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Blu-ray Review: Paul W.S. Anderson’s Event Horizon Joins the Shout! Factory

Barring the miraculous discovery of Event Horizon’s legendary cut footage, this will remain the film’s definitive home-video presentation.

3.5

Event Horizon

What if a spaceship went to hell? Event Horizon’s premise is a blast of pure pulp, and it’s one that Paul W.S. Anderson mines for all sorts of tawdry spectacle. The titular deep-space vessel, capable of faster-than-light travel, goes missing at the edge of the solar system before reappearing years later with no crew left on board. A second ship, the Lewis and Clark, is dispatched to retrieve the Event Horizon and determine what happened to its crew. It’s an admirably lean premise that’s matched by how succinctly the characters’ easily distinguishable traits are laid out, from Captain Miller’s (Laurence Fishburne) no-nonsense professionalism to the nervous energy of the Event Horizon’s designer, Billy Weir (Sam Neill), whose grief for his deceased wife threads a foundation of instability that festers in the vacuum of space.

Heavily edited down by Paramount and a flop upon release, only to become a cult hit on home video, Anderson’s follow-up to 1995’s Mortal Kombat is an at times ungainly mix of lugubrious pseudoscientific exposition and pure-id gore, yet it’s not hard to see why it has staying power. Balancing ambient dread with explosive, jump-scare jolts, the film is viscerally satisfying as a B movie while showing an aesthetic sophistication beyond many of its peers.

A meeting point between Alien’s looming, intricate production design and the freewheeling, surreal shlock of Hellraiser, Event Horizon careens from moments of creeping dread to overwhelming montages of stomach-churning brutality. The latter is most notoriously on display when Miller’s team finds video logs of the Event Horizon crew engaging in depraved acts of sex and mutilation. As whatever compelled the crew to literally tear themselves apart begins to infest the investigating characters, the action ramps up into nightmarish displays of fire surrounding people on torture racks, or possessed figures clawing out their eyes.

And yet, for all its chaotic imagery, the film doesn’t lack for scenes that are allowed to breathe. Though working with the sort of budget that John Carpenter could only dream of, Anderson’s kinship with the horror master is evident in his simple, geometrically oriented camera setups, which call attention to the Event Horizon’s lengthy corridors and the cool of its immense interior. Anderson is keenly attuned to the sheer incongruousness of the ship, which appears to have designed without human comfort and navigability in mind. That mixture of hyper-edited action and precisely composed establishing shots would define Anderson’s subsequent work. The filmmaker would likewise continue to explore themes pertaining to the collision between technology and unspeakable, unfathomable evil, making Event Horizon in some respects the film that certified him as an auteur after a string of gun-for-hire work.

Image/Sound

Paramount’s 2008 Blu-ray boasted an acceptable image and sound presentation, but Shout! Factory’s newly sourced 4K scan is a clear improvement. There are no specks or scratches on display, and while the image is a little soft in spots, namely at the edges of the anamorphic frame, this scan boasts sharper detail and significantly deeper black levels. Sound is likewise strong, with excellent spacing across all channels and clear and booming bass from the metallic groans of ambient noise and the low-end of Michael Kamen’s stabbing score.

Extras

A 2006 audio commentary with Paul W.S. Anderson and producer Jeremy Bolt is heavy on details about the film’s arduous editing process in the wake of contentious test screenings and the MPAA’s threat of an NC-17 rating, but the duo also makes room for warm remembrances of the actors’ and crew’s work. Copious new interviews from everyone from Anderson to the actors to various members of the production team cover nearly every aspect of the production, while an archival five-part making-of documentary offers a deeper dive into the film’s special effects and production design. There are also deleted scenes and concept art, but the holy grail of Event Horizon, the excised footage from Anderson’s original director’s cut, is sadly absent. Still, Shout! cannot be faulted for that, as they tried so hard to find the missing and long-lost footage that they even delayed this release on the mere rumor that it had been found.

Overall

Barring the miraculous discovery of the legendary cut footage, this is the definitive home-video presentation of Paul W.S. Anderson’s cult classic.

Cast: Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan, Joely Richardson, Richard T. Jones, Jack Noseworthy, Jason Isaacs, Sean Pertwee Director: Paul W.S. Anderson Screenwriter: Philip Eisner Distributor: Shout! Factory Running Time: 96 min Rating: R Year: 1997 Release Date: March 23, 2021 Buy: Video, Soundtrack

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