Have you taken time to praise our lord and savior Paul W.S. Anderson today? For his truth and wisdom are great and mighty, and his camp polished and lively. For he…also made the Resident Evil movies, and that’s pretty cool, too.
Listen, I get it, Paul W.S. Anderson is not everyone’s cup of tea, and his recent outings haven’t been entirely convincing to anyone who isn’t already converted (I still do implore you to at least give Monster Hunter a chance). Yet, once upon a time in Hollywood, Anderson was the hot new kid on the block, snagging the chance to direct 1995’s Mortal Kombat after just one British indie film, Shopping, under his belt, in an age where indie directors were simply not given the reins to a franchise adaptation the way they are today (Colin Trevorrow, eat your heart out), and that caught Hollywood’s attention. For his follow up, Anderson sought out to direct an original film, originally snagging Soldier with Kurt Russell at the helm. When Russell requested a year for training from the studio, Anderson was free to make another film in the between time…that film was Event Horizon.
From there, Anderson, respected enough to have snagged a $60 million budget for an R-rated sci-fi horror film in 1997, but not experienced enough to have full creative control over his production or release, found a fair amount of his original vision tampered with. After screening the film for test audiences, both audiences and studio executives were shocked at how long and horribly graphic the film was, resulting in Anderson being asked to trim the film to a more manageable runtime with less gore. Further complicating matters was that in the midst of Paramount Pictures rescheduling Titanic, soon to be the world’s biggest movie, from July to December, Paramount needed a summer film, and Event Horizon was its ticket, reducing the standard 10 weeks for editing down to just four, once the second unit wrapped production. What followed was a rushed post-production process that ended up overly-edited, with hastily rendered visual effects.
And still, it’s one of the finest horror films of the past 25 years in its “inferior” form.
In 2047, a rescue team aboard the spaceship Lewis and Clark, led by Capt. Miller (Laurence Fishburne), are brought into the orbit of Neptune for a classified mission. They learn from Dr. William Weir, an engineer brought along with the crew, that Aerospace Command intercepted a distress signal from the Event Horizon, a research ship that went missing seven years prior while attempting inter-dimensional travel, a ship that Dr. Weir happens to be the designer of. When the crew reaches the Event Horizon, they find a deserted ship, the contents of which paint a horrifying picture of what lies beyond our dimension, one that will affect the crew of the Lewis and Clark in equally terrifying ways.
Event Horizon combines the best of sci-fi, horror, action, and mystery in one of the most successful genre hybrid films I’ve ever seen. Described as a “The Shining in space” by its writer, Philip Eisner, Event Horizon has a palpable haunted house quality that really does mix fabulously with the terrifying vastness that is space, as well as the seemingly endless creative opportunities to explore just how awful the world outside our known universe could be. There’s an intangibility to the horror that makes it different from something like Alien. You don’t know what you’re fighting, you just know it wants you dead. You can’t see what you’re running from, but it will kill you if you stop. There’s simply no place to hide. It’s everything and nothing, and, as the discovery of the previous ship’s experiences begin to become clear, you begin to wonder if you’re seeing Hell up close.
And the sheer audacity of the horror that Anderson places in front of you, but also equally within your own imagination, paints perhaps one of the grimmest, nastiest pictures I’ve ever had the displeasure of exploring in my own head. It’s borderline demonic, the cruelty on display here, and apparently the original cuts were much, much worse. Needless to say, I return to this film on a regular basis, and greatly wished for an extended cut with this new Blu-ray with all of that said footage.
One reason for my frequent returning is just how expertly crafted this film is. While the tight post-production schedule does show in the scenes involving CGI, these moments are few-and-far-between, with a vast majority of the film relying on practical effects and grand, expansive sets that I can only describe as “Cyberpunk-Gothic.” It’s some of, if not the best production design I’ve ever seen in a horror film, and should be studied by anyone looking to even breathe in the general direction of sci-fi. The work production designer Joseph Bennett and set decorator Crispian Sallis, as well as the dedicated construction crew put into building every single room as if it’s an all-metal gothic cathedral that doubles as a satanic altar is simply divine. It reminds me just how crucial physical spaces can be in not only creating visually appealing locations, but also completely enveloping, immersive locations where you can practically feel the air weighing you down, constricting you.
This is only furthered by the Shout! Factory Collector’s Edition Blu-ray, remastered from a 4K scan of the original camera negatives, downscaled to 1080p. Event Horizon arrives looking better than ever, but not afraid to really embrace its filmic roots. There is a healthy grain to the entire picture, free of glossiness or digital noise reduction. What little color there is pops off the screen in vivid detail, but perhaps what’s most impressive is the new transfer’s black level. In a film as dark and shadowy as Event Horizon, there can be a tendency to lose detail and become murky in the dark, but Event Horizon does nothing of the sort. Blacks are inky and rich, and contrast nicely with the often fluorescently lit Lewis and Clark. I would kill to see this transfer in true 4K, but this 1080p Blu-ray is reason enough to double dip if you already own the Paramount Blu-ray released in 2008.
Audio is also beautifully realized here. From the opening moments of the Paramount fanfare transforming to a vicious, sinister percussion-infused opening credits, it’s clear that Event Horizon isn’t here to mess around. While I would’ve loved to have gotten a Dolby Atmos mix with the new release, the newly mastered DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix does its job exceedingly well on its own. The name of the game is power, and this mix certainly has it. It’s why I’m not too terribly distraught over the lack of an Atmos track, as while the surround sound atmospherics are nicely tuned, the true star of the show is the bass track, expertly on display no matter the sound mix. Boisterous, screeching, and well-balanced, this is exactly what Event Horizon should sound like. Also included is a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track, which I would suggest for a more balanced sound from internal television speakers.
The biggest rumor that came along surrounding the release of a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray of Event Horizon was that the missing footage, thought to be lost forever, was recovered and was going to be assembled for the first time into a director’s cut. While I am a truther of this in the same way DC fans were with the Snyder Cut, such efforts did not pay off. Having shot on film, the unused elements of the film were lost to time, as physical copies of these scenes were lost to age and discardment. While a VHS was found around a decade ago with said scenes, it was rumored to be in such terrible shape that Anderson threw it away. Rumors suggest producer Lloyd Levin also owns a copy of said VHS tape, but also agrees it is unusable. Included in the special features are brief glimpses of cut footage, and I would also agree that I would rather it not be there than look the way it did and disrupt the film’s near-constant beauty.
But despite this, that is not to suggest that the special features, both new and grandfathered from the Paramount release, aren’t excellent in their own right. Included are new interviews filmed during COVID with director Paul W.S. Anderson, writer Philip Eisner, actors Kathleen Quinlan and Jack Noseworthy, production designer Joseph Bennett, and even more. Shout! Factory spared no expense in getting as many people involved with the film still willing to talk about it to do so on this release. Anderson’s interview was particularly enlightening, particularly in his thoughts on the post-production schedule and rumored “Director’s Cut.” Anderson holds no hard feelings towards the studio, understanding that spending millions of dollars of a studio’s money means being able to work with the timeline they give you, and that he understands why his film might’ve taken the backseat to Titanic in the eyes of the studio. A comforting thought was Anderson’s insistence that the original cut shown to test audiences (where some audience members fainted, reportedly) was not that good, given the shortened editing schedule. While he does admit the final 96-minute cut was overly edited in haste, he also states that a true “Director’s Cut” wouldn’t have changed much beyond some of the gorier scenes.
Put frankly, Event Horizon is one of the most dementedly effective sci-fi or horror film of the past 25 years that never got its day in the sun. Now, in a world that appreciates high art when they see it, Shout! Factory is giving the film the royal treatment it deserves. A fabulously faithful 4K transfer, powerful audio mix, and a bevy of special features with people gushing over their passion for the film is exactly what any discerning (or let’s just be real here, hungry) fan could want. There are a few things I wish would have received an uptick in just pure formatting of some things (a 4K release, Dolby Atmos, changing that cover art), but even without the Director’s Cut we all naively hoped for, this is an absolutely ace Blu-ray release deserving of all your attention, whether you’re a long time worshipper or curious about converting. Welcome to the church, baby.
Event Horizon Collector’s Edition Special Features
- Brand new 4K restoration of the film from the original camera negative
- Reflecting on Hell – an interview with director Paul W.S. Anderson
- Ghost Galleon – an interview with writer Philip Eisner
- Organized Chaos – an interview with actress Kathleen Quinlan
- Compassion in Space – an interview with actor Jack Noseworthy
- The Doomed Captain – an interview with actor Peter Marinker
- Space Cathedral – an interview with production designer Joseph Bennett
- Something New – an interview with set decorator Crispian Sallis
- Taking Care of It – an interview with production manager Dusty Symonds
- Reinforcements – an interview with second unit director Robin Vidgeon
- Almost Real – an interview with location manager Derek Harrington
- Screams from the Cosmos – an interview with sound designer Campbell Askew
Event Horizon Previously Available Special Features
- Audio Commentary with director Paul W.S. Anderson and producer Jeremy Bolt
- The Making of Event Horizon – a 5-part documentary
- The Point of No Return – a 4-part look at the filming of Event Horizon with narration by Paul W.S. Anderson
- Secrets – deleted and extended scenes with director’s commentary
- The Unseen Event Horizon – The un-filmed rescue scene and conceptual art with director’s commentary
- Theatrical Trailer
- Video Trailer
- Optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature
Available on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory March 23rd, 2021.
Final score: 4.5 out of 5.