Event Horizon Revisited

Oh no! Those archetypes are being menaced by stereotypes!

Event Horizon (1997)

Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson (as Paul Anderson)

Written by: Philip Eisner

Starring: Laurence Fishburn, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan, Joely Richardson

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I first saw Event Horizon around 15 or 16 years ago, and I remember having a pretty low opinion of it at the time, though I’d largely forgotten the specifics of why. My wife hadn’t seen it in roughly as long, and we’ve talked from time to time about giving it another shot. When it came up the other day as part of Josh’s 90s Nostalgia article, and a couple of people expressed their very, very high opinions of it, I figured that was a good enough reason to finally give it that long-awaited second look.

Basically, this is as lively and engaging as the characters ever get

Basically, this is as lively and engaging as the characters ever get.

My opinion, I am sorry to report, is unchanged. It lived up precisely to my memories of a flat, graceless movie, populated by largely one dimensional characters spouting clichéd dialogue and revealing their minimal back-stories and over-familiar personality traits through blunt, inorganic exposition (is it necessary for a man looking at a picture of his dead wife to actually say “I miss you” aloud for the benefit of the audience?). It is a directionless narrative into which cheesy, ineffective jump scares and obnoxious, irrelevant stylistic flourishes have periodically been inserted in an attempt to mask the absence of any real tension.

Both the structure as a whole and the individual scenes are assembled with no sense of rhythm, nor with any attention paid to emotional through-lines. The sequence of events feels almost random, and characters act and change without any established motivation or clear external causes.

Dr. Channard from Hellbound: Hellrai - oh, wait, no, that's Dr. Weir from Event Horizon.  My mistake.

Dr. Channard from Hellbound: Hellrai – oh, wait, no, that’s Dr. Weir from Event Horizon. My mistake.

The nightmarish visions the characters experience should be the heart of the movie, but they are always too literal and obvious to be uniquely disturbing, and we have none of the emotional connection with the characters or their histories that would be necessary to give these sequences resonance.

The music is annoying and frenetic, with a tone better suited to a kid-oriented action spectacle than to atmospheric horror.

Everything is just too busy, almost impatient.  Images and concepts have been thrown into a blender, pointless camera movements banging up against hyper-active editing, every potentially effective moment buried in meaningless excess.

That's Dr. Channard from Hellbound: Helraiser II.  Much better!

That’s Dr. Channard from Hellbound: Helraiser II. Much better!

What is so especially frustrating, though, is that the basic concept of the movie is sound. The same story, better structured, with more attention paid to the nuances and natural revelation of characters (not more time spent with the characters, but better time), could have been something really special. As it stands, it feels half-hearted, shallow and cynical. It explores none of the potential of its concept, instead only really addressing its already entirely apparent central premise as some sort of big third act reveal.

Hello, would you like some exposition... from HELL?!

Hello, would you like some exposition… from HELL?!

Agree? Disagree?  Use the comments section below to make your opinions known!

 

Oh, and for more chances to talk about horror movies, be they brilliant, terrible, or anywhere in between, keep coming back to The Blood Shed, and be sure to check out our Facebook page and our Official Kickstarter!

5 Comments on this post.

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  • Josh Millican
    10 November 2014 at 3:49 pm - Reply

    Them’s fighting words, Evan! Just kidding. What made EH so spectacular was its (at the time) original fusion of Space and the Supernatural. Take the claustrophobia, isolation, and frigid indifference of space and heap otherworldly anxieties on top of that, and the result was completely engrossing for me. I mentioned before that the original cut Anderson submitted to the studio was over 3 hours long. Perhaps all the development and nuance you found lacking is on the cutting room floor. Which is why I’ve dreamed of a Director’s Cut re-release for years!

    • Evan A. Baker
      10 November 2014 at 3:58 pm - Reply

      I agree that all of that is chilling in theory, it just doesn’t come across for me in practice at all. I would be curious to see if a director’s cut includes all the development I find lacking, but if so, I think they made very poor choices about which material to leave in. And, of course, that wouldn’t make up for how obnoxious I found the visual style and the music.

  • Greg
    13 April 2015 at 7:49 am - Reply

    Those who can, do, those who cant, talk shit about those who do. You’re a loser!

    • Evan A. Baker
      13 April 2015 at 11:54 am - Reply

      Jeepers, what an odd comment. First off, I didn’t “talk shit” about anyone; I criticized a movie, not a person. You, on the other hand, have opted to talk shit. Am I to take it that you are incapable of writing coherently and rationally yourself, and thus opt to talk shit about those who can?

      Meanwhile, if you check out my other articles, you’ll find that I quite often have very, very kind things to say about other films. How does your ill-conceived theory account for this?

      I’m not sure why I’m bothering to feed the trolls like this; I suppose I can’t get over my knee-jerk response of treating other people like human beings.

    • Jennifer
      13 April 2015 at 1:03 pm - Reply

      Firstly, Evan, you ARE doing, so clearly this person has no idea to whom he is typing. Secondly, he must be so insecure about his own opinions that he has to tear down those who think differently. Thirdly, unless he’s friends with or is one of the filmmakers, why does he care, to the point of explosive anger, that you didn’t love the movie? Also, what is HE doing with HIS life that he has so much time to go around and attack people on the internet for their differing opinions? I think you’re right, he probably was projecting. Just some stinky, sweaty, bitter, puckered asshole who sits around on the internet at 3am jerking off; hating himself and his life and realizing that the only way he’ll get any attention is to troll those who are actually doing something with THEIR lives.

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