We Still Need More Space Horror – Aumag The Talks Today

If Paul WS Anderson is known for anything, it’s probably for directing numerous video game adaptations. From 1995’s delightfully cheesy Mortal Kombat to his longtime association with the Resident Evil film franchise and most recently the 2020 Monster Hunter film, such projects are his most recurring signature as a filmmaker. Perhaps the most interesting and secretly most influential film in his repertoire, however, departs entirely from that pattern: the 1997 space horror film Event Horizon, which just celebrated its 25th anniversary on August 15th.

Although Event Horizon is known as a cult classic today, it was neither a critical nor a financial success upon its initial release, and predominantly negative reviews and bombing at the ticket office. Despite these obstacles, Event Horizon found enough of an audience over the years that it has continued to be part of the pop culture landscape. There is even one TV series based on the film apparently under development. So why has Event Horizon passed? Is it just that the movie got a bad shake at first bat? That’s part of it, but the circumstances of the film’s release and how it influenced the rest of the space horror genre suggest a multi-layered answer.

To wit, I’d argue that Event Horizon’s initial failure bears much of the responsibility for the lack of space horror films afterward, and its legacy endures at least in part because there are so few subsequent films that tackle the same themes and ideas. How did this happen? Let’s see.

Every Sci-Fi Movie Ever Nominated for Best Picture

Hell is just a word

Event Horizon isn’t a perfect film, but the elements that have instilled love for it in the hearts of sci-fi horror fans tend to be the ones that are readily apparent. The Gothic architecture of the titular ship’s design is haunting and evocative. Laurence Fishburne and Sam Neill bring a ton of credibility to the proceedings in funny, chunky roles. The gore effects and horror sequences are so memorable that a (sadly impossible) hypothetical director’s cut has been debated by film fans for a quarter of a century. Whatever Event Horizon’s issues are in script and tone, it delivers where it counts, in the areas that help transform initially ignored genre fare into homegrown fare. With a reported $60 million budget and the backing of a major studio like Paramount, it was also one of the only space horror films to have significant production value at the time.

While the conventions of a story about a crew trapped on a spaceship and being slaughtered by some kind of cosmic terror are common knowledge, it is important to remember that such films were not common per se. The template for that type of film was firmly codified in 1979 by Alien, but apart from Alien’s own sequels, horror films actually found themselves in space (not horror films with alien antagonists set on Earth, like Invasion of the Body Snatchers or John Carpenter’s The Thing). tended to be cheaply produced and not commonly seen Alien knock-offs like 1981’s Galaxy of Terror or 1985’s Creature. The only other big budget example from that era is Tobe Hooper’s 1985 space vampire film Lifeforce, but even that film is only in space for a short time, with most of the action taking place on Earth. Event Horizon has a recognizable shape, but it was the first major follow-up to Alien that wasn’t actually part of the Alien franchise for eighteen years.

The Alien movies in chronological order

Event Horizon also stood out because of what its threat actually is: not an alien monster chasing the crew around the ship, but the ship itself, which has been affected by a trip to another dimension that, if not literal hell , is analogous enough to it. How this actually works is left up to interpretation, but the Event Horizon (the ship, not the movie) appears to have some form of consciousness that allows it to instill nightmarish visions into the people on board, making Dr. Weir (Sam) Neill) to a murderous maniac who wants to bring the surviving crew back to the Hell dimension. While these are among the reasons the film is well-regarded by many now, Event Horizon owes just as much, if not more, of its legacy to being poorly received upon initial release.

Stuck in space

According to Anderson himself on the film’s audio commentary, Event Horizon’s post-production was seriously fraught, from a truncated editing schedule to disastrous test screenings, resulting in a film that lost a significant portion of its total footage from the finished product. The seemingly unsalvageable extended gore sequences have generated an almost mythical status among the film’s fanbase, especially since the finished version of the film feels like it’s been hacked to within an inch of its lifespan in its current 96-minute runtime . It’s impossible to know if a lot of extra violent footage would have improved the reception. What is what is known is that Anderson and company did not have time to polish the film’s editing to their satisfaction.

Event Horizon’s critical and financial failure undoubtedly had a significant impact on anyone’s ability to get a similar type of film greenlit on a decent budget.


Between a studio that seemed to lose faith in the product and a director who didn’t have enough time or backing to fully bring his vision to the screen, Event Horizon was released in 1997 to middling reception. Considering it was a high-profile studio release, Event Horizon’s critical and financial failure undoubtedly had a significant impact on anyone’s ability to greenlight a similar type of film at a decent budget level in its immediate aftermath. This effect was only doubled when the low-end of the Alien franchise, Alien: Resurrection, was released the same year. Event Horizon may have gotten a new lease of life on home video, but that doesn’t change the fact that when you look at how rarely films of the same type were released in the decades that followed, it’s easy to trace the stagnation of the space horror genre back to . 1997.

When it comes to non-alien space horror films released by major studios, some of the only other examples that fit are Pitch Black in 2000, Sunshine in 2007, Life in 2017, and The Cloverfield Paradox in 2018. There could can be argued for Supernova or Ghosts of Mars, but it is more action film than horror. Beyond this mere handful of examples, the studios did not release films comparable to Event Horizon in the 21st century. One of the only other notable space horror films of the past two decades, 2009’s Pandorum was released without the backing of a major studio and was actually co-financed by Anderson’s own production company, Impact Pictures. Looking at the sad state of the genre over the last 25 years, one could easily assume that space horror is not “in.” However, Event Horizon’s lasting legacy and influence on other media suggest otherwise.

Infinite Terror

Event Horizon created a paradigm where it was difficult to put another film like it on the market, but this paradoxically meant that it has enjoyed a lot of attention as one of the only films in existence that deals with its subject . Cosmic horror might not be in the multiplexes every weekend, but given Event Horizon’s continued relevance, there’s clearly an audience still hungry for it. We’ve already mentioned how the film did well on home video and generated enough interest to put a TV adaptation in development. Event Horizon has lasted in the popular imagination long enough to be referenced as recently as this year in Thor: Love and Thunder, and more substantively, it was also one of the primary inspirations for the critically acclaimed Dead Space video game series.

The last example should not be excluded, even if it is not in the same artistic medium. Ben Wanat, the production designer on Dead Space 1 and 2 and creative director on Dead Space 3 may have quoted Resident Evil 4 as the development team’s primary inspiration from a game design standpoint, but Event Horizon’s fingerprints are all over the games. From the similar architecture of the internal ship design, the form of flesh and bone that spreads across the walls, and the hallucinations of deceased loved ones that bring characters together, Dead Space borrowed heavily from Event Horizon and was rewarded for it with great critical praise and enough financial success to justify two direct sequels, several animated film and print book spin-offs, and even a upcoming remake. Say what you will about Event Horizon; horror media of its specific flavor can absolutely be profitable.

In a way, what’s most poetically tragic about Event Horizon’s legacy is the way its complicated effect on its own genre mirrors its production problems. The complete vision of what Anderson wanted Event Horizon to be will never exist again, and the version we currently have is loved by horror fans as much for the hypothetical film they imagine it could have been, as the compromised if still compelling film it actually is. . Exploring the terrifying unknown of what we might encounter in space is ripe with cinematic potential, yet Event Horizon doesn’t do as well as its reappraisal suggests it could have under better circumstances, meaning that other attempts at the same concept is few and far between. We may never see what Anderson originally intended with his space horror saga, but hopefully soon its lasting impact on popular culture will lead to someone else taking up the mantle so it’s no longer one of the only films of its kind.

Carlos Morales writes novels, articles, and Mass Effect essays. You can follow his fixations on Twitter.

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