, and attacks his villainous and creepy turn with enthusiasm.

The verdict? Event horizon is a grand and ambitious vision that attempts to marry elements of Extraterrestrial movies (the first half hour or so is very close to aliens) with spiritual depth. It doesn’t quite pull it all together, but where the pieces fit together better than expected, a film aiming for A+ that settles for its B rating. So yeah, Event horizon is indeed worthy of its reassessment.

Evaluation: B

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