Event Horizon is a film by Paul W S Anderson before he adopted the W S. It stars Sam Neill (remember him?) and Laurence Fishburne (remember when he was thin?) as crew mates on a search and rescue mission in outer space. There are some very definite echoes of Alien here, from the basic premise and setting to the aesthetic and decaying and industrial look of the space ships involved. It’s also one of those films that goes out of its way to show science fiction tends to work best in films when it is actually co opting another genre. In this case we’re firmly in horror territory.
The film starts with the creator of a new form of engine joining the crew of a salvage ship, looking to find out what exactly happened to a ship called the Event Horizon. The ship was powered by the experimental engine and had disappeared during its test flight. As the crew come aboard to find out exactly what happened they discover worrying in flight recordings and evidence that the absent crew met with a sinister fate.
The tension ramps up effectively throughout the film, combining the claustrophobia and darkness of the immediate settings with the isolation of space and a growing sense that something decidedly supernatural happened. The ship itself almost seems to have a character of its own, with malevolence permeating the scenes as inexplicable things start to happen and the stress affects different crew members in different ways.
Pretty soon we’re in survival horror territory, with the ship seeming to be the sole enemy of those aboard it, but the dawning realisation that various crew members are becoming unpredictable and liabilities with all that is happening around them. And the design of the engine itself is inspired: it looks evil and is deeply unsettling. Although the film was probably cheap to make it is very well crafted and everything feels of a piece. There is a definite unsettling atmosphere and the film is not just scary but also discomforting. The horror isn’t so much restricted to cheap shocks and gore (although there are both to be had) as the sense there are powers that humanity doesn’t understand and shouldn’t meddle with and a great sense of menace and evil. It’s one of the more effective horror films that I have seen and one that stands up to rewatching.
When I first saw Event Horizon it genuinely scared me and I found it hard to make it all the way through. Revisiting it I am surprised by how well it holds up and the level of skill and craft in the film. It’s very effective for what it is and succeeds in everything it sets out to do