Jagged Visions – Event Horizon

neptune

A decaying orbit around Neptune isn’t somewhere you’d want to find yourself with an emotionally unstable physicist in tow.

I’m 17 years old, I’ve just paid to go and see a film that looked for all the world like a cross between Predator and Aliens on a space ship, with a banging soundtrack by the Prodigy. Laurence Fishburne stars, and I’m wandering into the now defunct Arena 7 Cinema at the NYNEX Arena with a pep in my step and an excited smile on my face.

Nothing had prepared me for what I was about to experience.

Having grown up with Fantasy, Sci Fi and Horror, I was no stranger to warp rifts, alternate dimensions and Chaos with a capital C. But I’d never seen these elements combined in such a way, and I haven’t seen it since. The film in question was Event Horizon, and I’m not afraid to say I was on the verge of walking out on several occasions. I did not leave that cinema a happy chappy, I left thoroughly depressed, went home to horrific nightmares, and still rate it as one of my favourite films of all time, and also without doubt still one of the most terrifying.

While Nathan has delved into his early experiences with artists such as Ian Miller and his experiences with Fighting Fantasy, Event Horizon has had a huge effect on me from that first viewing and still does. The bleakness is all pervading, the loneliness of that orbit around Neptune, millions of miles from any living thing, the tiny crew of the Lewis & Clarke and their grieving scientist, Dr Weir. Everything from the first scene in whispers bleak isolation,  it gets under your skin and into your skull and sits there like Poes Raven. When things start to go wrong, as they inevitably do, no one is going to be able to help you out there and the crew are fully aware of this fact. Many of the  scenes throughout the movie squirm with barely contained panic. Every time I watch it it stays with me for days, as that anxious uneasy feeling it imbibes in me slowly peters out.

Visually, while one or two efx might seem a little dated by today’s standards, the film itself is stunning. The ship design alone still blows my mind, coupled with the application of theoretical astrophysics to power the jump drive on board. A man made black hole within magnetic containment rings designed to bend space time. That’s just fucking cool, end of. Theres no deuterium or dilithium crystals on board the Event Horizon, oh no, just a black hole, the most destructive force in the universe. No worries then, right?

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I’m reliably informed, you’ll not need eyes to see in there mate, best poke em out now to save you the trouble later.

The ships construction genuinely makes sense, with the connecting corridor, separating the crew section from engineering and the warp core, but the architecture itself is amazing. It positively looms, instilling a palpable sense of foreboding before the crew of the Lewis & Clarke even disembark. Its hard to imagine a ship like the Event Horizon being flown by Jean Luc or Mon Mothma, it has a personality all its own, a 7th character almost, all imposing Gothic curvature and unfathomable brooding intent.

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If ever a ship had presence, then this is it.

Having always been interested in what’s beyond the veil, from my early teenage dabblings with Lovecraft, explorations into Enochian magik and more recent musings on what constitutes the Warp. To see a hole punched right through our plane of reality into something else by a man-made black hole on board a star ship, to my mind, this is it, mind blown, attention fully captured. The spells and incantations are mind bendingly complex equations, the binding rituals are magnetic fields built up in concentric rings, the candle lit cellar, the engineering section of a colossal space faring ship. This is all those more familiar aspects transposed to a brand new setting.

I believe the cinema version that was shown was an edited version, and even this wasn’t what was shown to audiences initially. The test cut had a different ending with absolutely no survivors, and the hell scenes were much longer and much more graphic. You can see an extended cut of the scene where the transfigured Weir shows Miller his crews intended suffering in the Second Containment on You Tube, this one was from the toned down version but still ended up on the cutting room floor. I think if that had been blasted into my 17 year old ocular nerves in 9m x 21m, I really would have walked, let lone the original reel.

The film itself didn’t do that well at the cinema, but has become a cult classic over the years, and there are rumours that the original cut has been found but is unlikely to see the light of day sadly due to it being on VHS. Some of the stills are here, be warned though they’re fairly grim. Its hardly surprising that cut sent the test audiences a bit west.

While there are detractors, and a lot of fair arguments about the film and its sleeve worn influences,  get off your horse, step back, look at the whole package and just appreciate it for what it is. The Event Horizon is a clever, bleak, genuinely frightening Sci Fi, with some excellent plot lines which will appeal to fans of the 30k & 40k universe and beyond. The film itself has certainly had a feedback influence on the lore and universe of 40k as its developed since. In fact, there’s also rumours that the retconned 40k Inquisitor movie was an unofficial sequel to Event Horizon which is floating about on-line somewhere.

The Event Horizon absolutely ruined me on first watch, and has, perversely, become a mild obsession since. I just wish there was an official kit of the ship I could buy.

 

8 thoughts on “Jagged Visions – Event Horizon

  1. I have a pretty similar relationship with that film. I saw it on TV when I was about 15 alone in the house and was expecting a Star Trekkie-esque galactic romp – not the harrowing grimness that followed! Infact, despite not watching it since that fateful evening, I can still recall several gnarly scenes with great clarity – being sucked into the void and bleeding out of your eyes has never felt so potentially real.

    May have to give this another watch and book a counsellor in advance,…

  2. That /fucking/ film. I watched that in a mate’s gamer-dungeon in Liverpool, about seven years back. Made my skin crawl but not watching it through was /never/ an option.

    So much of that is the stuff of which Realms of Chaos was made, too; stuff we’re weirdly comfortable with when we’re painting our Cultists or Sisters Repentia or Flagellants or Zombies, but the totality of atmosphere that you get from cinema reminds very quickly that this IS disturbing, it’s not the 32mm plastic cartoons that we faff around with. Movement and scale and light and sound add so much. Sit through it before you run a Black Crusade campaign and you’ll channel all that outwards and through. Inspiring doesn’t even touch it.

  3. This film scared the hell out of me when I watched it as a kid. Just thinking about it now puts me on edge. I remember my dad letting me and my yonger brother rent it from the local shop when it first came out.

  4. A solid article on a great movie Paul. I saw this alone at the cinema when it came out in a virtually empty decrepit flea pit in Margate called Dreamland Cinema. There were three other people in the picturehouse with me I think. The sense of isolation was intense in that place at the best of times but it took on a truly void like quality during my viewing of that movie. I have watched it many times since and it still manages to unsettle me. Something about it makes you realise how small and powerless humanity really is as it teeters on the brink of the abyss. Brilliant

  5. Agree so much with earlier comments and the post as a whole. Stumbled onto this one shortly after it came out. Just figured it would be some kind of space movie and the darkness of it surprised the hell out of me (but made it a far better film).

    Watched it again last year when I hadn’t seen it for years and sort of forgot again how dark and twisted the film got. Picked it up to watch for a low key Halloween get together and it did a number on a few folks (including my wife) who now don’t trust me when I say a film “isn’t that weird.”

  6. Makes my hallowmonth viewing list every year. LOVE this movie. If you want another great Sam Neil fright movie, check out In the Mouth of Madness. If you want another that’ll hit you hard and leave you thoroughly depressed, Repo! The Genetic Opera.

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