Event Horizon

4 out of 5

Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson

As a fan of Paul W.S. Anderson’s, I’ve listened to the commentary on most of his movies.  He’s an interesting guy, and generally pretty informative.  I think he accepts that he’s not making intellectual masterpieces, but speaks to the style he wants to affect and his influences well, making me cognizant of the effort he’s put in to producing the final version of films we see, or coming to better understand the Why behind their limitations.

His commentary on Event Horizon is amusingly quiet.  There are long stretches where he (and his almost always along-for-the-ride producer Jeremy Bolt) is silent, and just watching the film.  For a movie that has a more ambiguous concept backing it up than most of his movies – and sort of a notorious, lost “director’s cut” in its missing nightmare footage – that is really all you can do with it: watch it, appreciate it… and that’s sort of one of its charms.  Even going back to when this was a constant VHS-rewatch for me as a kid, pausing on those rather notorious frames of Hellraiser-esque torture, I remember trying to pitch the movie to friends and coming up short on the explanation, ending in a “just watch it” recommendation.  There should be more to say about a crew exploring a ship that’s apparently been to Hell and back, but… nah.

Rewatching it now, a couple of decades on – twice, even, since I’m watching with commentary – that vibe is in full effect: I keep missing the connection between scientist Sam Neill waking up and then joining up with the crew of the Lewis & Clark, captained by Laurence Fishburne and tasked with checking out the sudden reappearance of ship ‘Event Horizon,’ returned from a trip to the “edge of the galaxy” some seven years back; the line between situation normal and SNAFU when it’s discovered that Event has come back from its journey haunted by forces unknnown doesn’t exist – it’s nothing to ALL pretty quickly, which then gets entertainigly boosted into MORE THAN ALL several times over – and though I agree with and acknowledge Roger Ebert’s review of the flick from way back when in pointing out how easily the movie shifts from sci-fi to shallowness…  And there I trail off into silence again, just watching and enjoying the movie.

There are a lot of great shots in the flick.  Paul’s hyperactive editing in later flicks is an acquired taste but quite masterfully done once you’re used to it, while Event Horizon is probably one of the most confidently directed flicks in his career, owing to its heavy Kubrick influence throughout.  Some time constraints result in a few static shots, but a mix of a great cast and fantastic sets and lighting gave us some immediately impactful and memorable setups, with Paul’s aim to turn this into a haunted house flick giving shape to a rather open-ended script that has a lot of gobbledy-gook about seeing Clive Barker horrors beyond the edge of space, which are witnessed in these distorted, smash-cut flashes of character’s dreams and are still appreciably shockingly gross even by today’s standards.

It’s not hard sci-fi.  It doesn’t lean in to any Lovecraftian sense of the unknown.  It’s just a damned entertaining, to-the-point, horror-lite flick that used a confluence of good casting and smart direction to whip an interesting – if vague – premise into 90 minutes of brain-shut-off goodness.