Event Horizon Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson
Written by Philip Eisner
1997, 96 minutes, Rated R
Released on March 23rd, 2021
Laurence Fishburne as Captain Miller
Sam Neill as Dr. William Weir
Kathleen Quinlan as Peters
Joely Richardson as Lt. Starck
Richard T. Jones as Cooper
Jason Isaacs as D.J.
Sean Pertwee as Smith
In the year 2047, the rescue ship Lewis and Clark is sent on a top-secret mission to make contact with the deep space research vessel Event Horizon that was last seen on its way to Neptune before disappearing seven years ago. Responding to a distress signal, Doctor Weir, the man who designed the missing ship, joins Captain Miller and his team as they try to locate and recover the stranded crew and data. Weir explains that his ship’s experimental gravity core makes it possible to create a rift in the space-time continuum and travel at the speed of light across astronomical distances.
After a lengthy period in stasis, Miller and company are awakened as they approach Neptune, where they successfully rendezvous with the Event Horizon. An initial search of the ship reveals signs of a massacre, but only one cadaver. Ensign Justin locates the gravity core, a large spherical engine that draws him closer and sucks him inside to another dimension. He is pulled back by his tow line and is catatonic. Back aboard the Lewis and Clark, he becomes lucid and talks about the darkness inside and the horrors he has seen. A shockwave damages the ship and immediate repairs are needed if they are to return home.
While tech Cooper and pilot Smith get to work, the rest of the crew begins a thorough search for the missing inhabitants of the Event Horizon, but something strange begins to happen. Dr. Weir hears the voice of his late wife beckoning him, Miller is haunted by visions of a former crew member he was forced to leave behind and Dr. Peters sees her dead child watching her mournfully. Miller has little trouble believing the ship has returned from an alternate dimension and is now sentient, with knowledge of their secret fears and regrets, and is playing with them. He orders his XO Lieutenant Starck to quickly download all data and prepare for immediate evacuation. The clock is ticking and the nightmares are growing stronger as the evil presence begins claiming victims.
The idea of setting a classic haunted house story in space is intriguing and director Paul W.S. Anderson (Monster Hunter) makes the most of the possibilities. The film was pitched as “The Shining in space”, and screenwriter Philip Eisner (Mutant Chronicles) delivers an increasingly creepy narrative. Anderson does his best to fill each scene with rich atmosphere and a growing sense of dread. The film benefits from excellent production design by Joseph Bennett (Hardware), who found inspiration in the cathedral of Notre Dame, yielding a sort of a techno-Gothic hybrid in the design of the titular vessel. The interiors are quite striking and somewhat unsettling. Anderson’s other ace in the hole is cinematographer Adrian Biddle (Aliens), whose lighting design and camerawork bring everything to life.
Anderson borrows liberally from a wide variety of earlier genre films, primarily The Haunting and Solaris. He also jams in elements of Hellraiser, Flatliners and Don’t Look Now, plus nods to Alien, Outland and The Black Hole, among others. Homage is one thing but this is an extreme case of overkill. Younger audiences without much of a cinematic education will find a lot of cool material while seasoned viewers may find it all too obvious. One element that may have been an unfortunate coincidence is the appearance of the gravity core at the heart of the ship. Its spherical gyroscopic design looks an awful lot like the machine Jodie Foster uses in the high-profile Robert Zemeckis feature Contact, which hit theatres a month before this was released.
Laurence Fishburne (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors) and Sam Neill (In the Mouth of Madness) co-star as Captain Miller and Doctor Weir respectively, both good men haunted by past failures. Fishburne is cool as usual, lending Miller a reassuring persona with his by-the-book, do-what’s-right approach to dangerous situations. Neill is given more to do, as it is Weir who is most deeply affected by the ship’s dark promises and undergoes the biggest change in motivation. The supporting cast features several familiar faces, most notably Kathleen Quinlan (Warning Sign) and Joely Richardson (Color Out of Space) as Peters and Starck, two essential crew members who hold their own in a crisis. Richard T. Jones (Super 8), Jason Isaacs (Soldier), Sean Pertwee (Dog Soldiers) and Jack Noseworthy (Breakdown) round out the crew of the Lewis and Clark and bring a familiar sense of camaraderie and efficiency to the mission.
Event Horizon works on a lot of levels as it slowly builds tension towards an explosive finale. Where it stumbles are some shortcomings in the script as characters are forced to frequently do dumb things to set up a scare. The film was hobbled before release by the studio when their summer blockbuster Titanic was delayed to November and suddenly a slot opened in their schedule. Anderson’s editing time was cut in half and post production was rushed in order to meet the earlier date. Test screenings were not great and the studio felt the picture was too long and ordered several cuts that amounted to a loss of roughly thirty minutes of run time. Character development and bloody carnage were sacrificed, leaving the finished film occasionally hollow. For years, talk of a Director’s Cut filled the internet, but Anderson later announced the footage was lost or destroyed. A VHS copy of the workprint is said to exist. There are lightning-fast glimpses of the missing violence in the finished film, best studied frame by frame on disc. Anderson has gone on to a lengthy career in Hollywood but this remains one of his better pictures and deserves a second look.
Video and Audio:
First released on Blu-ray by Paramount in 2008, the image featured a decent but soft transfer. For this new Collector’s Edition, the original camera negative has received a 4K scan and restoration with the image presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Colors are brighter and detail is richer with better definition in the many darker scenes. The dated CGI elements stick out noticeably but the traditional model work holds up well.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track is a lively one with impressive use of the rear speakers. The creepy ambience aboard the ship is immersive, as sound effects are well-balanced with dialogue levels and music cues. The soundtrack by Michael Kamen (Die Hard, Lethal Weapon) and Orbital (Pusher) is engaging and memorable. A DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo mix is also available.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
Scream Factory has assembled a healthy package of supplemental materials for this release, including eleven newly recorded interviews. This material was shot in 2020 during the pandemic and some of these segments were recorded remotely with limitations.
In the newly-recorded interview Reflecting on Hell (10 minutes), Anderson tells of his first big budget studio effort. He talks about working with Paramount on this film and how it all came together in part thanks to Kurt Russell’s physique. From there he reveals sources of inspiration for the look of this picture and the joy of working with practical models. He admits the editing process was rushed resulting in a somewhat lesser product, but is proud of the film overall.
Haunted Galleon (9 minutes) catches up with screenwriter Philip Eisner, who says his idea was to update the familiar haunted house subgenre. He shares information on the writing process and an abandoned sequence that would have served as a proper introduction to the characters. Other topics include his first visit to the set and seeing his work come to life and dealing with studio notes.
Actress Kathleen Quinlan appears in the segment Organized Chaos (8 minutes) in which she shares her thoughts on the script and her character, and the experience of filming at the legendary Pinewood Studios. She has kind words for her director and co-stars and talks about the physicality of the role and the emotional strain of the more demanding sequences.
Compassion in Space (9 minutes) finds actor Jack Noseworthy excited to talk about this project. He reveals his approach to the psychological horror and how his meditations on death shaped his performance. Of the interviews conducted remotely Noseworthy has the weakest connection resulting in some digital lag.
The next actor to speak is Peter Marinker in The Doomed Captain (3 minutes), who appears briefly in the video footage of the missing crew members. He says he was only on set for a few days, but that it was an impressive shoot that was a rewarding experience.
In Space Cathedral (6 minutes), production designer Joseph Bennett talks about the look of the picture combining gothic and sci/fi visual styles while working on a tight schedule. He shows off a piece of set design and explains how he intended to give the gravity sphere a presence. This is a very interesting and informative segment that could have easily benefited from a longer run time.
Set decorator Crispian Sallis reflects on his efforts to enhance the sets in Something New (8 minutes). He details his approach to dressing the ships in extreme detail and working with source lighting. He goes on to reveal his encouragement of the actors to design the look of their characters. There is some discussion of the elusive Director’s Cut and the film’s legacy.
Taking Care of It (3 minutes) is a brief interview with production manager Dusty Symonds, who compares the shooting schedule to a puzzle and shares a fun Sam Neill story.
In the segment Reinforcements (4 minutes), second unit director Robin Vidgeon relays the pressures of stepping in to head the second unit and the hurdles he faced on a regular basis.
In Almost Real (3 minutes), location manager Derek Harrington remembers his time on the project tracking down massive spaces for filming before producers eventually decided to shoot the entire picture on stages at Pinewood.
Screams from the Cosmos (7 minutes) allows sound designer Campbell Askew to discuss his approach to the work and his intention to use only newly-recorded sound effects instead of recycling library tracks.
Ported over from the 2006 DVD is an audio commentary with director Paul W.S. Anderson and producer Jeremy Bolt that is laid back and conversational. They provide a steady stream of production stories and trivia in an informative and entertaining way that makes for an interesting listen.
The archival five-part documentary The Making of Event Horizon (103 minutes) breaks down the production into various stages of development and provides a behind-the-scenes look at the filming process. There are numerous interviews with members of the cast and crew and plenty of footage shot on set as well as clips from the finished movie. The piece can be viewed either in individual chapters or as a “play all” option.
The Point of No Return (8 minutes) is another holdover of on-set footage of various aspects of the production including a look at the sets and some actor wire work. The material features narration from Anderson and can be viewed either by chapter or as a “play all” option.
Secrets (10 minutes) is a collection of three deleted or extended scenes from a VHS rough cut of the film depicting some added character beat, a hint more gore and an alternate look at the ending confrontation scene. These scenes come with optional director’s commentary.
The Unseen Event Horizon (7 minutes) features Anderson’s commentary over storyboards for the un-filmed opening rescue scene and concept art for another scene.
Both a theatrical trailer and a home video spot are included.
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