Film (1997). Paramount Pictures. Directed by Paul W S Anderson. Written by Philip Eisner. Cast includes Laurence Fishburne, Jason Isaacs, Richard T Jones, Sam Neill, Jack Noseworthy, Sean Pertwee, Kathleen Quinlan and Joely Richardson. 96 minutes. Colour.
In the mid-twenty-first century, an experimental spaceship, the Event Horizon, vanishes without trace in the outer solar system. Seven years later the ship is detected when it sends an incoherent but disturbing distress message from an orbit around Neptune (see Outer Planets). Event Horizon's designer, Dr Weir (Neill), joins a search-and-rescue team under Captain Miller (Fishburne) to salvage the ship and check for survivors. En route, Weir explains that the Event Horizon was capable of interstellar travel through a form of Hyperspace by way of its Gravity drive, which generates controlled Black Holes to bend space. Once the team reaches its target, it becomes clear that the Event Horizon is a derelict and that its crew have been slaughtered. An unexpected pulse from the gravity drive disables the salvage ship, and the rescuers are forced to board the Event Horizon while they repair their craft. They are soon tormented by horrifying visions, and the Event Horizon's ship's log suggests the previous crew killed each other in a cannibalistic orgy. Suspicions mount that the unknown Dimension through which the spaceship passed in its interstellar jump was something akin to Hell, and that on its return the Event Horizon Brought Something Back. Driven mad by the possessed ship, Weir goes on a homicidal rampage, killing most of his crewmates. Intending to return the ship to wherever it has been, he starts the gravity drive but is killed. Miller attempts to destroy the Event Horizon with explosives, but the ship recreates a demonic Weir, who traps Miller and himself within the drive chamber. Miller detonates the explosives anyway, allowing three crew members to escape but damning himself to be sucked into Hell as the gravity drive turns on.
Although effectively a haunted-house movie with an sf veneer, Event Horizon does use its merging of genres to stage some imaginatively nasty moments. This mix of horror and sf tropes is reflected in the design of the titular spaceship, which at times is reminiscent of a gothic cathedral. Event Horizon is scary in a conventional way, and certainly gory, although the rushed climax suggests that an even more grand guignol finale was pared down for classification reasons. The acting is professional, and if Weir's progression from cool-headed engineer to Mad Scientist is somewhat abrupt it is played with gusto by Neill. While not a particularly good film, Event Horizon is true Gothic SF, and probably better than any of its director's subsequent forays into horror/science fiction. The novelization is Event Horizon (1997) by Steven E McDonald. [JN]
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