Friday, August 24, 2012

Logorrhea in space: Event Horizon (1997)

Event Horizon (1997) is a supernatural science fiction movie. This is a fairly rare thing, and I really appreciated that the movie doesn't try to explain away the supernatural elements as simply being alien technology that is advanced beyond our understanding. Unfortunately that is just about the only thing the movie doesn't explain. I don't understand why movies insist on having characters act like everybody they work with needs someone to describe how basic shit works.

"You have to be in this stasis module during transport, doctor, otherwise your body wouldn't be able to withstand the sudden acceleration and your bones would liquify,"

"Oh yes, that is super gross, and it is even grosser if I mention that I've seen the effect on mice somehow, even though I'm acting like I need this all explained to me. Also, I design spaceships and don't know how they work I guess?"

I do like Event Horizon, despite the fact that it thinks I am an idiot. There are some genuinely creepy images throughout, many of them involving people with empty eye sockets saying unsettling things to their loved ones. And there are moments that veer from creepy to gross, like they belong in a grindhouse version of Solaris. And the sets are all really attractive. They've taken the run-down aesthetic of spaceships from ALIEN and splashed blood and guts all over the wall. They've replaced H.R. Giger designed backdrops with something more fitting to Hellraiser. And it works. We're dealing with unknown evil from beyond space and time, here, and (aside from some cheesy late 90s CGI) the movie looks the part.

But I wish they had spent as much time on refining the dialogue as they did on the sets and makeup. There are some good actors involved here, Laurence Fishburne and Sam Neill leading a cast of familiar ragtag-team types like Richard T Jones and Sean Pertwee, and they have all been given absolutely idiotic things to say all the time.

"Ah, now that we're awake I should tell you all why we're here, because (like always) a group of professional spaceship crew have agreed to go to the edge of the galaxy without knowing what the mission is. Well, we're here looking for the spaceship named Event Horizon, and..."

"Like the movie's title?"

"Yes! Yes, exactly. Well, this is all classified Code Black by the NSA which sounds pretty cool even though I am not sure why the NSA has space-jurisdiction, but the Event Horizon was actually on a super secret mission a decade ago to test a new kind of faster-than-light-travel engine that I probably invented. Everything was going really super well, but then they turned the engine on and vanished and I guess we just gave up on the whole "faster-than-light-thing" and forgot all about the billion dollar spaceship until we received this distress call."

*plays a tape of insane demon screaming sounds with maniacal chanting*

"So that's why I've brought you all across the solar system. Those insane demon sounds there, which apparently don't freak me out. Also, I should say, it sounds like no known human language and I should know. I went to space university."

"Wait, play it again," the ship's trauma doctor says.

*more screaming*

"That sounds like... Latin? Could it be Latin? Is that a language creepy demon screams ever use?" he asks.

"Lat... Latin? I'm not sure what word you're even saying to me right now," Sam Neill replies, bewildered and afraid.

"Play it again, I will try and translate it because that's my other skill I have."

This is a movie that would be ten times better if people would just be quiet for a bit and let us be creeped out by the atmosphere. It is already pretty creepy that the naked lady has no eyeballs. We don't really need the mechanic screaming, "You messed with the laws of physics. Did you really think there wouldn't be a price?" And yet it winds up being the best line in the movie.

Throughout the whole movie, he's the only character who acts rationally and doesn't immediately believe the hallucinations are real. ("My six year old son? Heck, what's he doing here? I thought he was on the other side of the solar system. I better follow him down this creepy corridor and not get killed.") It's like he's a character from a completely different movie, where people make sense.

So maybe it's foolish to wish Event Horizon had better dialogue. There's a very distinct pleasure to a movie this stupid and gory, and it is pretty hilarious to have a character scream the movie's theme in an angry panic. Why don't all movies do that? They might as well have had creepy eyeless Sam Neill turn to the camera right at the end and say, "I guess that really was [PAUSE FOR EFFECT] an Event Horizon."