Cult Classic: Event Horizon
Forget about The Matrix; what about Laurence Fishburne’s other sci-fi classic – the underwatched and underrated Event Horizon?
Despite its litany of plot holes and confusing third act, we at JOE rather liked this summer’s Prometheus. After all, when was the last time a major studio put their considerable heft behind a big budget sci-fi adventure?
In truth, it nearly never happens, which is why a recent JOE article on our favourite movies set in space took us back through the decades, paying lip service to Avatar and JJ Abrams’ Star Trek reboot. Yet what about sci-fi horror? That’s barely been touched in recent years bar the creaky sight of The Rock in Doom and the less said about that the better.
In 1997 director Paul WS Anderson was on his way to becoming one of the most sought-after directors in Hollywood, having surprised many with arguably still the only decent video game adaptation ever made – Mortal Kombat.
Of course these days the director spends most of his time casting his wife Milla Jovovich in the mediocre Resident Evil series so where did things go a little awry? Sadly, it was from the extremely underrated Event Horizon.
The film begins with that familiar trope of sci-fi horror – a ragtag group aboard a vessel that answers an ominous distress signal. As we all know, that is always a terrible idea in this genre yet Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne) and his Lewis and Clark ship are dispatched to find the long-lost Event Horizon starship, while they’ve brought along the ship’s designer Dr William Weir (Sam Neill) for the ride.
Let’s just say that after 95 minutes in the company of Event Horizon, you’ll never look at Neill’s kind-natured character from Jurassic Park quite the same again.
Where the film deviates from standard sci-fi horror is that what awaits the crew is not a poorly handled CGI alien creation but instead a malevolent presence that appears to be from another dimension – namely, Hell. Soon this presence begins to infect the entire crew, causing them to hallucinate and confront their darkest fears and regrets.
These scenes in question are already profoundly disturbing and live long in the memory, as the medical technician sees her son with his legs covered in lesions and Dr Weir himself is invited by his deceased wife to “join” her. Oh, and he she has no eyes at this point, which is a little disconcerting.
As Dr Weir explains, the dimension that is being bridged to that of the crew’s spacetime through a gateway is one of “pure chaos pure evil” and while it appears as though WS Anderson didn’t pull any punches in depicting the horrific snippets of what appears to be Hell, in reality he actually did.
In fact, some 35 minutes of the film were actually cut, as both the studio and test audiences were extremely disturbed by the violence on-screen. In truth, it probably wasn’t quite what Paramount had imagined when they greenlit a budget of $60 million – over $85 million in today’s money.
With graphic and terrifying content on display throughout, not to mention a general ominous, unnerving tone, audiences turned away from Event Horizon, with the film grossing just $26 million from its entire box office run.
Yet the film’s legacy can be found in the most curious of places – such as the memorably sadistic Woodland Christmas Critters from South Park, who the show’s creators admit to having been inspired by the film during their creation. That explains the Satan-worshipping critters’ gory blood orgies then…
Viewed today, Event Horizon is akin to a historical document. It’s perhaps the best and most misunderstood film of Paul WS Anderson’s career and sadly put him down a formulaic path of video game adaptations but more importantly, it is surely the last of its kind – a deeply disturbing sci-horror feature with the budget to truly realise its vision.
For more cult films, check out the Jameson Cult Film Club.