Event Horizon (1997)

(In theaters, August 1997) The first 10-20 minutes of this scary, stylish thriller include some of the best visuals ever seen in the SF genre. After oscillating between Alien, Solaris, The Shining and Hellraiser, the movie then goes firmly into the last’s territory, with all the nonsensical bloodbaths (literally) that presupposes. Definitely scary and unsettling, yes, but also very unsatisfying in it uneasy mix of Hard SF and shlocko horror: Who’s the bad guy? Satan himself! Effective direction by Mortal Kombat alumni Paul Anderson and superb techno-medieval set design make this a much more watchable movie than otherwise deserved. Good acting and impressive Special Effects are also notable. Writer Phil Eisner should take a crash course in Hard-SF, among other things. I predict a certain cult following.

(Second viewing, On DVD, July 2006) Curiously enough, I hadn’t revisited this film since its original theatre release: Event Horizon remains one of the few horror film to make me lose some sleep in contemplation. Fortunately, time caught up with me by offering a much-enhanced “Special Edition” version of the film, complete with almost a decade’s worth of hindsight. As DVD aficionados will tell you, the real story about a film takes a few years to emerge, and the “second generation” DVDs can usually afford to annoy people who have since moved on. And so director Paul Anderson takes some pleasure in talking about Event Horizon‘s rushed production, insane post-production deadlines and difficult testing process. He’s the first to acknowledge that the finished film isn’t as good as it could have been. Certainly, a second look at it can’t match the experience of seeing it on a really really big screen: at home, it simply comes across as a serviceable horror/SF hybrid, more thrilling than horrific and yet less flawed than I perceived it at the time. Blame it on more realistic impressions, maybe: these days, I’m more likely to be thankful for what does work than indignant at what doesn’t. While Event Horizon remains an imperfect film, it’s still a good treat for SF/horror fans, and it still plays well despite the pre-digital effects. Interestingly enough, I re-discovered that much of the soundtrack came from artists (Orbital and the Prodigy) that I would later embrace with enthusiasm.

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