Event Horizon (Special Collector's Edition) Review
Unlike the film that's under review, this piece on Event Horizon is an edited version of that which was posted in 2003 for a review of the existing Region 2 Paramount release. Much time has passed since then and I felt that that review could do with being rewritten. Unlike the extra footage cut from Event Horizon, though, that review wasn't lost, as we're led to believe, in a salt mine in Transylvania so it's been cut, edited, tightened up and reused here. Perhaps not an extended edition but as we'll find out, neither is this Special Collector's Edition.
Event Horizon stars Sam Neill as Dr William Weir, designer of the titular spacecraft. A prototype ship fitted with an experimental gravity drive, the Event Horizon was designed to cross great distances almost instantaneously, giving the impression of travelling faster-than-light. On its maiden voyage, however, the Event Horizon engaged its gravity drive on the edge of the solar system and immediately disappeared without trace. In 2047, though, the Event Horizon reappears within a decaying orbit around Neptune and a salvage vessel, the Lewis And Clark, captained by Miller (Laurence Fishburne), is dispatched to discover what happened during the previous seven years and to bring the ship back to an Earth orbit.
As he joins the crew, Weir explains both the history and operation of the Event Horizon as well as the only available transmission from the Event Horizon - a burst of noise containing a single Latin phrase, "Liberate me", which DJ (Isaacs) translates as "Save me". On docking, an away team including Miller, Peters (Quinlan) and Justin (Noseworthy) board the Event Horizon to investigate the ship and location of the crew but find it deserted. A ship's log is recovered and various flayed body parts are seen floating in zero gravity but the Lewis & Clark away team find no sign of life.
Justin, though, during a search of engineering, sees the gravity drive activate itself, which pulls him into the core. The burst of energy cripples the Lewis And Clarke and Miller immediately orders all of his crew onto the Event Horizon. There, still investigating who could have sent the transmission, the crew of the Lewis & Clark are haunted by past memories and of secrets they thought were buried deep within themselves. As Peters continues working on the ship's log, DJ finds himself mistaken over his translation of the transmission from the Event Horizon. Not, "Liberate me" as he first thought but "Liberate tutemet ex infernis", or "Save yourselves from hell."
What one can best say about Event Horizon is that it's one of the few films that doesn't disappoint when finally revealing the horrors that, for the first half of the film, it was busy hinting at. This makes Event Horizon something of an exception as, far too often, films set a scene of something terrible having happened but which they subsequently fail to deliver on. Think of Virus, Ghost Ship, Sphere and Supernova and you'll be thinking of films that never delivered on their promise of something terrible aboard a deserted ship, spacecraft or planet but to his credit, Anderson doesn't pass his chance by. Indeed, Event Horizon flies high in this regard, having Anderson's horrors being almost as impressive as those of Robert Wise in The Haunting and Ridley Scott in Alien. Where Anderson really scores points is in his use of the occult in a sci-fi horror with Sam Neill delivering the film's best line, "Hell is only a word...the reality is much, much worse!"
Within its opening hour, Event Horizon largely succeeds in creating an unsettling atmosphere with the early scenes onboard the Lewis & Clark serving to offset the silence within the Event Horizon. As opposed to the functional lines within the Lewis & Clark, the design of the Event Horizon plays on the occult, with it being a cruciform based on Notre Dame cathedral. The distorted audio recording Weir plays before the crew enter stasis is an effective means of unsettling an audience - admittedly used to better effect by William Friedkin in The Exorcist - whilst the jumble of video images recovered by Peters from the ship's final log reveal an orgy of violence. In one moment, a jubilant captain waves from his chair prior to the gravity drive being engaged whilst, a second or two later, he plucks out his eyes and holds them in his hands.
Obviously, Paul Anderson has drawn comparisons between Event Horizon and the films he names as his two biggest influences - The Shining and The Haunting - but he's misleading the audience by these associations. The Haunting is the classic ghost story adaptation, showing absolutely nothing but no less terrifying because of it. Anderson, playing to a different audience, has some of the strongest gore seen in a mainstream film, albeit that some of it lasts no more than a frame or two, with the result being that his film is much less suggestive of its horrors and, subsequently, less impressive. From The Shining, he steals the rivers of blood washing out of the lifts but, again, he owes more to the gory horrors of Hellraiser than to the ghosts of the Overlook Hotel. Indeed, odd as Weir becomes, he has no moment to compare with Jack Torrance's chasing of his son through a maze.
Anderson's problems with his chosen influences are that they look to avoid further associations with videogames, which is odd coming from a man with such a history in movie adaptations of them. Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil and even, at something of a stretch, Alien vs. Predator, Anderson offers something of a steady hand on the tiller when producing movies based on video games and, were he being honest, he'd best describe Event Horizon as id Software's DOOM crossed with Tarkovsky's Solaris, with the ghosts of one meeting the inter-dimensional Hellishness of the other. Add a touch of Looking Glass' System Shock 2 - the Event Horizon replacing the von Braun - and you arrive at this. Of course, the bloodied body of Weir is a far cry from the subtle horrors of Solaris but its influence is present in the memories that Miller, Weir and Peters experience onboard the Event Horizon. Unlike the crew of the Lewis & Clark, though, Weir feels that he has come home. In a sense he has, lonely in the years after his wife's suicide but taking her presence on the ship as an indication that the Event Horizon is where he belongs and that he must remain there, even through death.
It is understandable, though, that Anderson is somewhat reticent in talking about Event Horizon in terms of videogame adaptations. As much fun as there was to be had with Resident Evil and Alien vs. Predator, Event Horizon is still his best film to date and what with the stink of failure that's now hanging around Uwe Boll's various efforts, you can understand Anderson's wariness. But it's in that brash, videogame mix of action, science-fiction and horror that Anderson works best, never particularly stirring but entertaining in the way that dumb movies frequently are. With Event Horizon, Anderson worked up a script by Philip Eisner to something that was amongst the most intriguing sci-fi/horror concepts and he did it proud, actually creating something that's disturbing when it ought to be, that looks very good, that actually works as science-fiction and has a real sense of the nasty about it. Given how, nine years on from the first release of Event Horizon, we actually celebrate the release of an 18-rated horror, maybe it's time to look back more fondly on a genuinely nasty sci-fi/horror.
Event Horizon has never looked bad on DVD but this is still a marked improvement over the old Paramount R2 from the, you'll laugh at this now, Widescreen Collection. This version has colours that are less muted, it's clearer and the blacks actually look black and not a dark, muddy brown. It's also been mastered to look darker as you'll be able to tell from the 'burning man' screengrab below.
The Original R2 Release
This R1 Special Collector's Edition
The Original R2 Release (2000)
This R1 Special Collector's Edition
The new audio tracks sound much better than the old release, though, with the DTS option, in particular, sounding terrific. This appears to have created for this DVD release as there's no DTS logo in the film's final credits but it's a good one nonetheless, using the rear channels for ambient and action effects and combining all five directional speakers to give the soundtrack presence. Everything, dialogue and sound effects, is clear, even in the short, sharp bursts of noise that accompany the visions of Hell.
Commentary: Jeremy Bolt and Paul Anderson are together on this track and after Resident Evil, where their contributions were enlivened by the presence of Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez, and Alien vs. Predator, which didn't feature Bolt, it's odd to hear them on their own. Actually, it's more accurate to say disappointing than odd as despite sounding like old friends, they do leave an awful lot of gaps in the commentary. There are good moments though in the track, probably none better than when Anderson jokes, "Solaris? What's that? Why I've never heard of that film!" to Bolt saying that it bears a similarity to Tarkovsky's classic. Unfortunately, though, they are light on the actual making of, of what happened to the film in post-production and to the various rumours of an extended cut, making the main feature the best extra in the set.
The Making of Event Horizon (102m55s): Paul Anderson begins this feature by confessing a teenage love of pulp science fiction, which surely won't come as a surprise to anyone who's followed his career, before admitting to being influenced by The Shining and Robert Wise's The Haunting. Again, that won't surprise anyone who's seen all three films but this candidness continues throughout this feature with Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, Jason Isaacs and various members of the crew all contributing their memories of the making of Event Horizon. No one has a bad word to say about anyone else on the movie, which grows a little tiresome after a while, but there's plenty of technical talk from the effects, production design and prosthetics teams whilst Isaacs keeps his contributions lighter and more concerned with his meeting and working with such actors as Laurence Fishburne and Sam Neill.
It is the last section of this documentary that will most of interest to anyone coming to this Special Collector's Edition for it is here that Anderson and Bolt discuss the longer cut and, in doing so, effectively blame themselves for the confusion over the existence of an extended cut. As Anderson explains it, he didn't give himself enough time to assemble a director's cut of Event Horizon, only pulling something together at very short notice, which came in at two-hours and ten-minutes. This was presented both to Paramount and to a test audience, both of whom thought the film too long, which led the studio to instruct Anderson to bring it in as a much shorter film. This led, via a second and third cut, to what was eventually released in the cinemas. As to any extra footage, Anderson and Bolt do say that both Anderson and Vadim Jean (of Leon The Pig Farmer) shot a great deal more of the Bosch-influenced Hell sequences and of the orgiastic video log that was found on the Event Horizon. However, over the years this has been lost and what little has been included on this DVD is, we're led to believe, is all that could be recovered. There's video-quality footage of this in the extended Burning Man Confrontation but there's nothing on this DVD to prove that so much more footage ever existed.
The Unseen Event Horizon: This is a catch-all title for one deleted scene and two extended scenes, all of which come with a director's commentary (optional in one case). The deleted scene is a Briefing in the Daylight Station (2m49s), where Dr Weir is told of the message intercepted from the Event Horizon, listens to it and convinces those in the room with him that he ought to accompany the crew of the Lewis & Clark to salvage the Event Horizon. The two extended scenes - Medical Bay Scene (49s) and Burning Man Confrontation (6m20s) - don't add very much other than more detail in DJ's flayed body and a bloodied Weir spider-walking down a ladder but they do at least suggest that a great deal more footage existed at some point and that there is some truth in what Anderson has said in the past and here about a longer cut of Event Horizon.
The Point of No Return (8m12s): With such titles as The Dark Inside and The Revolving Corridor, this sounds much more exciting than it actually is. What we have are various behind-the-scenes home movies shot on the set of Event Horizon at Pinewood studios. The Revolving Corridor, for example, is footage of one of the containment rooms in the Event Horizon, the set of which is surrounded by various bearded grips and best boys, if indeed that's what they are. Otherwise, there's test footage of the wire work and, quite out of place, Paul Anderson's thirty-first birthday party, which, I note with no small amount of disappointment, doesn't feature a girl popping out of a giant birthday cake as I suspected all movie industry parties were obliged to.
Finally, there are a couple of trailers, one for the Original Theatrical Release (2m22s) and the other for its Video Release (1m48s).
And so, despite heaping a sufficient amount of praise on Event Horizon, it's worth noting that I still feel disappointed by this. And by Anderson, too, who's long talked up an extended cut of the film. There is enough here to suggest that the footage that Anderson's long talked about does exist and although the director talks about having tracked down what he could find, there's the feeling that Paramount could get away with much less than a full trawl through their archives for this Special Collector's Edition.
What we have, therefore, is something that appears to confirm Anderson's talk of a longer cut but, with Event Horizon not having been one of their biggest successes, is too financially constrained to ever realise it...or maybe not as there's always the feeling that Anderson is talking up a better story than the truth would reveal. Either way, this isn't the long-awaited extended edition, more what should have been originally released.