This November, we’re going to look at a film that bombed. But, we’ve looked at other films that didn’t do well when they came out. The brilliant John Carpenter film The Thing didn’t make much of a profit and the Black Cauldron lost a lot of money but was pretty solid. Maybe this one also has a good amount of merit in spite of flopping harder than a sumo wrestler in a diving competition.
Our narrative begins with a bunch of background text before moving into a rescue mission. The titular Event Horizon went missing seven years ago during a test of an experimental drive that allows it to circumvent light speed. Now, it’s reappeared. The rescue vessel Lewis and Clark, is sent along with the scientist who created the drive to save the crew and bring the ship back.
To the film’s credit, it starts out pretty well. There’s a compelling mystery of what happened aboard the Horizon and with the hallucinations. The issue of having a limited time to get off the Horizon provides some strong tension. And the lack of any defined monster or slasher killer and having very little in terms of blood or gore makes for a nice change.
Unfortunately, the last third of the film happens. This is where it succumbs to bad Hollywood horror clichés. This is where we get the absurd, over the top gore that’s not scary in the slightest, just kind of gross. This is where we get a big, bad antagonist who wants to murder everyone. And this is where the mystery of the Horizon is answered in the dumbest way possible. In fact, I’m going to spoil it because I have ranting to do about this. So, if you don’t want spoilers, now is the time to stop reading.
Now, there are lots of explanations that could have been used for what happened with the Horizon. Some kind of psychic entity integrated with the ship and wants to goad the crew of the Clark into getting killed to absorb their neural energy. There’s an unknown pathogen that’s caused all the side effects they’ve experienced. The Horizon’s computer fused with the mind of a member of its crew and the chimera is subconsciously trying to repel the Clark’s crew like they were a virus. But no, one of those could be unique and interesting if well execute.
No, the true explanation is that the Horizon quite literally went to hell and now the ship has a demon in it that wants to bring yet more people back to hell for torture. It’s like the plot you’d get in one of those old, deliberately schlocky B-films. And there’s no potential for anything interesting since it’s just a force of pure evil.
The most interesting part of the characterisation is Captain Miller butting heads with Doctor Weir. Which does lead to some interesting moments. Unfortunately, most of the crew aren’t all that interesting. You’ve got the mother, the young innocent, the more hard-nosed one and a bunch of other stereotypes.
Cinematography, Visual Effects:
The first two thirds start out pretty promising. The effects look pretty damn good for the late 90s. The futuristic technology provides a neat little spectacle. The barren, dingy atmosphere aboard the Horizon makes for a strong horror backdrop. Then the last third devolves into absurd, over the top gore. The eyes sewn shut thing especially just looks silly.
Acting and Music:
You can’t really fault the actors in this. Laurence Fishburne and Sam Neill in particular deliver some strong performances. Even the more underwritten characters are pretty well performed. Michael Kamen’s soundtrack is pretty nicely composed as well.
Areas of Improvement:
- A better solution to the mystery. Seriously, in a situation where you had hundreds of more interesting possible solutions, you chose to just go with hell.
- Give the characters a bit more depth. If that means you have to have one or two fewer characters, it’s worth it.
- Leave out or minimise the gore effects. This is a case where having less makes what you do have so much more effective.
This one had potential, but the final third just dived straight into bad trope territory. I’ll credit the film with subverting some clichés, having some strong elements to its build up and some other fairly impressive elements. Such as the music and the acting. Unfortunately, Phillip Eisner’s writing just couldn’t sustain it in the end. So, I’m giving it a 4/10.