You don’t have to go to the county fair to ride the Gravitron! Woooooooooooo!!!!!!
Synopsis: In 2040, a manned ship called the Event Horizon disappeared while exploring our galaxy out beyond the planet Neptune. Now it’s 2047, and Sam Neill is having the worst nightmare ever, about a naked woman with no eyes. He wakes up and he’s on a spaceship with Laurence Fishburne, Kathleen Quinlan, and Joely Richardson, and everyone rebuffs his efforts to thank them for letting him on the ship. They all go into suspended animation, where Neill has another horrible dream. They wake up, and we finally find out that Neill has been sent by the NSA to find the Event Horizon because they’ve received a distress signal from the ship. Those sneaky bastards at the NSA had told the public that the ship blew up, but really the circumstances were a secret because get this: Neill is a super scientist who built some kind of Gravitron that could bend space into a U shape and then poke a hole in our dimension and travel through another dimension to get to a far-off place quickly. Fishburne and company are pissed because they are basically a bunch of military dudes who have been forced to go on this mission with spooky Dr. Neill. They’re gonna be even more pissed once they actually get on the Event Horizon and everything goes to hell, because something very bad came back with the ship from the hole in the other dimension, and it wants to kill everyone in nasty ways while making them have a really bad acid trip without drugs. Strap in!
Good: Event Horizon is scary as hell. There is gore, like the flashes of the Event Horizon’s captains’s log which shows the old crew tearing each other apart with their bare hands. There are jump scares in the form of hallucinations, mainly the new crew seeing people they know from Earth who either couldn’t possibly be there because they’re back on Earth, or who couldn’t possibly be there because they are dead. So, there’s enough gore and jump scares to placate your average horror fan.
But if that’s all you need to enjoy a horror film, then I literally feel sorry for you. This film would have been scary without all that crap going on. You may have heard that Event Horizon is Hellraiser in space, just because someone ends up on hooks, but it’s not. It’s The Shining in space. It even has large amounts of blood bursting through a door and a naked ghost lady suicide rising out of a bathtub. The undefined thing on board this ship reaches into people’s minds and shows them things they’ve never told anyone. It can possess them and make them kill others, or themselves. This entity is what everyone who considers the possibility of dimensions beyond our own fears most. It is hell, and it is here in our plane of existence, and it can make you turn into a demon. Event Horizon has an emotional and physical effect on me every time I watch it, even though I know what is going to happen. The airlock scene had me shaking and crying when I watched this the other day, and I actually felt physically cold for the entire film. Best of all, the set of the film includes one of those rooms with a metal platform surrounded by a spinning wall, like you see at the Ripley’s Believe it Or Not museum, that gives you the feeling that the platform bridge is swinging, so you can imagine what it does to the crew, and to the viewer of this film.
Bad: Everyone I have discussed Event Horizon with says it scares the shit out of them, going back to middle-aged redneck men who rented it from the video store where I worked in the 90s, and now including my husband, who told me the other day that he was one of the approximately five to eight Americans who actually saw this in the theater. The problem is that not that many people have seen Event Horizon. Perhaps they were frightened away by the “giant heads staring at you” poster format that plagued the 90s, a poster which in this case makes it look like a space action film. It is in some ways a space action film, especially in the sense that Fishburne’s character becomes a victim of the trope in which a captain did not save a former crew member and is now doomed to repeat the experience. So that element of action waters down the terror in a way by removing the focus, not to mention that Fishburne’s hallucinations are the only ones that are explained. And viewers really hate having to connect the dots for themselves. Also, we are never told exactly what is haunting the Event Horizon. But I don’t mind connecting my own dots, and I think Event Horizon is a serious contender for best horror film of the 90s.
So I’m just speculating on why this film seems to be underrated; none of these “bad” things actually bug me. However, I must as always make the disclaimer that not only do I have bad taste, but I am also very open to suggestion and have a certain ability to suspend disbelief. My best friend once convinced me with no effort at all that the older square guy in tie-dye sitting behind us at the Grateful Dead show was master troll Newt Gingrich, so make of that what you will.
Verdict: Maybe this is a horror movie with a bit too much of an action feel, but a space film with no action is just some guys on wires in a set ripped from a Geiger drawing. I love Event Horizon, and I believe that in a parallel universe it was a huge hit. Watch the edited but good enough version on Netflix streaming, and then get the collector’s edition DVD so you can see even more blood and shots of the naked thing that is haunting Sam Neill.
Miscellaneous: Why does Sam Neill always look deranged? He appeared in two of the biggest film hits of the 90s, on opposite ends of the artistic spectrum (Jurassic Park and The Piano), and never changed expressions. Even at the end of Event Horizon, where he has no eyes, he still has crazy eyes.
Also, have you noticed what fun it must be to write science fiction? Science fiction is ridiculous. You don’t have to make it make sense. If I was any good at writing fiction I’d be all like, “Yes, you see, Dr. Bailey has managed to go into the lab and make this hallucinogen out of manioc seeds from the Pirahã people down in Brazil; when you ingest it you can cut a backflip and actually disappear through your own asshole into your immortal soul for the next 12 hours, forever removing the need for modern psychiatry. But something comes back with one man into the teeming metropolis of Jacksonville: the dreaded ASS DEMON.” And then someone would give me 11 million dollars to make that picture.