I’ve long held the theory that Mr Sam Neill, while being an absolutely awesome actor, is the single evillest entity to grace the planet. Just look at his films – in almost all of them, he is the bad guy; and even when he is playing the hero, he is still the creepiest son of a bitch alive. What can I say – the man is so good at being bad, and nowhere is that more obvious than in today’s film, an oft overlooked (but brilliant) entry in both the sci-fi and horror genres. It is also the film that its director turned down X Men to direct. Today’s film is Event Horizon.
Set in the far flung reaches of outer space, Event Horizon tells the tale of the crew of the Lewis & Clarke, a space vessel on a rescue mission to investigate a signal from another ship (the titular Event Horizon) that disappeared mysteriously. On the way to the signal location, Dr Weir (Sam Neill) informs the crew (played, amongst others by Laurence Fishburne, Joely Richardson, Jack Noseworthy, Kathleen Quinlan and “a big hello to” Jason Isaacs) that the Event Horizon was testing an experimental new gravity/wormhole drive. On hearing, the sinister signal received, the crew immediately become edgy. Upon finding out that the ship is indeed back, and with a crew far more dead than they were when they disappeared (and in far more horrific shape than expected), the Lewis & Clarke crew make the decision to explore the ship and try to make sense of what the blue heck happened. As strange events and accidents start to befall the crew, they start to believe that something really did come back with the Event Horizon – something evil. Have they all fallen victim to The Spaaaaaaace Maaaadnessss, or DID something come back? As they learn what really happened to the ship and its crew, they all vow to destroy the Event Horizon so this will never happen again – all, except for the now mad Dr Weir who tries to protect his creation. And as the sides are drawn, you just know that not everyone will make it out alive.
This is one of those films that proves – if you have a good, tense story and enough atmosphere, you can set a good horror film anywhere. Sure, Alien did Space Horror first, and probably best – but Event Horizon does what it does so well, lots of great jump scares, action-centric set pieces and great performances (besides the always unhingedly awesome Neill, of course - in particular Laurence Fishburne and Jason Isaacs (hi, Jason Isaacs)). This whole film is an exercise in ramping up the tension – and wastes no time in introducing both the dread from the ship, and the insanity of Dr Weir. Once the crew realises just what it is they are dealing with, and manage to decipher the messages, that is when the horror itself really starts to ramp up. Once again bringing up Alien, the whole claustrophobic nature of a spaceship (no matter how big the actual vessel may be) always lends itself well to helping add a sense of dread and fear – which is why a lot movies and video games go back to that setting over and over, with mixed results.
It occurs to me that my three favourite Sam Neill roles all deal with a Lovecraftian sense of dread – besides this, I am a huge fan of both In The Mouth Of Madness and Omen 3 (yes, I know, that is overtly him playing the son of The Devil - but tell me there is no dread in that, and I will know you haven’t seen it). Like I said – the man is so good at playing bad, and quite honestly, I would rather watch him than play evil, say, an Al Pacino.
On reading up about the film, and I have quite a bit – I really wish I could see the original cut of this film, which is apparently what we got, but ramped up to insane degrees. And, knowing who the director is, and what he has done in other films – I don’t doubt that what he had filmed (and regrettably had to cut) would have been mind blowing.
I dig the holy crap out of this film, and you should too. Maybe. In fact, the only thing that I don’t like about this film, is the highly inappropriate use of the track Funky Shit over the closing credits – it doesn’t fit at all, especially after the ending.