The late 90’s were riddled with movies about space, but none took quite as far of a leap as 1997’s Event Horizon, which brought together elements of sci-fi and horror films that came before it to create another installment into the growing sci-fi/horror genre. With a fairly packed cast in terms of star power, Sam Neill and Laurence Fishburne commanded the cast that included Kathleen Quinlan and Joely Richardson, and carried the entire weight of the film on their films as the two men in charge of returning the long lost ship back to Earth. Of course, as ambitious and grand sounding as the plot to the film is, the box office results and critical reception were anything but. It was panned by critics and made a paltry $26 million at the domestic box office.
Its name: EVENT HORIZON. The high-tech, pioneering research spacecraft mysteriously vanished, without a trace, on its maiden voyage seven years earlier. But a weak, persistent signal form the long-missing craft prompts a rescue team, headed by the intrepid Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne, THE MATRIX and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III), to wing its way through the galaxy on a bold rescue mission. Accompanying Miller is his elite crew and the lost ship’s designer (Sam Neill, JURASSIC PARK); their mission is to find and salvage the state-of-the-art interstellar horror. Back to electrify-and terrify-is EVENT HORIZON, now as a two-disc Special Collection DVD that contains never-before-seen special features, including a five-part documentary on the making of this unforgettable motion picture. Kathleen Quinlan (APOLLO 13) and Joely Richardson (TV’s NIP/TUCK) also star in this gripping sci-fi thriller.
Before I even put this movie in, I asked a few people what they thought of the film and I only found one who saw it, but it was so many years ago he couldn’t recall if it was worth watching or not. Regardless, I popped the disc in hoping for, at the very least, a chilling sci-fi flick with gore, but instead I found myself laughing at the absurdity and stupidity of the film more than I had any other film this past year. And I’ve watched some real crap, but this just really took the cake. I am genuinely surprised that studios continue to give Paul W.S. Anderson jobs as a director, as he has yet to produce anything that is truly worth anyone’s time to watch. Sadly, Event Horizon, one of his earliest efforts, is just as weak as his more recent ones (notably Death Race).
The first thing that struck me odd was some of the visuals. I love these type of sci-fi films for their alternate visions of the future and what these spaceships look like but the special effects for this film really hindered ones enjoyment of it. I know the film is over 10 years old at this point, but even in 1997 we had better CGI capabilities than what we were given here and the floating objects in space, as well as the liquids were just horrendous. At one point there were black outlines surrounding an object, ala the Rancor in Return of the Jedi. Again, it’s an old flick—I get that, but I was really surprised by how dated it looks in the visual effects department. On top of that there were some odd design choices, such as Fishburne’s captains chair, which had him floating with his legs scrunched together…just made for an odd visual.
Then…oh boy, where else do I go from here. Perhaps I should tackle the topic of a ship being in “deep freeze”, yet bottles of water floated around with liquid still inside? Or maybe the seemingly random exposition of the plot that sporadically filled us in on the details of what was happening? How about the horrible delivery that many of our actors belted out as they screamed other characters names or uttered annoying strings of profanity for no other reason than to fill some kind of needed character stereotype (i.e., the “loud, obnoxious one”)? Perhaps it’s the horrible third act which has Fishburne’s character rolling away and into a vat of fuel with some of the choppiest editing I’ve ever seen? But no, what hurt this film the most was just how randomly it tossed stuff out at us with no real connection to past sequences to give us any indication as to what we’re seeing. You may call that “surprise” or “what a twist!” writing, but I just call it lazy. Seeing a mystery man step up out of a pit of fuel on fire is enticing, but when we don’t go anywhere with it for awhile, it seems pointless. Hell, it took me awhile just to grasp the fact that what they were seeing was hallucinations and it wasn’t until the medical bay hallucination did I even become aware of what the ship might be doing.
There was also the one character, Justin, who was constantly called “Baby Bear”, yet no reason for that was given. Its small elements like these and the info-dump that Richardon’s character gives us about the possibility of the possession and mind-screwy going on with the ship that comes out nowhere. In fact, Richardson’s character is really quite useless during the entire film, as she rarely does anything except give us speculative guesses about what’s happening that is based on absolutely nothing. Of course it’s shortly after these revelations in the film that the crew gets separated and our obnoxious character gets sent off into space, only to somehow manage to propel himself back towards the planet via some air pressured boots that shoot him exactly back towards the Event Horizon’s bridge, where everyone else happens to be. Convenient much? Yeah I stopped caring at that point. This movie sucked and I’m well aware of that now, but it was so promising. It started off slow and I could even sustain the poor CGI if the story kept up, but instead it just disintegrated into a stupid mess that it had no hope of recovering from.
Honestly this is the type of film that gets a horribly produced DTV sequel, so the fact that it didn’t happen is surprising. Granted, it probably would’ve cost too much to make based on the sets alone which I will admit were quite fantastic for this film. The whole atmosphere of the Event Horizon was really dark and moody and that was due in large part because of the dark and mechanical architecture of the vessel. Still, no amount of visual eye candy can save this film for me, so I’ll happily avoid watching it again.
Apparently this film has built up quite the avid fanbase, for whatever reason. I honestly can’t see what is so appealing about this film. I mean the haunted ship is a great storyline and something we’ve seen covered on sci-fi TV shows and other movies (such as the recent Sunshine) repeatedly, but here it just feels incredibly forced. Honestly if the film had given about an extra twenty minutes of setup, for both the characters and the ship, it may have made a bit more sense but in the end this is just a very rushed and haphazardly assembled film. Even if you’re a fan of Sci-fi films, I recommend just Skipping this one. I was curious about this film due to the actors involved, but Anderson proved to me once again to not believe the visuals that he puts before me in his trailers—he’ll just ruin it in the long run.
So why did they even put this movie on Blu-ray? I’ve got no idea. The disc itself arrives with a standard Paramount gray wash disc art and inserts for the $10 rebate and firmware upgrade notices, while the menu for the release is unanimated and unexciting.
Visually the transfer for the film is a bit of a mess. The AVC encoded 1080p transfer looks good at first, but you start to notice a lot of print artifacts that crop up for no real reason. Seriously, this movie was made in the late 90s, how does everything about it look it was produced five or six years beforehand? On top of that there isn’t even a whole lot of detail on the transfer; one shot in particular has the character of Justin going through the airlock sequence in the film and his name on the back of his jacket is incredibly blurry. He wasn’t even that far away from the camera, and yet his name was smudged, even though at that resolution it should’ve been something clearly defined. I didn’t notice too many more mishaps like this during the rest of the film, but overall it’s a very unexciting transfer. The film’s dark nature certainly doesn’t lend itself to being all that visually exciting, although there is one great part of the film where one of the crew members is strung up and torn apart on the ceiling, looking like something out of the mind of Clive Barker.
For the audio mix, a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD outing, we get a bit more satisfactory HD bump. Audio is crystal clear and every scream and bad bit of dialogue is heard clean and clear and without any distortion. This may or may not be appealing to you, depending your feelings about the film, but at least fans can expect a solid mix for the film. The Mortal Kombat style music during the opening credits (which goes on for far, far too long) and closing credits also sounds nice and forceful and I’m not sure if it was the movie or the music that made me want to punch someone after the film was over, but it sure sounded nice. Also included are French and Spanish DD5.1 tracks, as well as English, English SDH, Spanish, French and Portuguese subtitles.
Moving onto the extras we…holy crap there’s a lot of extras here. Why? I don’t know why, but man am I disappointed. The first is a Commentary by Director Paul W.S. Anderson and Producer Jeremy Bolt that discusses the making of the film. Normally I’d expect a film that performed as this one did to stop here with the “behind the scenes” type talking extras, but nope. Our next extra is The Making of Event Horizon (1:43:01). Yes…you read that right. This nearly two hour long making-of covers every little element of the film that you didn’t want to know about with great detail. I’m not sure how they managed to make a documentary that is longer than the film itself when the source material is so flimsy to begin with, but hey…I guess fans will enjoy watching this.
The Point of No Return: The Filming of Event Horizon (8:13) is another bonus with commentary with Anderson and it’s made up of just behind-the-scenes footage shot on set. Next up we have Secrets (10:04) with optional commentary by Anderson, as well as a collection of storyboards in The Unseen Event Horizon (2:58). Finally there’s an HD trailer (the only HD extra here) Theatrical Trailer (2:30) as well as a Video Trailer (1:49) as well.
Overall…well, this is a pretty great release in terms of extras, but if you own the SE as previously released in 2006 on DVD, I don’t think you’re going to get anything worthwhile here. As mentioned the transfer is pretty shoddy and nothing worth upgrading to, although the audio is a fairly nice mix, but not having heard the original DVD I can’t really compare between the two. Simply put I really did not like this film one bit, so I’m automatically telling you to Skip for that reason alone, but even if you loved it I’d think long and hard about plunking down cash on this one—it just isn’t that worthy of an upgrade if you already own the DVD edition.
Event Horizon arrives on Blu-ray on December 30th.