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Event Horizon - The Sci-Fi Horror We Didn't Know We Needed in 1997



You may be aware that I've been a fan of the horror genre in cinema since I was a kid. I grew up on David Cronenberg's masterful sci-fi body horror The Fly, all the '80s slasher flicks you could find on late night cable and the Alien franchise. Don't even get me started on The Thing;


I could go on for hours as so many others have, and that's simply a post for another day.

This blog post is about another box office flop. Event Horizon released to theatres in 1997 to generally negative critical reviews. With few exceptions, it was considered a failure at both science fiction and horror, appearing to rely on stunning (for the time) visual effects and gratuitous violence and gore (again, for the time) to shock and awe audiences

This is fascinating, because the aforementioned The Thing faced almost the exact same reviews and backlash, but both movies went on to grow a cult following and eventually be considered two of the best horror movies ever made. Perhaps that is a fault in the way we perceive the genre? For a horror movie to push fear, anxiety and foreboding, it must do something that the movies before it haven't done. Can this be perceived as "too much, too soon" at the time, but glorious genius years later?

It hasn't worked for all such films. Hostel, for example, pushed those boundaries and in fact revitalized the Torture Porn sub-genre, but the film, fifteen years later, is not viewed now as anything more than it was in 2005.

Surely, Paramount thought Event Horizon would be a stunning success with their cast. Laurence Fishburne, starring as the starship Captain Miller two years before The Matrix, was already a brightly rising star in Hollywood. He was backed up by other well known names such as Kathleen Quinlan, Joely Richardson and Jason Isaacs, just to name a few. Oh, and lets not forget Sam Neill just four years after playing everyone's favorite paleontologist Dr. Grant as the physicist Dr. William Weir. With such a cast of fantastic actors, the $26 million box office was a complete failure against the $60 million budget. But truthfully, I don't think critics and moviegoers alike were ready for what Event Horizon brought to the screen.

The first act starts off simply enough, as it does in most horror movies. Captain Miller and his crew have to recover the ship Event Horizon, which has just reappeared after having been missing for years. Among them is Dr. Weir who created the ship and its singularity drive system - essentially it used a contained black hole to fold space so that the ship can instantly go from one place to another. We get a brief introduction to each character, letting us know that most of them have some sort of baggage, because who doesn't? It serves to make them more real while having a real impact on the story further in.

When they find the massive vessel, which is probably impractically large as in many sci-fi movies, they begin to find things are not what they seem. The ship's core activates, causing one crew member to go into an inexplicable coma. The nooks and crannies ship's bridge is filled with all sorts of blood and gore, and they uncover a ship's log entry, that while very short, makes clear that all sorts of Hell broke loose on Event Horizon. Meanwhile, anyone on board the ship begin to experience strange hallucinations that play on their deepest fears and secrets.

I'll go no further with the plot, because you simply need to see it. There is a shortage over jump scares here, since they're largely overused in horror anyway, and the film does a fantastic job developing a sense of foreboding with its use of the unknown, darkness claustrophobia and the general terrors of outer space. The supernatural elements manifest full force as the second act moves to the third, though its nothing that a good space marine couldn't have handled.

In case you didn't know, that was a Doom reference - the original 1993 video game, not the horrendous 2005 movie. I suppose Event Horizon didn't invent the sci-fi gateway to Hell.


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