Despite not considering myself a horror fan, I still think this 1997 feature to be a considerably entertaining, absolutely underrated mixture of sci-fi and horror. Although director Paul W.S. Anderson's other features ("Soldier", "Resident Evil", "AVP") have done nothing for me, "Event Horizon" still plays as well for me now as when I first saw it theatrically during its fairly brief run.
The picture's concept is compelling (although certainly taken from parts of other films) and it manages to do just about everything it can with it. As the picture opens in 2047, the crew of the space vessel Lewis and Clark are setting off to the area near Neptune, where a secret government project called the Event Horizon was thought lost years ago. On the ship is an engine that allows the ability to create an artificial black hole, giving the ship the ability to travel great distances in incredibly brief times. The ship was about to go for a test drive and vanished - but to where?
Suddenly, the ship has reappeared, but there have been no signs of life aboard. The mission of the Lewis and Clark is to head to the Event Horizon and try to salvage whatever is left. Commanded by Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne), the L & C crew is joined by Dr. Weir (Sam Neill), who created the drive at the core of the horizon.
Once the crew arrives on-board, the film is assisted by some exceptional production design, fine effects and striking cinematography. The ship's enormous corridors are delightfully creepy and ominous. The ship is certainly another character in the picture, and the atmosphere that Anderson and crew create aboard the craft is marvelous.
Not surprisingly, once the crew is aboard, it's not long before the ship starts acting up. One of the crew is sucked through the drive and comes back traumatized by the incident. Miller sees a crewman from years ago he was not able to save when an accident occured on one of his ships. In a spectacularly chilling sequence that occurs in a cramped passage lit by neon green electrical circuits, Weir suddenly finds himself face-to-face with someone from his past. Seeing the horrible fate the former crew of the Horizon met, it's not long before the crew realizes exactly where the Horizon has been - and that it's brought something back with it that is reacting - quite negatively - to its new visitors.
It's pretty predictable where "Horizon" is headed, but the filmmakers do a fine job of offering the clues piece-by-piece. The performances are also fantastic, as Anderson has brought together a perfect cast. Joely Richardson, Kathleen Quinlan, Jason Issacs and Sean Pertwee are wonderful as the crew members (and get the audience to care about them, despite not a great deal of character development), but it's Fishburne and Neill that lead the pack.
Fishburne's superbly no-nonsense performance as Miller is a a great deal of fun. One of the best little moments of the picture happens right after Miller is told in detail the possibilities of what may have happened to the ship. Miller then examines a horrific tape just unlocked that shows exactly what happened to the crew. In another movie, this would have lead to a long speech or an "Oh, god...no." In a perfectly played moment, Fishburne's character digests the information for a moment and then deadpans, quite simply, "We're leavin'." Neill is swiftly creepy and evasive, and turns Weir into an enjoyably mysterious presence.
Still, the movie isn't without a few faults. One gets the sense that some of the film's dialogue would not have fared as well had the movie not been cast as expertly as it was. The movie is also quite gory at times and while it doesn't effect the movie really (this is a horror movie, after all, it is expected), one wonders if the movie could have been even a little more eerie had it gone the "less-is-more" route and focused on the already terrific atmosphere. Overall, despite some issues, "Event Horizon" remains a brisk, spooky and visually stunning sci-fi/horror picture that has gained a cult following over the years.
VIDEO: "Event Horizon" is presented in 2.35:1 (1080p/AVC) by Paramount on this Blu-Ray edition. First off, this is the best the film has looked outside the theater. However, the improved clarity and detail does make a few of the effects in the film look somewhat dated. Sharpness and detail do see a nice upgrade, as while some scenes did appear slightly soft, most sequences looked crisp and well-defined, with good small object detail often visible.
The presentation did show some minor specks and marks at times on the print used, but nothing too out of the ordinary for a movie that's a little over 10 years old. Some minor-to-mild grain was also seen throughout much of the film, but the grain is an intentional element of the cinematography. Some slight edge enhancement was spotted, but did not cause much of a distraction. Colors are generally subdued, but when bolder colors are seen, they look well-saturated and never smeary or problematic. Black level remained solid, while flesh tones looked accurate. Overall, while not without a few minor issues here-and-there, this was a very good catalog effort from the studio.
SOUND: "Event Horizon" is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. The film's sound mix is aggressive and engaging, using the surrounds for both loud, distinct sound effects (a few ship fly-bys early on, as well as some spooky thumps and bumps on-board the Event Horizon) and subtle, creepy ambience. Although the film certainly has its chaotic moments, there are also stretches of relative quiet (such as an eerie scene in a duct where Neill's character is making a repair and the lights around him start to flicker in a pattern) that are equally tense, as well. The late Michael Kamen's enjoyable score is nicely spread across the front soundstage and sounds rich and dynamic, as well. Dialogue also remains quite crisp, with no distortion or other faults. Overall, this was a pleasing jump up in listening experience over the DVD edition, as the Dolby TrueHD presentation offered deeper, richer bass and improved clarity - it offers a more engaging, immersive experience.
EXTRAS: Director Paul W.S. Anderson and producer Jeremy Bolt offer an audio commentary for the feature on the first disc of this double disc set. Their track does have some stretches where the two are silent, but when the duo do chat, they provide an informative and occasionally entertaining discussion of such topics as casting, technical issues, creating the look of the film, production obstacles, influences and stories from the set. The track has some slow moments, but it's worth a look for fans of the film.
We also get the extras from the second disc of the DVD Special Edition, such as "The Making of Event Horizon" which, at 102 minutes, runs longer than the movie itself. The new piece provides a lot of interesting tidbits and insights, starting with a discussion of how Anderson became interested in the script and some of the major differences between the original script and final feature. After the basics are discussed, the first section also goes over crew choices, visual inspirations, casting (Jason Issacs is interviewed from the cast) and make-up FX, among other topics.
The second chunk of the doc deals with the production of the film, which went 86 days and had some considerably tough moments on top of the fact that the darkness of the material didn't make coming to work a sunny experience for the actors. The film also had a lot of large sets, effects and other elements, so trying to keep the mid-sized picture on budget was difficult. The next section revolves around miniatures and effects (the film's effects supervisor was Richard Yuricich, who was the effects supervisor on "2001").
Finally, we get a section devoted to the constant problems that occured during the post-production phase, from a tight schedule to a first test screening that didn't go according to plan. Because the filmmakers did not have enough time before the release date was close, the version of the film that was complete at that point - despite not being what the filmmakers wanted - was put out. Although incomplete (some of the footage that was destined for the theatrical cut was apparently never finished and, as Anderson notes in the commentary for one of the deleted scenes, some footage cut from the film was lost), some slight deleted footage is offered here.
Three deleted scenes (two scenes are essentially extended bits) are offered in rough form with optional commentary. The material here is generally interesting, although only the first scene seemed like it could have been a good fit back in the movie. Additionally, the storyboards for an unfilmed (due to budget) rescue sequence are also offered, as well as a conceptual art gallery.The "Point of No Return" section offers a 4 brief "behind-the-scenes" clips looking at the making of certain scenes.
Two trailers are offered - the film's enjoyable and spooky theatrical trailer and the film's not-so-great video release trailer.
Final Thoughts: "Event Horizon" gets started quickly and, while it does admittedly have some issues, it maintains its intensity and strong atmosphere throughout. The performances also do a fine job of elevating the material. The Blu-Ray edition provides the same extras as the DVD Special Edition, but audio/video quality both get a boost. Recommended.
The Film B+