Horror movies began as low-budget bloodfests and have come to this: multimillion-dollar bloodfests.
With high production values and low aspirations, "Event Horizon" begins as a mildly intriguing science-fiction movie and degenerates into yet another slasher flick about evil from another dimension.
Sam Neill, who has starred in a number of ambitious films and got a taste of popular stardom in "Jurassic Park," must have been crazy or broke to sign up for this trip. Same with the usually compelling Laurence Fishburne, Kathleen Quinlan ("Apollo 13") and Joely Fisher ("101 Dalmatians").
Neill plays a possibly mad scientist, the inventor of the Event Horizon, a ship that can "fold" normal space by creating a black hole, thus transcending the speed of light and traveling instantaneously across the galaxy. Whether it succeeded is a mystery, since it vanished on its test flight and doesn't reappear until seven years later.
A strange message from the ship, adrift near Neptune, prompts a rescue mission. Neill is called to join Fishburne's crew. They are soon plagued by hallucinations culled from their darkest memories, but their respective ghosts, apparently unleashed by the ship, are either cliches or so poorly explained that they make no sense.
Only a few of the characters seem real: D.J. (Jason Isaacs), a strong, silent type (silence means he's not spouting stupid dialogue); Cooper (Richard T. Jones), who at least tries to be funny; and Smith (Sean Pertwee), who keeps saying, "I've got to get out of here!" My sentiments exactly!
The movie wants you to think it's deep, but it ends up wallowing in gore. Neill's Dr. Weir (that's Dr. Weird to you) gives in to the "pure evil" of the ship, perhaps because of his guilt over his absent (dead?) lover. Or maybe he simply underestimated the ** power of the dark side of the Force. He becomes an avatar of terror, a kind of bleeding Pinhead without the pins who's handy with a scalpel.
Fishburne becomes his nemesis, the hero who must try to salvage some of his crew. He is also dogged by a personal hell, the memory of a crewman he once left behind. His story isn't terribly original, but neither is the movie.
Directed by Paul Anderson ("Mortal Kombat"), "Event Horizon" is derivative at every turn. The military patter and rescue plot come from the "Alien" movies. The evil from another dimension smacks of "Hellraiser." The hallucinations at the edge of the solar system weakly evoke "2001." The crew's guilty memories bring to mind "Flat-liners." The ship's mysterious gateway has a fluid, "Stargate"-type interface.
This movie has no brain, but it sure looks good. That's apparently the recipe for success in Hollywood.
Starring Sam Neill and Laurence Fishburne
Directed by Paul Anderson
Released by Paramount
Rated R (extreme gore, violence, language, brief nudity)
Sun score: * 1/2
Pub Date: 8/15/97