I'd heard quite a lot about Event Horizon for a few years but never got around to watching it, simply because of two words: Paul Anderson. This is the director of such epics as Resident Evil and Alien Vs Predator, but I was assured that this was his good film. As well as this, favourable comparisons were given between Event Horizon and this years fantastic gloom fest, Sunshine.
The first thing that hits you about the movie is the soundtrack: bookended by mid nineties rave songs, they do little to help build atmosphere or tension, unless you have a phobia of such things. The film quickly recovers when it actually begins, with shades of films like Alien and Solaris, the dark setting suggests that judging Mr Anderson on later works may have been the wrong thing to do. Just think, if you judged Woody Allen on "Melinda and Melinda", you'd probably never have watched "Annie Hall".
Sadly, this is definitely a film of two halves- first being brooding and sinister, providing the occasional jump and being generally quite sinister. There's a moment in the medi-lab that's like "The Shining" in space, which is as weird as it sounds. Despite the creeping tension, the film still seems reliant on the old tactic of scares: lower the volume, then raise it very quickly with a bang. It works, but these are only cheap shots mixed in with some far more disturbing imagery.
There are some nice ideas within the film, some presented rather well and some not so. The Dune-esque space folding drive, was well explained and opened the door for the scarier elements to arrive. Equally nice was the hallucinatory feel of the visions presented by the ship to the crew members, making them relive painful memories. However, the vision of hell doesn't make sense- suggested to be a dimension of "pure chaos", it only seems to be violence. Chaos suggests anything could happen, rather than just pure nastiness (perhaps it should have been called that). If it were said to be filled with energy, power or even consciousness, then this may have made more sense. In addition to the logic, it doesn't make sense how/why someone would try to embrace this new dimension.
The acting is generally quite decent for the most part, despite being saddled with some strange dialogue (On walking into an empty room, "This place is like a tomb". This must be one of those ones without coffins). However, it descends into a poorly thought out romp as the ship becomes a hell vessel. Terminal stupidity seems to infect the crew, causing them to be picked off in fashions where it is difficult to care- anyone with vague intelligence would be able to avoid the traps laid, but the idiotic characters walk straight into them with the numbing inevitability of death itself. Plus, the showdown near the end is so bad, it's almost worth putting it as a point of comic recommendation.
In some ways, I don't want to be too harsh as it is infinitely better than his later films, but this earlier effort is still grossly flawed. It's a shame, as the first half is actually really rather good too, but like many similar films it's let down by its own conclusion.