The FILM IN WORDS Netflix Film of the Week: helping you navigate the filmic minefield of the nation’s favourite video streaming service.
Words: Brody Rossiter
HELL OF A RIDE
A few months ago, during Oscar season, I wrote a piece for HeyUGuys discussing the human side of Alfonso Cuarón’s 2013 picture, Gravity. It was Warner Bros’ intention to highlight the deeply emotional character driven story which rested beneath Gravity’s revolutionary visual effects, and I felt that after watching Clooney and Bullock’s outer-space plight unfold, I could be the man to complete such a task.
I personally don’t want to go to space. If I did, I most likely wouldn’t be able to unless I possessed hundreds-of-thousands of dollars ($250,000 to be specific) to buy a Virgin Galactic ticket. Unfortunately, even that exclusive option is unlikely to fulfill the high fantasy fancies of your average intergalactic geek – when did space become a holiday resort for the rich and connected? Luke Skywalker was an orphaned teen with a shitty job on Tatooine, not a corporate titan with an Armani suit and tie.
As so often is the case with space-bound cinema, the unknown void which exists beyond the atmosphere of our seemingly inconsequential planet – a self-styled adversity which much Hollywood sci-fi repeatedly highlights, celebrates, and ultimately conquers (see Armageddon, Independence Day, or any other interplanetary disaster flick) – space acts as a proving grounds of sorts for the human spirit. We are tiny inextinguishable flames dancing inside an immeasurable dead furnace. This brings me to my second reason why I don’t want to go to space; bad shit happens there. If Ellen Ripley had a Trip Advisor account I’m guessing the summation of her interplanetary experiences would sway toward the negative – a generous two stars at best.
Since Film In Words is in a spooky Shocktober mood, what better choice for our Netflix Film of the Week than the ultimate “I seriously wish we’d never come here” space adventure than Paul W.S. Anderson’s (Resident Evil), Event Horizon. Possessing the premise of a rescue crew being sent to investigate a “dead” ship, you’re probably aware of the somewhat formulaic thrill ride you’re in for – it’s basically a Lovecraftian riff on Ridley Scott’s Alien. However, as the ship begins to turn on its new arrivals and their numbers begin to dwindle, the gruesome shocks and scares come thick and fast, and thankfully a solid cast including Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Joely Richardson, and Jason Isaacs are more than capable of selling the conveyer belt of futuristic horrors. While I’m re-watching said film during the writing of this piece, I’d also like to draw attention to how good it looks visually for a production from 1997. Yes, the CGI has an overly shiny artificialness at certain points, but overall, the grimy, industrial space aesthetic is immersive and the Hellraiser-esque S&M gore is both shocking and deeply unsettling – much of Anderson’s most extreme footage was cut due to test audience reactions but is available on YouTube in all its low quality VHS glory.
Event Horizon was both a critical and commercial failure upon release, but today it’s undoubtedly an interesting and distressing picture that plunders fine sci-fi material to unique effect. It’s also arguably Anderson’s best work alongside the first Resident Evil picture, and a work that is definitely worthy of horror sci-fi fans’ time.
When I wrote that Gravity article I realised that space and all its desolate beauty is a perfect backdrop for revelatory, human self-discovery. When I watched Event Horizon I realised there’s always the off-chance that you and Sam Neill might accidentally discover a gate to Hell. In conclusion, I’m staying on Earth.