Event Horizon [Blu-ray Review]

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Starring: Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan, Joley Richardson, Jason Isaacs
Directed By: Paul Anderson

Running Time: 95 minutes
Ratings: CAN – 18A, USA – R, UK – 18

Back Cover

Its name: Event Horizon. The high-tech, pioneering research spacecraft mysteriously vanished, without a trace, on its maiden voyage seven years earlier. But a weak, persistent signal from the long-missing craft prompts a rescue team, headed by the intrepid Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne, The Matrix and Mission: Impossible III), to wing its way through the galaxy on a bold rescue mission. Accompanying Miller is his elite crew and the lost ship’s designer (Sam Neill, Jurassic Park); their mission is to find and salvage the state-of-the-art spacecraft. What they uncover instead is state-of-the-art interstellar horror. Kathleen Quinlan (Apollo 13) and Joley Richardson (TV’s Nip/Tuck) also star in this gripping sci-fi thriller.

Movie

It’s not too often that a film comes along that revolutionizes a genre. It’s even more rare that one manages to create its own. In its day, Event Horizon did such a thing in turning a fairly straight forward Science-Fiction premise into an intensely suspenseful psychological thriller/horror. Admittedly, it does reference some fairly well known predecessors; Alien and 2010: A Space Odessey being most notable. However, for this viewer, it didn’t rely on those references enough for it to be bothersome. I found them to be rather respectful nods to some great films.

I contribute the success of the to director Paul Anderson, screenplay writer Philip Eisner, and the entire cast for an exceptional team effort. This becomes clear when examining the final product by its very presentational demeanour. The team worked so well together that Paul Anderson was clearly able to focus on creating a thriller while allowing the cast and crew to bring the Science-Fiction variable into the equation. Anderson’s masterful use of lighting and camera angles in relation to plot development makes the viewer impartial to the fact that they are watching a film taking place in space. And that is where the film really stands out for me. I know that I could have enjoyed it just as much if it had been set on a sea vessel, and underwater research facility, or in a lab on the plains of Antarctica. And, of course, one cannot say that without acknowledging the work done by the cast.

As a rescue team the cast is suppose to be akin to a firefighter squad. From the onset of the film, the viewer has no reason to not believe that these characters have worked along side each other in threatening situations for years. They all trust each other implicitly and, subsequently, all put their trust in their captain. And Lawrence Fishburne does not disappoint as the man responsible for those lives. Kathleen Quinlan and Joely Richardson do their parts in playing both the tough as nails soldier types while simultaneously providing some good “hapless horror victim” performances, despite the juxtaposed nature of the two scenarios. And Jason Isaacs is always a pleasure to watch, no matter what the role. As for the most enjoyable performance of the film? That clearly goes to Sam Neill. His “scientist going mad” leaves nothing to be desired. For fear of ruining the story I cannot go into further detail about the performers and their performances. What I can say is that the ensemble was assembled like cogs were measured for a wheel, with extreme precision.

On the Blu-ray: Having written the review above, it should be noted that this film found itself part of an emerging genre when I first saw it in 1997. Watching it now conjures those memories and feelings that I had experienced back then. Had I not seen it when it was first released and only for the first time in 2009 with the Blu-ray release, my opinion would probably be of an entirely different nature. Those who visit the film for the first time in the present will most likely find it lacking in comparison to its future genre-mates. Most notably, films such as Solaris, Sunshine, Sphere, and Virus have since come along to do better work in creating the scare/thrill factor. Therefore, this film review must be understood to include the element of perspective as its foundation.

Crave Factor – 8

Extras

Commentary – Director Paul W.S. Anderson and Producer Jeremy Bolt give us their insights to the material they put together. They speak a lot about their influences for this film, a little about their experiences on set, and some occasional information that one would never expect to hear about. For example, I learned that Paul Anderson had turned down X-Men to make this film. I also learned that the Event Horizon ship itself was designed by deconstructing and playing with the Notre Dame cathedral. Of course, most of these details are also mentioned in the extras.

The Making Of Event Horizon (1:43:01 as ‘Play All‘) – 5 mini-documentaries combine to provide an incredibly in-depth version of the typical making-of extra feature. The material covers all of the staple topics (set design, make-up, visual effects, production, filming techniques, music, etc.). Where this differs from other features of its kind is that there is plenty of focus given to what it was like for the cast and crew to work together. Jason Isaacs gets plenty of opportunity to discuss his experiences in working with everyone. The overall impression that I was happy about regarding this extra is that it truly brings to life the idea that all of those names shown in a films credit roll are worthy of being recognized. All very interesting information, but it dragged on for a little bit too long.

The Point Of No Return (8:12 as ‘Play All‘) – 4 quick clips show some visual effects and film technique used in certain scenes. Also, we are treated to a candid clip of everyone celebrating Paul Anderson’s 31st B-day on set. Each clip is narrated by Director Paul Anderson.

Secrets (10:03 as ‘Play All‘) – A deleted briefing scene with optional narration by Paul Anderson and 2 extended scenes with unavoidable commentary by Paul Anderson. The briefing scene is quite good and should have stayed in the film. Hearing Paul Anderson explaining the scene is quite good too. The 2 extended scenes were also quite cool. Studio pressure ultimately kept the film from being “too gruesome.” I hate when studios don’t let the director do the job that they were hired to do.

The Unseen Event Horizon
Unfilmed Rescue Scene (2:57) – This 3 minute storyboard sequence was never actually filmed. Narrated by Paul Anderson, he explains that the scene was meant to introduce you to the crew in another rescue mission prior to the Event Horizon incident. He also explain the reasons that it was cut prior to filming commencing.

Conceptual Art (3:52) – Pre-production paintings and computer renderings depicting early design ideas for the film. And, get who has something to say about it all? Paul Anderson gives some select narration throughout.

Crave Factor – 8

Video

2.35:1 Widescreen / AVC

Paramount Pictures presents a rather impressive transfer in this Blu-ray release of Event Horizon. Colours are most noticeably enjoyable as the varying degrees of lighting sources don’t seem to affect them. The blood reds, firey oranges, LED lighting blues, and space tech greens all shine brightly through the mayhem. Most particularly, the skin tones never detract from the colour strength in the least. The film, taking place in deep space, has plenty of dark scenes in which to test the black detail levels. For the most part, the transfer doesn’t suffer much because of the atmosphere. There is some residual softness present in the blacks while on the Event Horizon ship itself. However, those scenes blend nicely with the rest of the print as only trained eyes seeking transfer problems would notice the differences. The only major noticeable blotch on the transfer is some banding that takes place during the dark scenes in the engine room of the Event Horizon. With low set lighting and harsh bright lights fluctuating on the core itself, the presence of rings surrounding the lights is almost unavoidable. Overall, the transfer is quite surprisingly good for a production of this nature.

Crave Factor – 9

Audio

Dolby TrueHD 5.1 / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English & Spanish)

The Dolby TrueHD track included on this release tends to be front heavy during intense moments where I wanted to feel surrounded by the environment. But, there are some nice uses of the surround field in the quieter scenes leading up to climactic moments. The audio range is fairly impressive with the treble and bass hits being pretty far reaching. Of particular note, the sound of fire in one scene is really beautiful. Where the track suffered was with the dialogue presentation. I found it to be weak in volume compared to the rest of the audio layers. In heavy action sequences I found myself riding the volume button very cautiously in order to both hear the words and the effects at the same time.

Crave Factor – 7

Menu

The main menu consists of a still frame matte painting image of the Event Horizon spacecraft orbiting around a planet while the rescue vessel approaches for docking with it. A small sample of the score plays overtop while the options menu is navigated at the base of the screen. The menu options themselves are laid out horizontally and are framed by a metallic design similar to that of the Event Horizon’s hull plating. The subsequent menus fade in and out very smoothly when called upon to do so.

The playback pop-up menu is of the same design as, and reacts exactly as, the main menu options menu.

Overall, a very simple design that serves its purpose. Could have used a little bit of glitz and/or glamour in my opinion, but at least it’s better than nothing at all.

Crave Factor – 7

Conclusion

For a film that was created without the concept of a DVD or Blu-ray release in mind, as well as the fact that it wasn’t a hugely successful commercial endeavour, Event Horizon certainly gets a respectable treatment from Paramount on Blu-ray. The video quality is above par with what anyone would expect from a film of its era. Some minor soft shot moments are present, but are never an intrusion. The audio has a rather annoying habit of being low in dialogue volume, but thankfully the heavy atmospherically charged scenes don’t have much important dialogue in them. Riding the volume button has never been easier. Lastly, the extra features definitely have plenty to offer those interested in knowing more about the project. Personally, I found them just a bit too long overall. I began to fade out after 1 hour and 35 minutes into the making-of feature with only 10 minutes remaining in it. Can’t say that this isn’t a Blu-ray worth picking up. However, I can say that the film itself will be much more enjoyable if taken into context the notion that it was one of the first mainstream Hollywood productions to be a quality Sci-Fi Suspense Thriller/Horror. By today’s standards it may come across as a bit bland. Nevertheless, I definitely recommend checking Event Horizon out. Whether you rent it or get it for a good price, it is still a good film in this reviewers opinion.

Overall Crave Factor – 8

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