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Reviews In The Machine: Event Horizon (1997)

There are a certain amount of concepts for stories that, you have to screw it up pretty hard-core for me to not end up enjoying it. Everyone has their sweet spot when it comes to the kinds of books and movies they like to read or watch and for me, Event Horizon is right smack in the middle of the biggest sweet spot I have available.

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The set up is perfect for me. An experimental, deep space exploration craft has returned, after disappearing under mysterious circumstances. The designer of the ship, played by the iconic Sam Neill is departing with a crew, captained by none other than legendary Lawrence Fishburne, for the purposes of finding out where the ship has been and what happened to the crew.

Seriously, you had me at hello.

I loved the sense of foreboding and dread which this movie seemed to be preloaded with, out of the box. From the very start, the style of the film comes through clearly as the early moments are intercut with quick flashes, suggestions of what is yet to come.  And to top it all off, before departing on the voyage to encounter the formally lost spacecraft, we get to witness the final recording’s sent by the crew of the Event Horizon before its disappearance. This is a set piece that will be slowly revealed and clarified throughout the film in a way that really kicks up the scare factor.

One aspect that is clear early on and is that this crew clearly has no idea of what they are getting into. We also have no idea but it’s pretty clear that the ride is going to be intense

Now I realize that this movie isn’t universally accepted and I’ll concede that the makeup of the crew falls fairly into the middle of trope-land. And while the acting is good, most of the characters look and act like they just arrived from central casting. What sets this experience is the setting, the pace and the plot, all of which is great.

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A few aspects of the film in particular really worked for me and the first would be the atmosphere of the movie.  The feeling of dark, brooding danger is so powerful, I could probably just watch an endless barrage of outtakes from the movie as long it was accompanied by the score at ambient noises that were present in this film. I love the scenes on the bridge of the Event Horizon with thunder and lightning strikes coming in through the windows.  And I am fully aware that none of that makes any damn sense. Why the hell would there be a thunderstorm in outer space?  Still, for me, there are few moments in film I love quite as much as the point when the crew has finally found the full video tape distress call in its entirety. Lawrence Fishburne stands up and following a big burst of lightning and thunder says the one thing that should be spoken in every horror film since the dawn of time.

“We’re leaving.”

Also, the nature of the video recordings made by the original crew of the Event Horizon. Early on, a member of Captain Miller’s crew (DJ) interprets a snippet of dialogue spoken in Latin. Later on, we hear the same clip again but this time it’s changed. The meaning which he got wrong significantly changes the nature of the message spoken.

What I find fascinating is this. Did DJ really hear the spoken words incorrectly? That might seem like a silly question but what I’m getting at is the possibility that a dark presence of some kind could have manipulated the recording to make it sound like ehorizon1something else was being said. Perhaps to lure the crew to the site. If that’s the case, it lends a pretty disturbing color to that chain of scenes.

There’s also an amusing backstory to Event Horizon. Evidently an early cut of the film contained scenes and footage even more graphic and disturbing than what ended up in the film. Director Paul Anderson was instructed to edit the film down, both for length and for content. But while fans have been crying for a release of the extended version, sadly this will never happen. This is due to the fact that the original footage had been packaged and sent off to a Transylvanian salt mine. And when it was finally recovered it was too deteriorated to use.

Mic scratch. Stop the music.

Wait. What?

A Transylvanian salt mine? Is that really a thing because I think that alone is begging to be made into a horror novel.

After doing some digging, I came to the realization that evidently it isn’t unusual to use a salt mine for archived material due to the stability of the environment and low moisture content. Still. Transylvania? And if this is the case, how the footage managed to get damaged is anyone’s guess. The end point is the same, that the version of the film that was released in theaters is the only we will ever be seeing. There is a book out there but it’s not available for the kindle and Amazon doesn’t have a copy available for under fifteen dollars so I won’t be exploring that arena.

This was also my first experience with how much you risk exposing of yourself by recommending horror movies to friends. Back in the day, I suggested it to a coworker, still caught up in my excitement at what I had just experienced.  They went and… yeah, they didn’t care for it. Which leads to that inevitable moment when they’re looking you up and down with an air of, really? You really liked that? What is wrong with you?

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For me, Event Horizon is like my generation’s Hellraiser. And yes, Hellraiser came out during my lifetime but I was like eight at the time so I don’t relate to it on a generational level. The characters of Event Horizon aren’t the most complex and the dialogue isn’t winning any awards but the actors do the best job they can and the sound and visual experience of the film is stunning. Even after all this time. The film has managed to find a greater following in the DVD/Blu-ray/ streaming era and I think this is a good thing.

It’s a scary and disturbing film that brilliantly employs heavy visual atmosphere. A long-standing favorite of mine.

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Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

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