Friday, December 28, 2012

One A Week Reviews #52: Event Horizon

This is one of my wallowing, walk-through reviews but what else does one have time for on a holiday weekend? Many, many spoilers ahead, along with some wisecracking. Enjoy, and Happy New Year!

My memories of seeing Event Horizon when it first came out on VHS are pretty hazy, so I was curious to see what my opinion would be catching it 14 years later and on Blu-Ray.

First off, 14 years of evolving CGI means even a fairly luxe, big-budget flick like this doesn't age well for the eye. That said, the effects here get points for creativity. The vertiginous, twirling pull-back from the Daylight Space Station remains a marvel. Sam Neill's Dr. Weir(d) joins the crew of the Lewis and Clark, whose Captain Miller is Laurence Fishburne. Maybe not A-list actors, but the film has a bunch of A-list talent. Kathleen Quinlan, Joley Richardson, Jason Isaacs, and Sean Pertwee also bring perhaps more skill than this Sci-Fi gore-fest really deserves.

Dr. Weir, a man plagued by hallucinations and grief over his wife's death, joins the L&C's crew in a mission to meet the Event Horizon, a secret test vessel that could travel faster-than-light by "folding space/time." It was lost seven years ago (an occurrence kept on the down-low) only to reappear now sans-crew near Neptune. First, there's 57 days of suspended animation travel time, which I've always thought an obviously painless diet opportunity. When they do awaken, they find out the ship they're saving sent one last shriek-filled message. At this point, it's pretty damn clear they've made a HUGE mistake heading out to meet this ship.

(Gory Pictures and Muddled Opinions on "Hellraiser in Space" are dead ahead!)

Seriously. Over-decorated.
Now this is one spooky ship from the get go - filled with floating debris and long, dim spooky spaces. Not only is it described as a tomb it looks like one, filled with vaulted arches and Gothic flourishes. It also has a "meat grinder" hallway that's a set designer's dream, though perhaps not practical from an engineering point of view. Also, some areas of the ship are covered in viscera with a few floating, frozen corpses about. (Minor details, people.)

The center of the ship features a big, moving globe structure that must well be a sister to the Hellraiser puzzle box. It's in a round room with spikes, an idea that seems optimal for an environment where one could start floating around without gravity at any moment. The "Red Shirt" crew member (Jack Noseworthy) winds up sucked into it when it opens up into a puddle highly reminiscent of the mirror in Prince of Darkness. It causes short-circuits that fries the Lewis & Clark and get everyone trapped on the Event Horizon... which is so where you'd want to be.

From here on out it's a crew of frayed tempers trapped in a "haunted house in space" with a 20 hour countdown to suffocation. They also find out the gravity drive creates black holes, meaning it's only slightly more dangerous than just walking outside the ship in your skivvies would be. Hardly matters, though as before long the hallucinations start when Peters (Quinlan) is haunted by visions of her crippled kid.
In space, no one can loan you Visine.

Busyness happens to keep characters separated, as Red Shirt has some spooky seizures and Weir(d) crawls around a giant 3-D, lit-up circuit board (very HAL) and imagines his eyeless wife is haunting him. That's trumped by the Captain imagining a burning man. (Yeah, they're fucked... but you knew that.)

All heck breaks loose as the crew decides the ship is actively messing with them and reacting to them. Dr. Weird is also getting uber-creepy. His answer to something that's all but punching through a door is attempt to open it. Cutie McRedShirt also decides to commit suicide by walkabout. He's spooked, and seems the sensible one to check out now. Marvelously, as soon as opening the outside door is irrevocable, he wakes from his trance in time to feel decompression. He gets outside, but they get him back in and try to keep him alive. It seriously doesn't look like fun.

From here the haunted house just gets hauntier. The Captain also has the first of the flash-visions that make this a memorable flick for many. Quick shots of blood and torture with loud noises. He also hears ghosts of men who died under his watch. His opinion is the ship knows what makes you feel guilty. DJ (Jason Issacs) is willing to agree, as he's decided a recording left by the previous crew says "save yourself from hell." So when you fold space and time, you take a shortcut through purgatory? Peters and Starck (Joley Fisher), independently, come up with video that sure looks like hellish tortures happening to the previous crew. Eyes gouged out, someone getting their throat reached down... gee, I can't imagine why audiences were alienated by this...

Next time, someone else picks the movie...
Captain Miller decides they're leaving and makes the mistake of saying "fuck this ship," which is, as you know, rude and only makes it cross. They're packing up to leave when the ship makes Peters see her crippled son, to whom she runs to and through, leading her to fall down a shaft to her death. Logically she has to know he can't be there and must know she's possessed by the ship. She even has a quick flash of her own demise. She still goes through with it. (Also, it's jolting when Quinlan's character dies because she's essentially the female lead, and we're conditioned to expect their survival.) This is followed up by Weir(d), remembering the suicide of his wife, driven to claw his own out by her ghost. (Anyone observant is now pretty clued in to the idea that most of the cast is going to die.)

Now eyeless and possessed, Weir(d) also goes and puts an explosive on their just-fixed getaway ship, thereby reducing a lot of billable hours to nothing more than busy work and Sean Pertwee's character to gristle. Cooper (Richard T Jones) also gets caught in the explosion, and has to desperately try and make it back for act three. Eyeless Weir(d) then goes and skins DJ alive in the medical center. The bodies are stacking up rather quickly at this point. All that's left is the Captain and Starck (and Cooper, helpfully off stage left trying to fly back) versus Evil Sam Neill and all the powers of his Sci-Fi hell.

He's pure, plummy evil, too. Savoring every line and never hampered by lots of prosthetic makeup, he sure looks like he's having a good time playing bad guy. Soon, Starck is unconscious and the Captain's at gunpoint, when Cooper gets back, distracting Weir(d) to blow out a window, decompressing the whole cockpit and getting his ass sucked out that window for his troubles. The scene of Starck and the Captain trying to get safe before the room's sealed off is nicely tense , too.

Cooper gets back on the ship and the three of them have a seven minute countdown to get as far away from the about-to-blow gravity drive goes off and sends them all to hell. Fishburne gets to go play noble hero, setting bombs while Cooper and Starck find themselves stuck in the half of the ship that's going to try and drown them in blood. A lift from The Shining, why not?

This really is an awful space ship. Miller winds up locked in with the big gravity ball and the flaming ghost of the man he mentioned earlier who died while on his watch. The ghost turns into a carved-up Sam Neil, in essentially full-Cenobite mode. He gives the Captain a vision of hell that's a fast smash-cut montage of gore and torture. It's quick, dazzling, and absolutely disgusting. It includes what was implied that RedShirt saw, and on blu-ray, looks fabulous in frame by frame slow motion. (You will want to scour your eyes afterwards... it's really vile.)

No insects were harmed in the making of this picture.
Miller tries to engage him a fistfight with Weir(d), which ends about as well as you'd expect, but does at least grab his trigger and gets to blow up part of the ship, damning himself and Weir(d) to gory, art-directed misery while saving Cooper and Starck by separating the life-boat part from the doorway to hell, which disappears down it's own black hole.

Mind you, the life-boat part was the half that was filling up with blood, so they're probably taking a little damnation with them... as confirmed by the "72 days later" coda with a cheap-shot, Carrie-style nightmare at the end. So, Event Horizon is essentially a future-set semi-sequel to Hellraiser. Weir was inspired to build a puzzle box to open a door to hell, which leads to bloody torture and death to all involved. It's a ripped off idea, but an underrated movie with gorgeous sets, a great cast, and it's highly watchable. Genuinely creepy much of the time though I kept waiting for the Cenobites to show up.

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