As a spooky little kid I was fortunate enough to have a TV and a VCR in my bedroom. My family wasn’t wealthy but this little luxury wasn’t expensive and my mom knew how much I liked movies, especially horror movies. The first film I ever saw, due to a flakey babysitter, was James Cameron’s Aliens. According to my mother, 3 year old me thought Aliens was hilarious, a stark contrast to my vehement anger after witnessing the murder of Bambi’s mother in Bambi.
Having my own personal TV (covered in X-Men stickers of course) also just made sense because that meant I was able to watch horror movies on my own in case my mom wanted to use the living room TV for something other than a 50th viewing of the original A Nightmare On Elm Street. I was a bit obsessed, but I was rarely “a problem child” and so my mom didn’t really mind. After all, she was the neighborhood “Halloween Lady,” known for her over the top decorations and nightmare tableaus, so it all had to come from somewhere.
My collection of VHS tapes was formidable, it blossomed with what in my purview were the most important films like Halloween, Night Of The Living Dead, Clueless, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Friday The 13th Part II, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. When it came to what my collection lacked, I loved going to the local video store and perusing the aisles searching for the perfect three rental combination: a tried and true classic that I had already seen but not yet purchased, a new release with cool enough box art, and a random horror film that I grabbed exclusively based on my intuition. This is how I first watched Event Horizon.
Event Horizon, some might call a “bad movie” and to that I say, let’s leave behind this “good” and “bad” binary folks. Like its Paul W. S. Anderson predecessor, Mortal Kombat, and everything Anderson has directed since, Horizon is an exercise in genre camp. Anderson doesn’t make subtle films, I’m not sure he can, and honestly I appreciate that. We’re in an era where horror films are often expected to be a cerebral, deeply nuanced experience and sometimes I just want to watch a bloody mess that doesn’t ask me to consider… well, much of anything.
The premise, boiled down, is essentially “y’all, what if we did Hellraiser in space? A concept that is executed considerably less well in the film Hellraiser: Bloodlines, where spoiler alert, a space station folds in on itself to become a massive anti-hell puzzle box full of light that traps and destroys demons.
The film opens with a series of intertitle texts that imagines a much more advanced history for humanity. Rewatching this film with my 35 year old brain, I cackled when I read “2015 – First Permanent Colony Established On The Moon.” I love the unbridled hubris of science fiction compared to our own stunted growth. We always imagine we’ll accomplish more than we do.
After further scene setting, we get our first shot of the Event Horizon, arguably the main character of the film. The ship is drastically phallic, or uterine? Dealers’ choice really. Perhaps it’s a matter of perspective.
Various objects float inside the ship’s compromised gravity, a water bottle, a paperback book, a paper cup, and a standard wrist watch. It all makes one question how we have established space colonies but never updated the design of watches or plastic bottles. The camera settles on the image of nude floating body, arms spread wide, in front of a window shaped like a cross. The camera enters the man’s screaming mouth and exits Sam Neil’s open eye as he wakes in terror. Daddy is being called home.
Does Event Horizon make sense? Well, no, not really. The “Gravity Drive” or Einstein Rosen bridge inadvertently detours the ship through hell, and now the ship… is Hell? Is Hell’s avatar? The ship sent out a distress call to summon more victims like I might order DoorDash while nursing a hangover on a Sunday?
That said, Event Horizon doesn’t NEED to make sense to be a lot of fun. When did you ever love a piece of art specifically because it made sense? If you go into this film expecting iron-clad science and grounded characters, you’re at the wrong dance, honey.
The characters are all fairly thinly drawn, their motivations and choices aren’t nuanced and serve simply to move the plot forward. In the moments that we do get character backstory, as with the suicide of Dr. Weir’s wife, or the illness Technician Peters’ son suffers from, it’s all very vague and piecemeal. Other characters seem to have little to no interior lives whatsoever. Who cares, want to watch the ship eat them?
Fortunately, the film doesn’t look quite as dated as some of its CGI filled contemporaries, the Event Horizon “herself” is filled with impressive practical effects and beautiful gothic sets inspired by the photographs of Joel-Peter Witkin, the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Bruegel, and the Notre Dame Cathedral. The production design on this film is gorgeous, internal spires, spikes, oscillating hallways, and bizarre textures cover every surface. Does it make sense for a spaceship to be designed like a gothic cathedral? Of course not, but is it a cooky fun concept? Absolutely.
Event Horizon, like all of Paul W. S. Anderson’s work, is ridiculous and best enjoyed a bit stoned if that’s your thing or at the very least with a rowdy group of friends who don’t mind both screaming and laughing at a goofy drama queen of a movie. It’s the perfect movie for a riffy kiki night. Ridicule the dialogue, point out the plot holes, and gag over Sam Neil’s full-body make-up moment. Category is: Spiral Cut Ham Honey.
Highly recommended for fans of Hellraiser, Alien, Solaris, Sunshine, and the Dead Space game series.