The future: the top secret experimental spacecraft Event Horizon has reappeared after mysteriously vanishing on its maiden voyage a few years ago. It was testing a new engine that enabled it to travel faster than light by slipping into another dimension as a shortcut to its destination, essentially folding space to make the distance between two points far shorter - could this have been the reason that, as the crew of the rescue vessel Lewis and Clark discover, no one is left aboard the Event Horizon? If so, what happened to the vanished pioneers - and will it happen again?
This sci-fi shocker, written by Philip Eisner, is one of those films that give you a sense of deja-vu even if you've never seen it before. Essentially a haunted house story in space, the doomed Event Horizon is drifting in the upper atmosphere of Neptune, which renders the effect of a dark and stormy night all around, complete with thunder rumbling and lightning flashing, as if this were an old thirties B-movie. Nothing really shakes that derivative feeling while you're watching it, but the good cast make it acceptable, and it could have been said to have ushered in a reignition of some science fiction and horror tropes afterwards, despite not being a hit of any great substance.
The titular ship is alive with evil, in the manner of the hotel in The Shining, and also makes the crew of the rescue mission suffer hallucinations. The astronauts are similar to the one in Alien, and in the same, slasher flick way are picked off one by one in nasty ways. The Event Horizon creates its own black hole to travel, which apparently leads to Hell itself, just like in the movie, yes, The Black Hole ("The most destructive force in the Universe," as one character echoes - though Interstellar lifted this film's piece of paper and pencil demonstration of folding space to travel, so fair enough). The results of the haunted ship may remind you of Hellraiser as the Clive Barker resonances were deliberate... and so on.
The characters' hallucinations, at least the ones we see, are connected to the guilt they feel about their lives, so Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne) is tormented by leaving a crewmate to die in an accident some years before, and Weir (Sam Neill), the architect of the ship's engine, can't get over the suicide of his wife, which may be connected to his eventually showing up billions of miles across the solar system to be part of this mission. Peters (Kathleen Quinlan) seems to be guilty about leaving her disabled son only for a direct copy of the "Donald Sutherland chasing about Venice" sequences of Don't Look Now: director Paul W.S. Anderson was nothing if not blatant about his references though they did contribute to the heartless atmosphere of an impending Hell.
The humans are being punished, not only to exploit their consciences, but for going too far - yes, they've meddled in things Man was not meant to meddle with. By acting like Godlike beings and achieving the impossible, they are facing the consequences of an infernal wrath and being sent to Hell. While the film is great to look at, with its intricate production design conjuring images of tombs and crucifixes, and there is no extraneous plotting such as romance to bog things down, there really aren't any surprises here (other than the cliché shock cuts and sudden noises, of course). This was likely down to the studio re-editing the film before it was released, cutting out scenes that were reportedly so violent they made test audiences balk and ruined the commercial prospects of the effort, thus toning down what would have been more intense and Barker-esque. Not that it was a big success, though a cult following did endure afterwards. Alas, after teasing us for years with the possibility of a restored version, Anderson finally admitted the missing footage probably no longer existed. Music by Michael Kamen and Orbital (a curious combination).