New-Release Tuesday: Event Horizon

Past the Popcorn provides South King Media with exclusive reviews of Theatrical and Home Video entertainment. We aim to dig just a little deeper than the surface of what we watch.

Only two films have disturbed me so much that I did not want to turn out the lights–much less go to bed–after watching them. Event Horizon is one of the two, a remarkable and remarkably disturbing vision of the fine line that divides civility from the, um, worse angels of our nature, to borrow a metaphor from Abe Lincoln. Think of Event Horizon as a Gettysburg waged over the soul.

The script by one-shot-wonder Philip Eisner uses the SciFi genre as the platform for this metaphysical warcraft. Laurence Fishburne plays Captain Miller, who commands a mission to investigate a disabled and once-missing spacecraft, the titular Event Horizon, which mysteriously appears orbiting Neptune. Q: What happened to the crew?

Some questions are best left unanswered.

Along for the ride are Sam Neill as Dr. Weir and an assortment of other characters that you can just tell are more-or-less shark-bait, so to speak… though you might be surprised about how that all plays out. Most of the movie centers on Weir’s and Miller’s investigation of the black hole-jumping “gravity drive” aboard the disabled ship, and a good deal of the script resembles 1998’s Sphere, which must have been in production about the same time as Event Horizon. But where Sphere makes fairly conventional (if mind-bending) choices that fit squarely within the genre… Event Horizon just flat out crosses over into something else entirely. Namely Horror. The film is sort of the bait-and-switch SciFi equivalent to Something Wild‘s sideways spin on RomCom. Hopefully, that’s a reference point that makes sense to you.

Audiences initially hated the film, as did critics (and the studio)–and I think it’s because of the warped leaps which the film takes under Paul W. S. Anderson’s direction. The performances are all excellent (was Jason Isaacs actually young at one time?), and the story is generally gripping–so perhaps the key to enjoying the film is knowing in advance that it’s going to trek out into dark places where no one has gone before.

Except, that is, the crew of Event Horizon.

Bear in mind that W. S. Anderson’s single claim to fame is the Resident Evil franchise. He is a man who has made a career out of a single-minded emphasis on depiction the dark side. I can’t imagine how disturbing this film would have been if Anderson had a contract for “final cut.” As Captain Miller cautions, “If you’re guilty of anything, this ship knows it–and it’s going to punish you for it.” Might be a decent metaphor for the film itself.

So why am I recommending Event Horizon?

I’m not sure I am. I just know it’s one of a handful of films I’ve seen that was instantly and indelibly memorable. I’m kind of in the camp that Anderson has described, wondering: “Does it make me a bad person if I think something like this is excellent?” And I guess I’m also intrigued by the fact that Captain Miller’s ship is named Lewis and Clark, which perhaps makes the film a “Corpse of Discovery.”

If the idea of the Reavers in Firefly/Serenity was too much for you, then you definitely don’t want to see Event Horizon. If, on the other hand, you feel a need for the occasional reminder of what “being bad” looks like with the veneer of “fun” flameblasted away–or, conversely, of what’s really at stake with self-sacrifice–well, this might just fill the bill.

Event Horizon is now included with your Amazon Prime subscription. You can also stream at YouTube for a small fee.