Combining elements of Alien, The Shining, and Hellraiser, Event Horizon (1997) boasts impressive production design and special effects, a first-rate cast of character actors, and a number of creepy, gross-out moments, but ultimately, the film never really goes anywhere. After all the built-up promise for something really mind-blowing, the film eventually becomes a violent action piece in which one character goes crazy and starts killing the others.
Seven years after mysteriously disappearing, the spaceship the Event Horizon has appeared near Neptune in the year 2047. The crew of the spaceship Lewis & Clark are sent on a rescue (the crew includes Laurence Fishburne as captain, Joely Richardson, Sean Pertwee, Jason Isaacs, and Kathleen Quinlan). Along for the ride is Dr. Weir (Sam Neil), the scientist who designed the Event Horizon to be able to open black holes to travel anywhere in the universe instantaneously. They find the crew of the Event Horizon dead and mutilated. The ship, in its maiden voyage through a black hole, traveled somewhere evil and brought something back.
There seem to be two camps regarding Event Horizon: those who hate it and say it made no sense and those who love it and say the people who didn't like it just didn't understand it. I'm somewhere in the middle. Characters are thin, but the actors do well with them, particularly Neil; they feel like an actual starship crew (even if they require layman's term to understand the physics behind the Event Horizon).
The film wisely hints at the horror the Event Horizon is capable of: one of eternal torment and damnation. The interiors of the ship are suitably Gothic and macabre. I liked the recording of the Event Horizon's, with the voice speaking in Latin intermixed with the sound of chaos; that was creepy. The shots of outer space are up there with those from Alien in terms of creating a feeling of lonely isolation and vulnerability.
Unfortunately, once the movie introduces the idea of a black hole as a gateway to hell, it doesn't do much with it. The characters begin hallucinating in obvious manners (family back home, dead comrades, etc.), and since the characters don't have much development, instead of being haunting, these visions function as cheap shocks. Then one character - I won't say who, but you can guess from the plot summary - becomes possessed or goes crazy and starts picking off the others in gruesome ways. After an effective build up, the films spends most of the second half spinning its wheels until its get to this point.
In the end, Event Horizon is an ambitious but empty thrill ride. It's derivative to a degree, but it's creepy and tense when it needs to be. It effectively balances the sci-fi and horror genres and features first-class production values and cast, but I kept waiting for it to take me somewhere I had never been before.