“Event Horizon” stars Sam Neill (“Jurassic Park 3”) as Dr. Weir, a troubled scientist who, along with the salvage crew of Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne), are sent to salvage an experimental ship called the Event Horizon that had gone missing years earlier. As the ship’s designer, Weir’s presence is crucial to the recovery of the vessel, which has suddenly reappeared near Neptune. But what starts out as a salvage operation becomes a race for survival, as it’s discovered that the Event Horizon’s last crew was slaughtered by the ship, which now has new victims to play with.
You would be hardpressed to call “Horizon” a horror film. Even though the movie makes some attempts to scare with cheap Boo Scares, as well as a lot of blood and guts, it’s just not a very scary film. Maybe I’ve just seen too many horror films, but much of the horror elements of “Horizon” come across as half-hearted. The movie actually works better as a straight sci-fi film about a ship that has gain sentience as well as the ability to read the inner thoughts of its crew, and is using those secrets to kill them. If that sounds familiar, it may be that the general thrust of “Horizon” was also used in Michael Crichton’s “Sphere” and, to an extent, the George Clooney film “Solaris”.
Before you can scratch your head at the oddball construction of the ship, “Horizon” quickly shifts into gore territory, with the ship picking off Miller’s crew one by one. First to go is young Justin (Jack Noseworthy), who is the first to encounter the Event Horizon’s piece de r’sistance — its “gravity drive”, Weir’s invention that can bend space-time and create a black hole that allows the ship to travel long distances. It is this ability that sent the ship to another dimension and where it has returned from, complete with sinister personality and bloodlust.
Although Laurence Fishburne (“The Matrix”) is good as the stern Captain Miller, characterization is not what “Horizon” is about. We know just enough about the different characters for the ship to effectively play games with them, stalk them like a cheap psycho in a mask, and then kill them. The real star of “Horizon” is the set design of the ship itself. The look and feel of the ship defies practicality, but then again what about sci-fi movies nowadays don’t? Actually, the chamber that holds the gravity drive looks more like a medieval torture chamber than a high-tech engine room. The rest of the ship also looks good, especially the colorful vent-like rooms inside the gravity drive chamber.
Don’t expect to be scared with “Event Horizon”, unless you’re the type to get scared easily. The film has a somber and dark mood, but some of its dialogue defies its attempts at horror. Most guilty is Richard T. Jones (“Phone Booth”) as a braggart member of Miller’s crew. In more than one sequence where the mood should have been filled with dread and gloom, Jones’ Cooper utters some “attitude-inspired” lines that just kills the atmosphere. Here, Philip Eisner’s screenplay fails itself. Of the rest of the cast, I would have liked to know, and see, more of Starck (Joely Richardson), Miller’s second in command, but alas that was not to be.
For a big-budget Hollywood movie, “Event Horizon” is supposed to look good, and that it achieves with some flair. Director Paul Anderson, in my opinion, has never achieved greatness in his movies. With films like “Soldier”, “Resident Evil”, and “Mortal Kombat”, there’s always a prevailing sense that he knows what he’s doing, but never a feeling that he’s gone beyond just good, competent work. But as the visually pleasing nature of “Event Horizon” can attest to, Anderson seems to have the ability to defy his current “just good enough” state, although he has yet to show this ability in practice.
Paul W.S. Anderson (director) / Philip Eisner (screenplay)
CAST: Laurence Fishburne …. Captain Miller
Sam Neill …. Weir
Kathleen Quinlan …. Peters
Joely Richardson …. Starck
Richard T. Jones …. Cooper