Friday, 18 August 2017

Event Horizon (1997)

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I have loved science fiction since I was a tiny lad in the Space Age Sixties, but of course I don't write about it here. Until now. Last night I watched Event Horizon again, after many years. And yes, it does qualify as supernatural horror in space.

If you know the story, skip this bit and go on to the next nice picture. The time is The Space Future. A team of space salvage experts led by Lawrence Fishburn are assigned an unusual task - recover the huge, experimental starship Event Horizon. As always happens in these scenarios the close-knit team (which includes Joely Richardson, and Sean Pertwee in a Space Woolly Hat) are forced to accept an Outside Expert. Enter Doctor Weir, played by Sam Neill. Yes, we're talking quality thespian stuff, here.

Turns out the experimental ship vanished seven years ago on its first test flight. Now it has popped back into our solar system in the vicinity of Neptune. The good ship Lewis and Clark dulyf fires up its sci-fi hand-waving bollocks motors and sets off with the crew in Alien-style hibernation pods. So far, so familiar. Anyone used to sf action films might expect the rogue ship to be chock full of aliens, or something. But no - this is a Space Gothic.

When they arrive near Neptune they don't find the Event Horizon is boring old orbit in black, Kubrick-style space. Oh no. The giant starship is somehow adrift deep in the giant planet's murky atmosphere. This means the rescue ship can suddenly come upon the vast, sinister-looking vessel and everyone can be awestruck. (As in Disney's The Black Hole, which this film resembles stylistically, and to a lesser extent in theme.)

The usual rigmarole ensues. Astronauts suit up, go aboard, find a Mary Celeste situation. Dr Weir is obviously hiding something. Then the remains of the crew are found - not nice. Analysis of the garbled distress call reveals a warning - in Latin! It transpires that the ship's power core is a singularity that shunts the vessel outside our universe, and therefore frees it from reality as we know it. It has returned some a Bad Place, and brought something with it. This is quite literally the starship from Hell. Turns out that if you abandon reality via fancy physics you just get eternal damnation.

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The film is so full of variations on Gothic imagery that it's almost funny at times. Crosses abound - the huge ship is in the shape of a cathedral, complete with columns. The power core is not a futuristic device so much as a large chunk of the Industrial Revolution whirring around like a deranged orrery. This spaceship seems to made of steel or even cast iron. The Event Horizon is infested with the personal demons of the crew, leading to some very nasty deaths. Oh, and there is a torrent of blood at one point.

Hokum, then. But enjoyable hokum, especially as Neill is given every opportunity to go  really barmy. He is the Gothic villain par excellence, here - insane with power, possessed by hubris, and hideously disfigured to boot. Flames gush, things explode, people - mostly Joely Richardson - scream. It's all great fun. It's also surprisingly gory, with a lot of body horror. So don't go expecting something as mild as, say, Aliens.

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