Hey look! It’s one of the movies you guys voted for! Isn’t this fun?
Before I get to Event Horizon, a little tease about tomorrow. I have a the first Super Special Guest Post for you! That’s right, just like last year I’ve dragged my friends into this madness with me. It’s a fun one too.
Also tomorrow I’ll be talking about one of my favorite horror films of recent years. That’s maybe not exactly a ghost movie. But I love it so much I just don’t care. So there’s that to look forward to also!
And now on to today’s movie, picked by you guys, Event Horizon.
Event Horizon – USA, 1997. Dir. Paul W.S. Anderson, Screenplay Philip Eisner. Starring Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill.
When someone mentions a “Haunted House movie in space,” the first movie to come to mind is usually Alien. Which is to be expected, it’s the quintessential science fiction/horror mash up. It slides easily into both genres and much of what makes it horror are elements familiar to the haunted house genre.
But Alien isn’t exactly a haunted house movie. Ultimately the crew is up against an alien, a living creature, not ghosts. Not to say anything against Alien as a film. You all know I love Alien. And the only reason I’m not including it this year is because I already talked forever about it last year.
So what am I to watch and write about if I want to cover my sci fi horror subgenre? Paul W.S. Anderson’s Event Horizon is a pretty good second choice. While Alien is mostly a haunted house movie in space, Event Horizon is exactly a haunted house movie in space. Where the house is a spaceship. That went to hell. In space.
Arguably the most important element in a haunted house film in the house itself. Location is everything and part of the terror is the feeling of being trapped in the house. Or the asylum. Or the spaceship. What’s worse than a scary ghost? A scary ghost you can’t get away from.
In space, there is absolutely nowhere else to go. If you don’t have sufficient life support, you’re not going to get very far when your ship is stranded in orbit around Neptune. When the crew of the Lewis & Clark, the ship sent to rescue the stranded Event Horizon, runs into trouble they have only themselves to rely on for help. If one of them proves to be less than trustworthy… well, then, they’re kinda screwed.
I wasn’t sure what I was going to find when I sat to watch Event Horizon again. It’d been a long while since I’d seen it last. Would it hold up? Would it seem cheesy? It is over a decade old at this point. Would I still like it? Would it still scare me?
There’s a lot of good and bad in this movie. The good is easy to see immediately: visually it’s still great. The shots of the spaceships in space are still solid, the set design of the Event Horizon is great, the Lewis & Clark is kind of an Alien ship throwback in its way but it works. It looks like a solid work ship built for the job it’s meant to do.
As the movie goes on, the visuals stay strong. As we start to see more and more gore, even those effects hold up.
Sam Neill without his eyeballs??? OMG. He was my hero after Jurassic Park but after this movie I never could look at him quite the same. He does crazy evil so well!
Mostly throughout the movie is actually pretty solid. For a sci fi, actiony horror film the pacing keeps events moving along and keeps us engaged. It’s not the smartest movie ever, but it’s fun.
Which brings me to the bad I guess. Because it really isn’t the smartest movie. By the end I do end up liking most of the characters but that’s sort of inspite of themselves. The movie tries really, really hard to make these guys the flattest, most boring stock characters ever. There’s every character you expect to find in a late 90’s space movie. The stoic captain, the tough no bullshit pilot, the young officer everyone likes to call Baby Bear, the pretty blond who doesn’t do all that much, the grumpy doctor, the maternal science officer (or doctor? or something? I never did figure out what Peters was supposed to be doing), the sassy smart ass black guy… and the mysterious Dr. Weir who is just begging to be outed as the bad guy – he’d fit easily into the Company of Alien or basically any evil corporation ever.
The dialogue is mostly terrible too. It’s all so obvious and on the nose and cliche. Everyone always says exactly what you’d expect them to say. There are more than a few moments that made me roll my eyes.
The dialogue here is not subtle. Really, none of this movie is subtle.
But somehow it still sort of works? Because despite all that, despite all of the nonsense science (oh man, I can’t even get started on the nonsense science), but despite everything by the end of this movie I’m still sad to see these characters die and I’m happy when they make it out.
Because even if they’re speaking stupidly and surrounded by nonsense, they’re not necessarily acting stupidly. Even with all of the bad characters these are not stupid people and they generally act in ways believable to their characters. Whether they survive or not, there aren’t any “why is she going up the stairs?” moments. If a character does go up the stairs, there’s a good reason for it.
Mostly-Useless-Blond turns out to actually not be completely useless, Stock-Character-Sassy-Black-Man ends up being incredibly capable, thinking on his feet, and pretty much saving the day. Evil Dr. Weir has a vaguely interesting backstory even if his character is mostly lifted from Solaris. And Captain Miller does exactly what we expect him to do but does it in the most awesome way possible in a movie like this. I think the reason Captain Miller mostly works as a character is because you’ve got Laurence Fishburne playing him. Laurence Fishburne is bad ass.
It’s sometimes easier to go on about the bad than it is to focus on the good. Really what it comes down to with this movie is that it’s mostly silly, mostly ridiculous, but it still manages to be a fun, entertaining horror movie. The premise is strong enough, the characters likeable enough, that it’s possible to look past its faults and just enjoy yourself.
Just, don’t think about the science. Please don’t think about the science.