Drifting through space-time back in 1997, floating in the void is a gem that every sci-fi horror movie enthusiast should never miss, Event Horizon.
It all begins in 2047, aboard the search and rescue vessel Lewis and Clark, returning from an extended tour of duty at the far reaches of our solar system.
However, the crew must postpone their well-earned vacation as they receive orders to set out immediately for a new saving mission to Neptune.
Upon arriving at their destination, the newest member of the team, Dr. Weir, informs them about the reappearance of an experimental spaceship everyone thought missing for years, the Event Horizon.
Dr. Weir takes is particularly close to this mission, having designed the missing ship himself to pioneer a new era of interstellar travel.
Indeed, to overcome the physical limitation that cannot fly faster than light, this prototype used a gravitational distortion engine to create an artificial black hole and immediately reach any destination.
Upon arriving aboard the missing spaceship, Captain Miller and crew discover a place of terror and desolation.
In addition, the gravitational engine sucks in the youngest technician in the troop and throws him back out into a state of catatonic shock.
The accident creates a powerful shockwave that seriously damages the Lewis and Clark, with numerous leaks in its hull that will require at least 20 hours to repair.
Analyzing the ship’s log, it is evident that something went wrong on the inaugural voyage. The spaceship crossed into an unexplored dimension, bringing back something unknown and evil.
They all begin to experience frightening hallucinatory visions while realizing that Event Horizon has become an evil and voracious entity fueled by the fears and suffering of its visitors.
Horror blood spills from sci-fi veins
I immediately warn the more sensitive that Event Horizon has a strong horrorcore, arriving in 1997 with all the influences of a movie like Hellraiser from 10 years earlier.
The evil saga created by Clive Barker has more than one point in common with this sci-fi adventure, beginning precisely with the opening of a portal to a dark dimension that unleashes evil forces and suffering.
However, director Paul W. S. Anderson does not forget to enrich the sci-fi side of the story, such as the explanation of the journey through the black hole, which, for example, will be taken up identically in Christopher Nolan‘s famous Interstellar.
The extreme torture and violence did not please the production so much that they cut and reduced the original footage by quite a bit. Unfortunately, it never reached the public, even in a later uncut version.
This is not to say, however, that this movie is simply torture porn in which to enjoy the suffering of the protagonists.
Quite the contrary, the story’s pace is always high, with a constant struggle against time and almost continuous narrative revelations, personal about the Lewis and Clark crew and the Event Horizon‘s mysterious past.
Keeping with the best horror tradition, most special effects are built directly on the set with hand-made models and make-up. Yet, there are also some exciting post-production CG additions quite pleasing and innovative.
These digital effects help move the actors in zero gravity, such as through fluids or objects floating around them while walking inside a gimbal, a support platform that allows the set to move and tilt in various directions.
Similarly, the set design beautifully blends the horror and sci-fi genres with high-tech screens and computers within a gothic architecture decorated with religious iconography and symbols.
The stars among the stars
Talented director Paul W. S. Anderson creates a palpable tension keeping the audience’s pulse racing throughout the movie.
With excellent writing by Philip Eisner, the characters are essential but well delineated, contributing to the compelling feel of the story.
Prominent among the performers is Sam Neill, who takes on the role of the enigmatic Dr. William Weir, delivering a performance that anticipates his role in John Carpenter‘s future masterpiece, In the Mouth of Madness.
The doctor’s character, reluctant to reveal the truth, conflicts with Captain Miller, played masterfully by Laurence Fishburne.
Although the captain initially appears as the usual stereotypical duty-bound soldier, his struggle against the horrors unleashed by the ship transforms him into a knightly hero.
Turning to the other cast members, it is impossible not to mention the charming female leads.
Joely Richardson, as the wily Lieutenant Starck, is the first to realize what is really going on, although the other characters sadly ignore her.
So it’s actually explanations worth more to us viewers, helping to untangle and make sense of the grotesque and ominous visions hovering in the ship.
Kathleen Quinlan‘s performance as Doctor Peters, on the other hand, is imbued with grief: the character is haunted by the ghost of her sick son left on Earth, and the suffering of others makes her relive her own pain, which becomes unbearable.
Of course, by combining elements of horror and science fiction, I can understand some people estranged from situations that might seem implausible and coherent.
Such a special recipe may have contributed to Event Horizon in lack of box-office success in 1997, but over time the movie has gained a loyal following of fans who appreciate its unquestionable charm and unmistakable engaging atmosphere.