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Hey. It’s Halloween and Event Horizon is streaming on Hulu right this moment. You know what to do.
Or do you? Event Horizon hit theaters more than 20 years ago, in 1997. It tanked spectacularly, earning less than half its reported $60 million budget during its theatrical run. Despite boasting a cast that included a post-Jurassic Park Sam Neill and Laurence Fishburne in his prime, the movie just didn’t land.
Not at first, anyway. Event Horizon has matured over the years into a cult favorite. Watching it now, it’s not hard to see why.
The story, from first-time screenwriter Philip Eisner, follows the crew of a rescue ship as they investigate a distress signal. A long-missing ship called “Event Horizon” has apparently popped up in orbit around Neptune, and it’s in danger of crashing into the planet before anyone can figure out what happened.
The Event Horizon set off in 2040 on a mission of exploration, carrying humans out of our solar system and off to the neighboring Alpha Centauri system for the first time. Its journey was to be powered by an experimental, black hole-generating engine that works by linking two distant points in space, designed by one Dr. William Weir (Neill).
The Event Horizon disappeared, only to re-emerge seven years later near Neptune with the planet’s gravity pulling the ship down to its slow but certain destruction. So the crew of the “Lewis and Clark” sets off, with Weir in tow, to figure out what’s going on and hopefully save the ship and the people aboard.
The horror ends up in a place that isn’t so far off from Hellraiser.
There’s one more, important detail: The Event Horizon was rediscovered in the first place only because of a distress signal that consists of loud, seemingly inhuman screaming. Definitely nothing wrong here!
Needless to say, it’s not a great time for the Lewis and Clark crew. The story that follows charts their journey to the lost ship, where they discover brutalized corpses and more questions than answers. What killed these people? How is the black hole drive still running? What really happened to the crew member who was pulled inside the drive and rescued alive, but in a catatonic state?
What initially feels like a haunted house in space starts to transform as answers surface and the situation grows more dire. It happens slowly, with the worst horrors not surfacing until the final act. But early on, creepy imagery pops up again and again in the form of hallucinations, and we’re just along for the ride as the Lewis and Clark crew grapples with their apparent descent into madness.
The horror ends up in a place that isn’t so far off from Hellraiser. Event Horizon isn’t quite as gory as that comparison suggests (though it’s not exactly shy about bloodletting), but it leans in on unsettling body horror with apparent glee. The most graphic visuals flash tend to flash by quickly, but the editing is great at leaving just enough time to let your imagination fill in all the horrible blanks.
Just be sure to temper your expectations going in. I adore Event Horizon and will shout its merits to the heavens, but it’s also inescapably a B-movie. The dialogue is downright laughable at times and Paul W.S. Anderson’s direction doesn’t do much to elicit any highlight performances. It’s the arresting visuals hearkening back to H.R. Giger’s Alien designs, the sky-high creep factor, and the super effective jump scares that keep you watching.
Also, Neill. His performance is the lone standout. This is exactly the kind of role he seems to relish, especially as shit gets increasingly weird. I guess you could call him the story’s villain, but the reality is more complex than that. Nuance isn’t something Event Horizon ever really flirts with – this is a silly movie! – but its particular flavor of over-the-top is well-suited to Neill’s range as an actor.
I don’t know what else to tell you. Go watch Event Horizon. Discover the heaping piles of cheese and weirdness that helped turn this classic flop into a cult hit. Happy Halloween!
Event Horizon is now streaming on Hulu, as of Oct. 2019.