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'Event Horizon' should have been lost in space

Images from 'Event Horizon'

From Reviewer Paul Tatara

(CNN) -- I don't know when it happened, but at some point it must have become proper etiquette to let movie plots, and I use the term loosely, degenerate into utter head-scratching chaos by the last reel.

I think I've seen more films in 1997 than I have in my entire life that (good, bad or indifferent) eventually seem to go stark-raving mad, as if information has accumulated to the point that the writer and director can no longer cope with it. "Event Horizon" is the latest entry in this new genre. Things fall apart so badly it's like watching a zero-gravity version of "Scenes from a Marriage."

vxtreme Event Horizion: movie trailer

The year is 2047. Everything is in outer space, and it's all rusty. A scientist, played by Sam "Don't Smile When You Say That" Neil, has gone aboard a massive space vessel to guide its disgruntled crew through a top secret mission.

The crew, like many other things in the movie, seems to be lifted from the first two "Alien" films. You've got the grim-faced commander (Lawrence Fishburne), the tough-as-nails woman (Kathleen Quinlan), the more overtly brainy woman (Joely Richardson), the wise-cracking black guy and one lesser crew member who can immediately be pinpointed as soon- to-be-chum for some grotesque alien entity.

The ship itself even looks like somebody managed to steal the sets from the first "Alien" when Ridley Scott wasn't looking. Everything is white, but dirty, and the engines hum like they're on a transcendental-meditation binge.

Neil is in search of a technological marvel of a ship that he designed called The Event Horizon. It was sent on a mission to the outer edges of the galaxy seven years ago, and suddenly disappeared.

Crew in distress -- boy, are they

Recently, however, a distress signal has been received from its crew. (In this kind of movie, crews are either actually in distress before your very eyes, or way-out-thar somewhere, signaling their distress.) Everyone is put into a deep sleep as they travel toward the signal -- just like "Alien" -- and I'll try not to say that anymore.

When they finally reach the ship, the crew is found in assorted pieces, or else smeared all over the control panels like People Brand peanut butter. I guess they weren't kidding about that distress signal. Something or someone has done them in, and, of course, there's an explosion that forces our heroes to abandon their own ship and hop onto the creepy one.

I will say that all of this looks just great. The special effects are dazzling, almost beautiful. They're not the usual sort of monotonous explosions and strobe lights you would expect. In fact, the look of the movie had me hoping for a while that something cool was going to happen, and it did, when the air conditioner in the theater turned on.

Clip from the movie "Event Horizon"
video icon 1.5 MB/38 sec. QuickTime movie

After a while, crew members start hallucinating, seeing things like their Earthbound children and wives walking around the ship in various states of, you guessed it, distress.

Come to find out, Neil had enhanced The Event Horizon with the ability to "fold space," so it can travel in time by simply passing through a hole in the atmosphere. The reason I won't say that this was stolen from "Alien" is because it was stolen from "Dune," and I'm not even a fan of this genre. I can only imagine what the space buffs think.

Nightmares happen

Apparently the ship traveled off the map at some point, and came back as a living entity that is pure evil, and will do anything it can to give its new inhabitants the mega-willies. Richardson's character actually guesses that this is what's going on, which is a significant achievement in deductive logic.

So the ship knows their deepest fears. This is when everything really starts going nuts, with a variety of gross hallucinations and Clive Barker-like attacks taking place for the next hour or so.

People fall from great heights and smash their heads, or have their insides yanked out. By the time Neil turned into a no- eyed monster thingy, I couldn't wait to get home, forget the whole goofy affair, and listen to the Beatles.

A lot of first-class actors wasted a few months of their lives working on this, so there must have been something interesting about the original script. Too bad that part didn't make it into the film.

Fishburne seems perturbed throughout, like Ike Turner in a bulky space suit. Quinlan and Richardson are both just fine, but you really have to think that they would just as soon let this one sink from view. I'm sure they're sending their agents distress signals as I write this.

"Event Horizon" contains female nudity, eyeballs getting poked, space vomiting, a smattering of bad language and a splattering of human beings. Some of it is truly nauseating, but nowadays, what isn't? Don't worry, it's not you. It really doesn't make any sense. Rated R. 97 minutes.

 
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