Opened: August 15, 1997 | Rated: R
"I created the Event Horizon to go to the stars, but she went much further than that. She went to another dimension -- a dimension of pure evil."
What kind of actor would read a script with dialogue like that and still take the part? A hungry actor would be my guess.
But in "Event Horizon," a pathetic, gratuitous gorefest posturing itself as the heir to the "Alien" sci-fi/horror throne, this line belongs to a Sam Neill, a perfectly good actor who gets steady work.
Neill plays a space engine physicist 50 years in the future. He designed a special warp drive that bends space so a ship can jump from one part of the universe to another, but in its first trial the test ship disappeared when it turned on the drive.
Seven years later the ship reappears in orbit around Neptune and Neill has been sent to retrieve it with a inexplicably small rescue crew.
Because the test ship was a secret, the crew doesn't know their mission until Neill explains it to them in a campfire story scene on the rescue ship's bridge, complete with startling music and foreboding lighting.
The rescuers include Laurence Fishburne, Joely Richardson and Kathleen Quinlan -- talented and busy actors who also were apparently having trouble making ends meet.
Once they reach the lost ship and find its crew splattered all over the walls, the rescuers pretty much start going nuts. Bloody mayhem ensues, accompanied by an endless barrage of generic computer-generated zero-gravity effects.
The best explanation we get for this sudden "Hellraiser"-type atmosphere is that the ship opened up a rift in space and has essentially traveled to hell and back. Now it's possessed and torturing anyone it can get its consoles on.
Each character takes turns hallucinating unnecessarily sickening flashes of gore -- loved ones bleeding rivers, bodies turned inside out and creepy crew members without eyes -- while spouting more horrible dialogue.
"Are you telling me this ship is alive?" and "The dark thing from the other side shows me things" are a prime examples.
When it's not slinging comic book copy, "Event Horizon" busies itself with the nonsensical trappings of its two genres.
Science fiction: Although these spaceships still use CB radios, they carry incredibly complicated flashlights. Horror: Why is the medical lab stocked with serrated cutting instruments the size of hand saws?
Exploiting the worst of these sci-fi and horror clichés at the same time, "Event Horizon" clearly spent millions on impressive sets (there's a captain's chair that would make James Kirk green with envy), but it only pays lip service to science.
Early in the movie Neill whinges on about the laws of physics, but later the ship depressurizes in the vacuum of space and the crew only gets a little short of breath. Toward the end, the ship drifts well into the atmosphere of Neptune, yet there is still no gravity.
Director Paul Anderson ("Mortal Kombat: The Movie") must have missed science class the day Newton's Laws were taught. But he clearly paid attention to every B-grade horror movie he ever saw, and he tries to milk every possible moment for maximum terror.
It doesn't work. Watching Sam Neill shave isn't scary no matter how ominous the accompanying soundtrack.
Writer Philip Eisner must have missed creative writing class all together. His script is burdened with huge gaps in logic and random bursts of the preposterous. Why does the missing ship's log show its captain warning the crew to save themselves in Latin, a language no one has spoken in 1,000 years?
With pitiable and ultra-serious performances, most of the cast, especially Fishburne and Neill, could use a few refresher courses themselves -- in drama.
"Event Horizon" is one of the worst movies of 1997.