Terror lurks beyond Uranus in Neptunian nightmare sci-fi Event Horizon (1997)

Unbeloved by critics at the time but having since built quite the cult following, “Event Horizon” may not be much more than the pithy ‘haunted house in space’ summary that often dismissively describes it but given that it delivers on that concept very, very well, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

In the year 2047, a salvage team is sent to investigate and recover the long thought lost starship Event Horizon which has suddenly reappeared in orbit of Neptune. Having disappeared on its maiden voyage 7 years previously, its return is merely the harbinger of a darker mystery as the crew of the salvage tug Lewis & Clark – along with the designer of the Event Horizon Dr Weir (Sam Neill) – try to discover what happened during that fateful first mission.

It may be a hugely derivative mash-up of “Alien” and “Hellraiser” but it works thanks to bravura production design and a cast of committed thesps who lean into the grisly goings-on and give the science fiction shenanigans just the right amount of credibility to make the scares come off just right.

Something of a Hellish puzzle-box itself, the movie doesn’t give up its secrets easily or all at once and it keeps the tension simmering nicely for quite some time before it lets things boil over and all Hell breaks loose. Looking back, its now star-studded cast keeps it interesting for first-time viewers as you can’t be sure who’ll be killed off quickly and who might – just might – survive until the end.

While it has an admirable commitment to bringing some scientific realism to play – the recovery and reactivation of the Event Horizon features some nods to the real-world physics of space travel that wouldn’t disgrace an Arthur C Clark adaptation – it’s not afraid to really lean into the jump scares and gore of the horror genre. Of course, being a Paul (not yet W.S.) Anderson film, it lacks even a shred of subtlety and the soundtrack isn’t always a good fit for what’s on-screen (the opening titles, in particular, are weird kind of “Doctor Who”/ “James Bond” hybrid with a rejected “Blade” dance track to accompany them, but all-in-all it’s a cracking potboiler of a scary movie, gleefully gory and deceptively smart to boot.

With Fishburne, Sam Neill, Jason Isaacs and Joely Richardson firing on all cylinders, “Event Horizon” is one of the few times when in space they can hear you scream – as long as it’s in Latin!


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