If Paul WS Anderson is known for anything, it’s probably for being the director of numerous video game movie adaptations. From 1995’s delightfully cheesy Mortal Kombat to his long-standing association with the Resident Evil movie franchise and, more recently, 2020’s Monster Hunter movie, these projects are his most recurring signature as a filmmaker. Perhaps the most interesting and secretly influential film in his repertoire, however, is completely separate from that pattern: the 1997 space horror flick Event Horizon, which just celebrated its 25th anniversary on August 15.
While known as a cult classic today, Event Horizon was not a critical or financial success upon its initial release, earning largely negative reviews Y box office bombshell. Despite these obstacles, Event Horizon found enough of an audience over the years to continue to be a part of the pop culture landscape. There’s even a TV series based on the movie. apparently under development. So why has Event Horizon endured? Is it just that the movie got a bad shake up at the beginning? That’s part of it, but the circumstances of the film’s release and how it affected the rest of the space horror genre suggests a multi-layered response.
Namely, I’d argue that the initial flop of Event Horizon bears much of the responsibility for the dearth of space horror films afterward, and its legacy lives on, at least in part, because there are so few subsequent films that address the same themes and ideas. . How did this happen? We’ll see.
hell is just a word
Event Horizon isn’t a perfect movie, but the elements that have instilled affection for it in the hearts of sci-fi horror fans tend to be the ones that are readily visible. The gothic architecture of the titular ship’s design is haunting and evocative. Laurence Fishburne and Sam Neill bring a lot of credibility to the proceedings in fun, pulpy roles. The gory effects and horror sequences are so memorable that movie fans have discussed a hypothetical (sadly impossible) director’s cut for a quarter of a century. Whatever Event Horizon’s issues may be in script and tone, it delivers what counts in the areas that help turn initially-ignored genre fare into watch-at-home staples. With a reported budget of $60 million and backing from a major studio like Paramount, it was also one of the only space horror films to have significant production value at the time.
While the conventions of a story about a crew trapped on a starship and killed by some kind of cosmic terror are common knowledge, it’s important to remember that such movies weren’t common themselves. The blueprint for that kind of movie was firmly codified in 1979 by Alien, but other than the Alien sequels themselves, horror movies actually take place in space (not horror movies with alien antagonists set on Earth, like Invasion of the Body Snatchers or John Carpenter’s The Thing) tended to be cheaply produced and were not widely seen Alien knockoffs like Galaxy of Terror in 1981 or Creature in 1985. The only other big-budget example of that era is the movie from Tobe Hooper’s 1985 space vampire Lifeforce, but even that film is only in space for a short time, with most of the action set on Earth. Event Horizon has a recognizable cast, but it was the first major Alien sequel that wasn’t actually part of the Alien franchise in eighteen years.
The alien movies in chronological order
Event Horizon also stood out for what its threat really is: not an alien monster chasing the crew around the ship, but the ship itself, which has been affected by a trip to another dimension that, if not literal hell. , is analogous enough. it. How this actually works is left up to interpretation, but Event Horizon (the ship, not the movie) seems to have some kind of consciousness that allows it to instill nightmarish visions in the people on board, and turns Dr. Weir (Sam Neill ) into a murderous maniac who wants to take the surviving crew to the hell dimension. While these are some of the reasons the film is viewed favorably by many now, Event Horizon owes as much, if not more, of its legacy to being poorly received upon its initial release.
trapped in space
According to Anderson himself in the film audio commentaryPost-production on Event Horizon suffered from severe problems, from a truncated editing schedule to disastrous test screenings, resulting in a film that lost a significant portion of its total finished product footage. The extended gory sequences, seemingly no longer recoverable, have garnered near-mythical status among fans of the film, particularly as the final version of the film feels like it was hacked within an inch of its life at its runtime. current 96 minutes. It’s impossible to know if a bunch of extra-violent footage would have improved its reception. What it is What is known is that Anderson and company did not have time to refine the editing of the film to their satisfaction.
Torn between a studio that seemed to have lost faith in the product and a director who didn’t have adequate time or support to bring his vision fully to life on screen, Event Horizon was released in 1997 to average reception. Given that it was a high-profile studio release, Event Horizon’s critical and financial failure no doubt had a significant impact on anyone’s ability to get a similar type of movie greenlit at a decent budget level immediately afterward. This effect was only doubled by the lowest point in the Alien franchise, Alien: Resurrection, which was released the same year. Event Horizon may have gotten a second wind on home video, but that doesn’t change the fact that when you look at how infrequently movies of the same ilk were released in the decades since, it’s easy to trace the space horror genre’s stagnation back to 1997.
When it comes to non-alien space horror movies released by major studios, some of the other examples that fit the bill include 2000’s Pitch Black, 2007’s Sunshine, 2017’s Life, and 2018’s The Cloverfield Paradox. Supernova or Ghosts of Mars, but those are more action movies than horror movies. Beyond this mere handful of examples, no movies comparable to Event Horizon have been released by studios in the 21st century. One of the only other notable space horror films of the past two decades, 2009’s Pandorum was released without major studio backing and was actually co-financed by Anderson’s own production company, Impact Pictures. Looking at the sorry state of the genre over the last 25 years, one could easily assume that space horror isn’t “in”. However, Event Horizon’s lasting legacy and impact on other media suggests otherwise.
Event Horizon created a paradigm where it was hard to put another movie like it on the market, but that paradoxically meant that it has received a lot of attention as one of the only movies in existence dealing with its subject matter. Cosmic horror may not be in multiplexes every weekend, but given Event Horizon’s continued relevance, there’s clearly an audience that’s still hungry for it. We already mentioned how the film did well on home video and generated enough interest to put a television adaptation in development. Event Horizon has remained in the popular imagination long enough to be recently mentioned in Thor: Love and Thunder, and more substantially it was also one of the main inspirations for the critically acclaimed Dead Space video game series.
That last example shouldn’t be discounted even if it’s not in the same artistic medium. Ben Wanat, the production designer on Dead Space 1 and 2 and creative director on Dead Space 3 may have quoted Resident Evil 4 as the main inspiration of the development team from a game design standpoint, but Event Horizon’s fingerprints are all over the games. From the similar architecture of the ship’s internal layout, to the flesh-and-bones mold spreading across the walls, to the hallucinations of deceased loved ones inciting the characters, Dead Space borrowed handsomely from Event Horizon and was rewarded for it with high critical praise and enough financial success to justify two direct sequels, multiple animated film and print book spin-offs, and even a next remake. Say what you will about Event Horizon; Horror media of your specific flavor can be absolutely profitable.
In a way, the most poetically tragic thing about Event Horizon’s legacy is the way its complicated effect on its own genre mirrors its production problems. The full vision of what Anderson wanted Event Horizon to be will never exist again, and the version we currently have is loved by horror fans both for the hypothetical movie they imagine it could have been and the committed, albeit compelling, film. which it actually is. . Exploring the terrifying unknowability of what we might find in space is full of cinematic potential, but Event Horizon isn’t working as well as its reassessment suggests it might have under better circumstances, which means other attempts at the same concept are few and far between. distant from each other. We may never see what Anderson originally intended for his space horror saga, but hopefully soon its lasting impact on popular culture will lead to someone else picking up the slack, so it’s no longer one of the only movies of this type.
Carlos Morales writes Mass Effect novels, articles, and essays. You can follow his postings on Twitter.