Gort vs The Black Dog: Lee Medcalf reviews Event Horizon

Commander's log, stardate 24082012.2:

After my mutinous crew had transplanted my brain into the body of a frog, as a further indignity, I had been captured by the Black Dog Armada and slung into their torture chamber, the Bunker of Shun. Just as I began to give up hope, I heard a click in the door lock. Preparing myself for more torture, I huddled into a corner. The Dark Lord Medcalf entered, with his henchman and professional lounge singer, Darron Diamond sparkling in the doorway, his sequins glinting in the dim light.

Lord Medcalf towered over my froggy form and once again pressed me to relent my evil B-movie celebrating ways. I bellowed that no amount of torture would ever cause me to surrender. With that, the Dark Lord's shoulders slumped.

"I know how hard it is," he muttered, "I too, once enjoyed films, but the more I watched, the less I could forgive their flaws; the more plot holes and bad effects began to haunt me. Eventually, I could no longer take another cheesy Michael Bay film and I set out to recruit the Armada to wipe out all the creators of these vile movies.  Okay, confession time, I am a movie snob. There! I’ve said it...!"

As he moved past me and began dramatically monologuing to the wall, I was shocked to see Diamond gesturing me out of the door. I hesitated for a second and then slipped out into the corridor as the lounge singer shut and locked the cell door.

"You're letting me go? Why?" I whispered.

"He made me watch Batman and Robin," he replied. 

I gave him a pitying look, thanked him and ran as fast as my froggy legs could carry me to the Black Dog Mothership's hanger bay. Stealing a fighter, I fled the ship and set course for my own Mothership orbiting Earth. I prepared to open a can of amphibian whup-ass on Gort and his Yoko, Helen Cox of New Empress magazine.

The time of reckoning was upon us. Meanwhile, the Dark Lord continued to rant, oblivious...

To be concluded!

Okay, confession time, I am a movie snob. There! I’ve said it! In doing so, I’m hopefully going to disarm 90% of the emails I get off the back of this review. The fact of the matter is: I have trouble just 'switching off' my brain, I find it pointless. Chances are, if you use the excuse about switching your brain off, it's because you know there are problems with a film.

Paul WS Anderson is, in my opinion, king of such movies. A director, so keen on things simply looking cool, he rips off every film he sees to achieve that aim, regardless of failings in the script, or even the acting he is supposedly directing. He is, the ultimate producer of 'brain off' movies, and I am most certainly not his biggest fan. Back in 1997, however, Anderson was not on my radar and so, based purely on the trailer, I went to watch his latest movie: Event Horizon. At the time, I found its dark, gothic stylings, its “Shining in Space” storyline and the acting all enjoyable. Still, something niggled me in the back of my young mind, something I couldn’t put my finger on.

A review for The Black Dog podcast highlighted the problems further and, in the end, I found myself loathing Event Horizon and the kind of carbon-copy, B-movie sub-genre it represented. The sets, beautiful though they were, were stylistically ridiculous (a disorientating meat grinder leading to the engine room? Really?). After all, if the ship looks like its been built by the Marquis de Sade to start with, then the fact bad things start happening feels like a foregone conclusion before so much as a demon has even howled down a corridor. The action was stilted, the direction slack and, if you removed every reference, in-joke and homage out of the script, the film would be about fifteen minutes long.

Event Horizon is a film that yearns to be Alien so badly; you can almost hear Anderson pausing the VHS of Ridley Scott's SF horror between takes on the soundtrack. Unlike Alien, however, Event Horizon is more interested in jumping straight to the action and being blatant about its intentions. Anderson's lack of restraint is by turns childishly enthusiastic and wildly irritating, if only from a wasted-potential perspective.

The drive to get the audience from one ominous moment or shock to the next, does, however, imbue the film with a carnival ghost train energy; and it's this attitude that rescues the film. Despite the blatant nature of the direction, the cast endeavors to lift the lacklustre, derivative script with enjoyable performances. From Lawrence Fishburn's emotionally-damaged captain to Sam Neill's scenery-chewing mad scientist, all of the cast seem to be having fun.

In the end, for me, Event Horizon still remains a marmite movie. If you’re willing to put up with Anderson copying far more accomplished movies and resist the urge to constantly criticize his lack of restraint, then Event Horizon is an enjoyable romp. In other words, if you’re a movie snob like me, just switch your brain off.