Man, Netflix is a weird place. It offers so many options; so many things that I haven’t seen, and really want to, but what do I end up choosing after about 20 minutes of searching through their Instant Streaming selection? Something I’ve seen! Not just something I’ve seen, but something I’ve seen, probably, ten times or so. Seriously, I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s the comforting feeling of “not having to actually pay attention” that drives these decisions, as something new and unknown would pose a challenging viewing experience(I swear to god, Holy Motors, I will conquer you soon!). I mean, I’m not saying that this is the case 100% of the time, but it definitely makes up for more times than I’d like to admit. It’s not all bad, though, and leads me to revisit films that I haven’t seen since my teenage years. I’m always curious to see if the movies that I liked, or even loved, hold up to my slightly more discerning older grey matter. So, enter last nights choice of “something I’ve already seen,” Event Horizon.
If you were to say that Paul W.S. Anderson is one of the worst directors working today not too many people would argue with you. Honestly, it would take some serious “debate gymnastic”(Like, trained your whole life in Russia level of skill!) to convince most people otherwise. I’m not saying I disagree with this position, but I probably wouldn’t use the word “worst,” to be honest. Sure, he puts out some serious junk, but they are never so terrible that I can’t, at the very least, sit through them. What a lot of people tend to forget, or just ignore, is that the guy had a pretty promising early start. Seriously, his first major studio film was Mortal Kombat, and while that movie isn’t going to win any awards or anything, it’s still a pretty entertaining flick. I mean, you have to take it for what it is, but it’s by no means a total train wreck. No, that dubious honor was saved for the sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, but the less said about that the better(Just writing out the title led me to think more about it than I ever wanted to…). What I’m getting at is that this “dismissive” attitude may lead you to miss, or forget the time he almost made an honest to goodness great movie, Event Horizon.
I saw Event Horizon when it first came out in 1997. I was 11 years old, and in a moment of awesome parenting, my late father took me to the Northfield Drive-In for their end of the season “From Dusk Till Dawn” showing. Yup, pretty awesome night for little Shaun. 11 hours of movies; all of the big summer releases! Hell, even in my current “older Shaun” disposition, I would love this! Out of all the movies I watched that night, the only one I can distinctly remember is Event Horizon, which kind of makes sense. On a superficial level, this movie is “gang-busters.” The model work, set design, and pitch perfect atmosphere really are unforgettable. It made such a huge impact on me, and was one of the experiences that made me want to make films of my own. It was a visceral experience, and definitely creeped me out. I don’t know what it is about the idea of demons and weird logs of people screaming and speaking in latin that puts me off. Yeah, I get why it worked for me when I was 11, but even today I found myself a little perturbed.
Remember a little while ago, when I said the time he “almost made a good movie?” For about half of the movie’s running time, you are absolutely glued to the screen. There is such well created sense of dread, and impending doom that when the movie turns into a “by the numbers” monster movie, the level of disappointment is almost rage inducing(Yeah, I know. “Insert Hyperbole Here,” and all of that good stuff.). The set up is so good! It has characters that are likable, the fantastic before mentioned atmosphere, and a truly intriguing mystery. Ahhhh! It all purports something special, but the reality is of the mediocre variety. I mean, it never sinks to the level of “terrible,” but the very clear “missed opportunity” label hangs large and heavy.
In the ensuing 16 years since the first time I saw this movie, I’ve revisited it every few years, almost in the hope that something in me would have changed, and then the movie would just click for me, but to no avail, unfortunately. Considering the director’s later out put, it’s led me to think that maybe the success of the first half of Event Horizon has more to do with dumb luck, than a display of potential craft, and as soon as I’m about to write the movie off, over a decade later, news of an original cut surfacing hit the internet.
Apparently, this new found version of the movie clocks in at 130 minutes, as opposed to the theatrical’s paltry 96 minute version. If the reports are to be believed, the movie adds a bunch of “hardcore gore” stuff back in, and also a considerable amount of added characterization. Most of what I’ve read about this has pretty much just focused on the gore stuff, of note, the “orgy of destruction,” that explicitly shows what happened to the original crew. A lot of folks seem to think that the inclusion of this material would make for a better movie, but I have to disagree. What made this flick disappointing, to me anyways, had nothing to do with the “lack of visceral gore,” in fact it’s sparse use probably made it more effective, as it leaves your imagination to do a lot of the heavy lifting, and let’s be honest, you’re imagination is considerably more fucked up than anything that they could possibly show you. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think adding just these things would actually fix what was wrong with the last act of the flick.
The movie sets up a journey into your own personal hell, as apposed to some fixed idea of hell, and this is where the movie starts to lose me. So, I’m more excited about adding more meat to these characters, and learning more about them personally, as it would, in theory, further inform their descent into “hell.” Yeah, the added visceral gore, and nightmares would be “neat,” I guess, but I’m more interested in the fleshing out of the actual story, and not just the tearing of said flesh(You see what I did there! Oh, aren’t I precious.). Some extra characterization would add some much needed cohesion to the last act. As is, I think the movie does a pretty good job of getting me to like these people, and putting some more “back story,” or something, would just make their ultimate ends that much more impactful. Including all of the intended gore would certainly make for a more violent movie, but that doesn’t mean it would make it a better movie.
Also, I’m curious if the recently discovered cut maintains the film’s original ending, wherein Morpheus comes face to face with someone from his past, rather than turning Dr. Grant into a cliched monster, and then having a fist fight with him. The original ending makes a whole lot more sense in context to what this film was setting up. A “psychological horror” movie – not a monster movie – that deals with, like I said before, “personal hell.” The theatrical ending is a borderline betrayal of what comes before it, and completely misses the point.
So, in closing, I’ve always wanted to like Event Horizon without caveats, and it looks like I may get my chance. Well, I’m not going to get excited, or anything, but I’m definitely interested. Getting older kind of sucks, sometimes. If only I could go back to the mind set of “11 year old Shaun;” back in the old days, a time of innocence, where I was happy with the movie the way it was. Alas, these kind of thoughts are for naught. THEY ARE FOR NAUGHT!