Event Horizon [DVD]
Director : Paul Anderson
Screenplay : Philip Eisner
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 1997
Stars : Laurence Fishburne (Captain Joe Miller), Sam Neill (Dr. William Wier), Joely Richardson (Starck), Kathleen Quinlan (Peters), Richard T. Jones (Cooper), Jack Noseworthy (Justin)
Event Horizon is a thoroughly calculated and, for the most part, masterfully executed horror film. Nearly every scene is specifically designed to elicit some kind of unpleasant feeling, whether that be jump-in-your-seat shock, gnawing fear, stomach-churning suspense, sick-to-your-stomach nausea, or just plain edgy disturbance. If this was the goal of first-time screenwriter Philip Eisner and director Paul Anderson (then known for Mortal Kombat), they hit the target dead-on. Make no mistake about it: Event Horizon is a scary, unsettling movie.
The story takes place in the mid-21st century. Event Horizon is the name of a massive deep-space craft that disappeared while supposedly surveying the planet Neptune. Seven years later, a strange distress signal is picked up from that same area, and it is determined that it originated from the Event Horizon. The question is, what happened to it and where has it been for the past seven years?
A band of search-and-rescue experts headed by Captain Joe Miller (Laurence Fishburne) is deployed to answer those questions. Hitching a ride with them is Dr. William Wier (Sam Neill), who was the brains behind the Event Horizon. He informs the stunned crew that there is more to this particular space vessel than the general public was allowed to know. In fact, it was a top-secret experiment in “folding space”--the theoretical idea of instantaneous space travel by bringing two points in space together, allowing for travel without actually moving.
Once the rescue team arrives at the Event Horizon, it is quickly evident that something horrible happened. Evoking the same feeling as James Cameron’s Aliens (not surprisingly, both films were shot by Adrian Biddle), the members of the search-and-rescue team enter the deserted space craft and later find themselves trapped on it. You see, the Event Horizon has been some place terrible, and it seems to have brought something back with it . . .
I won’t divulge any more of the plot specifics because a great deal of the movie’s effectiveness hinges on the slow and deliberate uncovering of exactly what happened. Dr. Wier tries again and again to use science to explain the increasingly bizarre happenings, but it becomes evident that something deep and mysterious is going on--something that can’t be explained away with physics and mathematical probability. In this regard, Event Horizon fits neatly into the white science/black magic dichotomy identified by Carol Clover that often structures horror movies involving demonology, voodoo, and other forms of religious dread. Science always falls short.
No doubt about it, Event Horizon is a triumph of special effects, set design, sound effects, lighting, and make-up. The cavernous sets depicting the insides of the ship were consciously designed to invoke the feelings of creepy Gothic architecture, and the enormous room that holds the thundering mechanism that makes “space folding” possible reflects nothing less than a medieval torture dungeon designed by a rabid postmodern sadist, complete with massive (and functionally pointless) spikes protruding from the walls. Director Paul Anderson displays a sharp visual acuity, albeit one that borrows heavily from sources ranging from Stanley Kubrick to Ridley Scott to Andrei Tarkovsky and has been largely absent from his subsequent films, including Resident Evil (2001) and Alien vs. Predator (2004).
Without giving away too much, I will say that Event Horizon breaks away from the bounds of conventional science fiction and becomes nearly demonic in the last 30 minutes. In the same manner of films like Hellraiser (1987) and Jacob’s Ladder (1990), it delves into graphically explicit imagery that is often splashed on the screen with no particular explanation other than its own shock effect. For the most part the movie stays focused and grim throughout, although there is a failed stab at humor near the end involving one determined character’s struggle to survive.
In virtually every respect, Event Horizon is a deeply unsettling movie, not just because of its themes, but out of the sheer impact of its visuals. Anderson goes for the jugular as he attempts to make everything as grotesque as possible (here he drops any pretenses of walking in the footsteps of Kubrick or Robert Wise and instead adopts the shameless visceral approach of Lucio Fulci). When one of the characters is killed falling from a great height, he throws everything into slow motion, giving us geysers of blood and shattered limbs, then moving in for a last close-up of the lingering seconds of pain and suffering before the character dies. It doesn’t come across as horror or as bringing realistic violence to the screen--it comes across as sheer cruelty.
Of course, many respond enthusiastically to this kind of entertainment, if that’s the right word. While I cannot deny Event Horizon’s impact and the technical achievements, I cannot say I took anything meaningful from it. The first hour, with it’s quick, calculating scares, dark corridors, suspenseful build-up, and sci-fi mumbo-jumbo was actually quite enthralling. But, after that, Event Horizon became so intense and so horrific with no underlying purpose (not to mention becoming logically disjointed), that it becomes hard to justify its own shock tactics beyond their own effectiveness.
|Event Horizon Special Collector’s Edition DVD|
|Distributor||Paramount Home Video|
|Release Date||April 18, 2006|
|Event Horizon’s new anamorphic widescreen transfer, which replaces the original nonanamorphic disc from back in 1998, is quite impressive. The image is strong and detailed with good color and fidelity. As it is essentially a haunted-house movie set in outer space, much of the film is dark, and the transfer handles this well, giving us excellent shadow detail in the corners and dark, inky blacks that contribute well to the film’s overall mood.|
|As Paul Anderson mentions in the making-of documentary, sound is crucial to horror movies, and the two digital surround soundtracks on this disc, one Dolby Digital 5.1 and one DTS 5.1, deliver. The surround channels are used to create a sense of being trapped in the film’s creepy environment and also contribute to the effectiveness of the various “boo!” moments. The LFE channel gives good, solid bass to emphasize the massiveness of the space ships and to give the various mechanisms on-board the Event Horizon a demonic, animalistic quality.|
| As a two-disc set, the “Special Collector’s Edition” of Event Horizon contains a good range of supplements that definitely make it worthwhile for fans to replace their original barebones DVD. |
The first disc includes a good audio commentary by director Paul Anderson and producer Jeremy Bolt, who are old friends and have worked together on eight films, three of which are currently in production. Thus, they have a natural, easy rapport as they discuss the difficulties involved in making the film, with the two primary themes being that they both wished the film were gorier and that they never had enough time or money to finish the film the way they wanted.
Those themes are carried over on the second disc’s The Making of Event Horizon documentary, which runs a whopping 1 hour and 42 minutes, a full 10 minutes longer than the film itself. Some may debate whether Event Horizon deserves a feature-length making-of documentary, but this one is certainly worth watching as it offers a great deal of behind-the-scenes information and sheds a lot of light on why the film turned out the way it did. Interviews include Anderson and Bolt along with production designer Joseph Bennett, effects consultant Bob Keen, visual effects producer Stuart McAra, visual effects supervisor Richard Yuricich (courtesy of a 1997 on-set interview), and actor Jason Isaacs, who is the only cast member to appear. Along with the interviews, the doc gives us some behind-the-scenes footage, bits of production art, costume and make-up tests, and a few bits from unfinished deleted scenes.
Because there is so much talk of footage that got left on the cutting room floor, one would assume there would be quite a bit of deleted/extended scenes included here, but alas we only get three. As Anderson explains in his optional commentary, Event Horizon was made before the “DVD revolution,” thus the producers didn’t think to save a lot of the cut footage. So, all we get are one fully deleted scene involving Dr. Wier attending a debriefing about the Event Horizon and two extended versions of scenes in the film: a more graphic version of D.J.’s gutting and a longer, more involved version of Captain Miller’s final encounter with “the Flaming Man,” which also includes a wicked-creepy shot of the demonic Dr. Wier climbing head-first down a ladder like a spider. These scenes are all unfinished, meaning they are missing visual effects and are edited in rough fashion.
Other supplements on the second disc include the storyboards for an unfilmed action scene that would have introduced us to the search-and-rescue crew at the beginning of the film, a host of conceptual art, and eight minutes of footage shot during the film’s production. All of these supplements include optional commentary by Anderson and are presented in anamorphic widescreen (except the behind-the-scenes video footage).
Copyright ©2006 James Kendrick
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