I think I can track back my fascination with this type of science fiction movie all the way to the original Alien. However, ever since I saw Screamers, I knew what I wanted. I wanted a science fiction movie taking place on a spaceship or a strange planet with strong horror elements. Event Horizon, visually impressive, ominous, and claustrophobic fit the bill perfectly. You can say it’s a blend of three classics Hellraiser, Alien, and Solaris. Director Paul W.S. Anderson (Mortal Kombat, Soldier, Resident Evil), went for a “haunted house story in space” vibe and somehow got away with it.
Event Horizon is a movie that exists in its own universe. A twisted, demented, and fascinating universe you can visit any time you want. It’s a perfect example of space escapism maintaining a sense of dread in the atmosphere but also keeping you engaged. The special effects stood the test of time and still look great. You can only imagine how blown away we were first seeing shit like this back in the nineties. And I say all of this as a huge fan of practical effects. However, props where props are due.
I remember the opening scene with random stuff floating inside the spaceship now in zero gravity and then the camera zooms in on a naked corpse. And then Sam Neill wakes up from his nightmare. Holy shit, was that some scene or what? I was hooked immediately. In the next scene, we see that he lost his wife and he’s shaving looking at her picture. And just for a moment, the blade of the razor hesitated before continuing its normal trajectory. Pure fucking gold I tell you!
The experienced and highly committed cast made this surreal story work. Moreover, it made it feel believable and fucking scary. Sam Neill gave one hell of a performance in a role you might not expect him to nail. The same goes for Laurence Fishburne and a great supporting cast. They took the events their characters were going through seriously and thus made us take them seriously. Although sometimes they didn’t make any sense. What’s important is that everything looks cool, especially that creepy gravity drive. It very much resembles the machine they built in Contact, another science fiction movie that came out the same year. Or perhaps both of the designers found inspiration in the same work, I don’t know.
2047, orbit around Neptune. Seven years after its maiden voyage, the starship Event Horizon reappears in a decaying orbit around Neptune. This was the first ship to employ the so-called gravity drive, an invention of Dr. William Weir who’s slowly getting closer and closer to the ship he built. They were supposed to use the drive to travel to Proxima Centauri, the nearest-known star to the Sun. However, something went wrong and they just disappeared. Now, seven years have passed and rescue vessel Lewis and Clark along with its crew and Dr. Weir are on their way to discover what the hell happened.
The cinematography is excellent in this movie, featuring a distinctly European vibe. This isn’t surprising as the entire movie was shot in England including the special effects. Anderson thrusts immediately into the thick of it, ratcheting up the tension while we’re getting to know the characters. The mystery surrounding the events that happened on the ship is overwhelming. And they were such a fucking tease, especially with that phrase in Latin. Liberate me! A phrase that will later turn out to be libera te tutemet (ex inferis).
There are some really scary and jumpy scenes and the whole thing seems like a nightmare. The characters were relatively well written, so the empathy is there and this makes the horrors that you’re about to witness much more impactful. I think that the original cut, that’s now lost forever (the film was destroyed), could have been one of those cult horror/sci-fi masterpieces, but what’s done is done. Event Horizon is still one of my favorite science fiction movies and I revisit it every few years. So, I suggest you do the same.
If you’re looking for more movies like Event Horizon, I first suggest you check out Alien Resurrection, Pandorum, and Sunshine. We also should not forget about Supernova, a rather cheesy and sexually charged space adventure. Finally, Infini, The Last Days On Mars, Life and Europa Report tick all the boxes as well. Sadly, it seems that there’s no movie like this one, yet.
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Writer: Philip Eisner
Cast: Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan, Richard T. Jones, Jason Isaacs
Fun Facts: A third of the entire special effects budget was spent on the rotating space station at the start of the movie