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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Halloween Horror, Day 3: Event Horizon

Since I'm watching a horror movie every day in October, not all of them can be home runs. Case in point: Event Horizon (1997). It had all of the right elements: great cast (Sam Neill and Laurence Fishburne), space-related chaos, and my boyfriend's seal of approval. So where did it go wrong?

Event Horizon

Overall, the premise is solid: a group of doctors and astronauts are sent to save the Event Horizon, a ship that mysteriously went missing near Neptune. But this is no ordinary ship; it has the ability to bend the fabric of space and time. As soon as I learned this, I started to panic. Have we learned nothing from Captain Jean-Luc Picard? Must we fuck with the temporal prime directive? Yes, yes we must.

Had the film addressed obvious concerns -- space sickness, isolation, the vacuum of space, even aliens -- I would have been on board. After all, what's scarier than mankind confronted with itself with no escape? But no, that would be too easy. Clearly, the ship must bend space and connect Neptune to hell.

So now we have a ship that's connected to hell. That's got to mean that the people on the ship are tortured in the most heinous ways imaginable, right? Well, sort of. Many of the death scenes occur off-screen or only appear on screen for a second or two. It's difficult to fathom the extreme torture and depravity of hell when we only get momentary glances. Either the torture needs to be more explicit, like the scene with Justin, or hinted at without being shown. The middle ground just fails to elicit an emotional response. For example, how does DJ go from being dead to being totally eviscerated and hanging from hooks? Why is this only shown for a fraction of a second? To me, a movie like Hellraiser does a much more effective job of communicating this horror -- not just because the violence is more visible but because the consequences and impact of the violence are so vividly displayed.

Sam Neill Event Horizon

The stakes, too, never get raised far enough. There's seemingly never a threat of hell spilling over to the real world; it's only interested in snapping up passersby, like a spider in its web. What's the worst thing that can happen? A handful of people dying in space isn't a huge deal, and if hell wants to take over Neptune, they're welcome to colonize.

But that's not to say that the movie isn't worth watching. It's worth a single viewing if just for the breathtaking visual symmetry in its long shots. The set design is also a detailed mix of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, and Star Trek. I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention the nuanced performances from Fishburne and Neill. Even if the script let them down, they gave their all.

By all accounts, Event Horizon should have been good. Instead, it just ends up being a meh. It's not a total waste of 1.5 hours, but it's not the best. If you really want to get your space terrors, stick to Alien or watch some Star Trek episodes.

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