Seven years before, a revolutionary spaceship that used a black hole drive disappeared. Now it has reappeared in the orbit of Neptune, and a rescue ship is sent to see if there are any survivors. However, it soon becomes clear that something is onboard - but it ain't human...
As soon as the camera peers around the desolate spacecraft Event Horizon, circling Neptune's storm ravaged atmosphere in a decaying orbit, it's pretty obvious that director Paul Anderson spent his youth swotting up on all the right directors: Kubrick, Scott, Cameron, Hitchcock.
Superbly styled in techno-Gothic space-grunge chic, this sci-fi/horror cross-breed is a directorial triumph of reference and homage. And despite script and storyline shortcomings, is sick, nasty and gruesome enough to rattle the cages, frazzle the ganglions and jerk the patellas of those unable to boast lead-lined nervous systems. Not quite "The Shining In Space" of its aspirations, it works more as effect than concept.
With preamble kept to a bare minimum, Captain Miller (Fishburne) and his crew of salvage and rescue grunts are whisked to deep space to find out where Event Horizon has been since it disappeared seven years previously. The ship was a secret government project - designed by passenger Neill - which could create its own black hole and zap across the universe in no time at all. Problem is, it went somewhere it shouldn't and has brought back an incumbent "evil force" from a place beyond our imagining etc., etc. The point is that this is not a bug movie but a ghost movie - so surrealism is allowed.
At first, this conjures up some of the most visceral tension seen in a movie since Ridley Scott first let a spiky insectoid go walkabout on the Nostromo, as the crew - Fishburne's taciturn captain, Richardson's stiff XO, Kathleen Quinlan's serious medic, Sean Pertwee's salt-of-the-earth helmsman, Richard T. Jones' wisecracking rescue king et al (all very Alien) - tries to fathom heinous visions, offal-strewn control decks and other crew members chucking themselves out of airlocks. It's not long before things have become so fraught that you're fit to burst. Inevitably the horror sags: invisible forces sucked from other dimensions allow too much in the way of corner-cutting, and the lack of any credible explanation leaves you unsatisfied. Things just happen and anything goes.
This, though, is never at the expense of the visual craft. Event doesn't just borrow from fine antecedents, it takes their future shock value to new heights, using genuinely original FX and creepy camerawork to great effect. And placing Fishburne at its heart is a fine move; the man oozes credibility, giving the potentially schlocky hellhouse nastiness an unnerving element of real fear.
That the film never fulfils its promise is down to its over reliance on horror vagaries in a precision-built sci-fi milieu, ultimately leaving too many unanswered queries. A sharper script and a more credible solution could have turned this impressive hokum into a force to be reckoned with.