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20 Years Ago Today: Terror Came Aboard in ‘Event Horizon’

A look back at a sci-fi horror film starring Laurence Fishburne.

Event Horizon is a 1997 sci-fi horror film about a rescue crew who investigates a spaceship that disappeared into a black hole and has now returned…with someone or something new on-board.

“Save yourself … from Hell,” says Doctor D.J. (Jason Isaacs) to Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne) aboard the starship Lewis & Clark, a rescue ship sent to find survivors and learn what happened to the Event Horizon, a ship that disappeared during its maiden voyage to Proxima Centauri seven years earlier. Now the dang thing is suddenly back, drifting in orbit over Neptune and beckoning with a distress signal. But how? And why? Turns out the answer to both are not good. Not good at all.

Event Horizon
Event Horizon, 1997 © Golar Productions

Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson, Event Horizon is a divisive horror thriller that didn’t do so well with critics on release, most agreeing it didn’t live up to its potential or that it left behind too many unanswered questions. This led to audiences abandoning the film in theaters, making it a huge loss for the studio. Nonetheless, the movie has gone on to become a cult favorite and its homaging of horror and sci-fiction has gained acclaimed. It’s a pretty good flick and deserves a watch.

THE STORY: In the year 2047, the Event Horizon reappears near Neptune and is calling for help. The rescue ship Lewis & Clark heads out to assist and investigate, led by the aforementioned Cap. Miller, along with a small crew, including Executive Officer Lieutenant Starck (Joely Richardson), Pilot Smith (Sean Pertwee), William Weir (Sam Neill), the Event Horizon’s designer, D.J., as already stated, and a few others, most notably Medical Technician Peters (Kathleen Quinlan). What we learn on the the way is Weir’s gravity drive on the Event Horizon is experimental, creating a mini black hole that allows the ship to also pass between two points in space, dramatically reducing travel time. And here’s where, unbeknownst to them, the trouble lies. Big trouble.

Event Horizon
Event Horizon, 1997 © Golar Productions

Once arriving in orbit alongside the Event Horizon, things go downhill fast. The crew have all been slaughtered in a bloody mess, and worse, that gravity drive restarts and one of the crew, Justin (Jack Noseworthy), the Lewis & Clark’s Chief Engineer, gets briefly sucked into a portal, activating a massive shock wave that results in the near irreparable damage of the Lewis & Clark, forcing all to board the Event Horizon. So traumatized by what Justin had seen on the other side of the portal, the guy tries to off himself. It’s only the beginning as it turns out the portal is an exit to another dimension, one that is a virtual hellish nightmare that has transformed the ship into a sentient being looking to murder – in very gruesome ways – anything in its path. Think Cliver Barkers Hellraiser in space.

REVIEW: There’s a lot to appreciate about Event Horizon even if it does falter at times, with its loud noises and jump-scare clichés, but it’s also inventive in its homaging, if that can be allowed, with some terrific direction by Anderson, who was, at the time, hot off the success of his film adaptation of the video game Mortal Kombat, a genre film that proved he could do action. He would later go on to greater success with the Resident Evil franchise and here, he hones his skills in mastering the combination of horror and action. While this movie and the Resident Evil series have never gained the widest of praise, they are niché movies and succeed on the fanbase, which is where Event Horizon seems to flourish. If you like gorish monster mayhem and sci-fi, it’s got what you want.

RELATED: The Top 5 Movie Moments of Laurence Fishburne

If there’s anything to appreciate, beyond the very well made and executed visual effects, it’s the performances, with Fishburne excellent as Miller and Neill particularly jarring as a designer who rather symbolically gouges out his own eyes. There are some great moments of tension and these two actors really deliver some weight to the effects-heavy production. Yes, the movie borrows greatly from other films, such as Aliens and several psychological horror films, but there’s still plenty good about how Anderson puts it all together.

Event Horizon
Event Horizon, 1997 © Golar Productions

It’s been twenty years since its release and it’s aged very well, the film having some influence in the genre as well and reaching an ever-widening fanbase thanks to DVD and streaming services. It’s certainly not iconic nor a classic, and trades opportunities for such in favor of horror rather than existentialism but for a good scary time at the movies, it well worth seeing (again). Event Horizon. Watch it now.