Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Why Event Horizon is one man's fight against his moral upbringing

And why Dr. Weir is sitting in a padded cell, cackling maniacally.

I know I'm a bit behind the times - 14 years, actually - but I just watched Event Horizon today. My goodness. Does that movie have an R18+ rating? It should have, for the violence and gore. But I digress. I'm going to spoil the movie here, so if you haven't seen it, feel free to take a 90 minute break and come back to me.

The story didn't make much sense, or at least in the way that I wanted it to, until I thought about it afterward. In the tradition of Silent Hill 2, I believe the entire episode takes place in Sam Neill's head. Yeah, I know Sam Neill is the actor, but it's an easier name to remember than "Benny Weir" which, actually was the name of an ex-student of mine. Well, that's disturbing.

Anyway, the ship is called the Event Horizon and it goes missing 7 years before the movie starts. Sam Neill wakes up from a nightmare and takes a photo of his wife off the wall, adding it to another, different wall which is already covered in photos of her. Go figure. Maybe he's counting down the days, or something, which in an odd way, as I'll explain later, would make sense.

So, to cut a long story short, she killed herself because he was too engrossed in his work. His work was apparently this experimental jump drive that folds space by using a localised black hole. This is the drive that was on the Event Horizon when it went missing. Sure, except that he never actually built the ship.

Throughout the film, the Event Horizon affects them all in different ways, but not everyone is affected. Two or three of the characters experience no symptoms at all, for no discernible reason. How odd. What's also odd is that Sam Neill gives in so blasted easily - at the first sign of a demonic presence, he tries to open the door to let it in. Smart man. There was some mumbo-jumbo about him being hypnotised by the jump gate right at the beginning, and that's why he's so susceptible but, really, as the one who built it, surely he could have done his research beforehand.

Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) is the good guy, the Captain who keeps his cool. He symbolises Sam Neill's superego. The doctor, Peters, represents his paternal instincts (as far as is evidenced, he and his wife never had any children, a fact I'll look at later). DJ, the trauma surgeon, is his impassive side - the part that can become emotionless and engrossed in work. It's no wonder he eviscerates him toward the end of the movie. And Justin represents his innocence, the part that can't live with what happened. With me so far? Good.

Let's go in reverse. Justin is the first to give into the jump gate - the first to go to hell. He comes back in a coma - shock - then starts babbling about the 'darkness within him'. He then tries to commit suicide, and ends up being put in stasis for the trip home. If we think of this in terms of Sam Neill's reaction to finding his wife had killed herself in the bathtub, it looks pretty similar. The young man/boy inside him doesn't know how to react, how to cope, and so he shuts down. What follows is self-blame, self-hatred, and then a kind of death. We don't seen Justin revived at the end of the film, and they say he's severely wounded. There's a chance he might not survive. Sam Neill's innocence has been torn to shreds by his wife's betrayal.

DJ is the doctor who's not a doctor, the tough guy who doesn't seem to feel much but can keep a level head. He does at one point, however, threaten another crewmember with a scalpel to his neck, without seeming to realise he's putting the guy's life at risk. This will be relevant later.  He's not otherwise a blip on the radar, being so impassive, but toward the end when Sam Neill finds him in the med bay, he doesn't really put up a fight, either. He gets thrown against a wall and across a tray of supplies, and then the next thing we know, he's dead (with some gore in between). Not for the faint of heart: Sam Neill hangs him from the ceiling in a semi-crucifix pose, and pulls all his insides out. You gotta hate someone a lot to do that to them. Sam Neill hated that part of himself that didn't notice he was hurting his wife, just as DJ didn't realise he was hurting the guy he had at scalpel-point. Sam Neill is getting revenge on himself through gratuitous torture. It gets weirder.

Peters is completely attached to her children, yet she's far away from them. The first hallucination she has is of her son with ugly-looking lacerations all over his legs. She only gets to see this by pulling a cloth off of a medical table after hearing a scratching sound and seeing a small hand pawing at the material. What else is that reminiscent of, hmm? Her son is also a cripple in all of her videos, and is being pushed around in a wheelchair, which has to do with a sense of imperfect creation. Peters longs to be with her children - Sam Neill's fathering instinct coming to the fore - but she can't be - his wife was barren or he was impotent. He doesn't see this as fair, hence when Peters dies it's because she's betrayed by her 'child' - a child who then smirks cruelly down at her as she lies broken underneath the jump gate, in a huge puddle of blood. Yay, miscarriage.

Morpheus is the most noble of them, but even he is haunted by his own fears. He left a man to die once and promised he'd never leave another man behind. Where does one burn? Hell. What does Sam Neill want to do, since he feels he drove his wife to commit suicide? Kill himself. His sense of what he feels is right and just tells him that he will burn in hell if he chooses to kill himself. This metamorphosis is complete when he says the apparition can't be the man he watched die, because he's dead - the flaming man then morphs into a more sinister Sam Neill, complete with self-inflicted facial lacerations. They're obviously partially healed, and look suspiciously like whip marks, which could be a form of self-flagellation - penance. Here is a man who has punished himself, over and over, yet found no redemption. The last coherent words he says to Morpheus are 'Do you see?' Morpheus then chooses to sacrifice himself in order to let the other two crewmembers - the two relatively unaffected by the Event Horizon - escape. He says, 'Yes, I see.' His sense of decency sees that he has to escape this fantasy world if he's ever going to be able to live normally again. It chooses to destroy the fantasy for a chance to escape back to reality.

The escape is incomplete, however. The remnants of the crew - in effect, a return to sanity - cannot escape from the horrors he brought them. He chooses to remain mad rather than return to normality. It's his coping mechanism - he can be sane, and choose to kill himself because he can't face the darkness within, or he can embrace that darkness and go irrevocably insane. He chooses the latter. In essence, he has the two walls of his original cell - the wall with the photos of his wife, and the wall with the other photos. He chooses his wife, the weight of which can already be seen at the beginning of the movie through the sheer number of photos. Him moving her photo across at the beginning is tipping the balance further in favour of insanity. Good job.

A note on the gouging out of eyes and the depictions of hell - in the video that shows what happened to the crew, nothing much makes sense, except that several physically impossible things are happening, and the men appear to be raping the women, but no one is having a good time. This harks back to Sam Neill's moralistic upbringing. Sex is not to be enjoyed, dammit, and people who indulge in it are going to hell. The gouging out of eyes is a self-hating reference to the fact that he was blind to his wife's distress. The naked bodies wrapped in barbed wire could by symbolic of the fact that he was still attracted to his wife, even though she was dead. She was naked in the bathtub, after all. There's also the question of how he slept with her without realising something was wrong, and so the rape could be an imagined projection of how he thinks she felt whenever they made love.

Terribly, terribly long analysis short: Sam Neill should totally have known what the jump gate did and being trying to secretly resurrect his wife. Using government funds to commit starship necromancy - brilliant! Instead it was pretty lackluster, except for its shock value. The above is my attempt to make it make sense. Ce la vie. No one said a universe of chaos had to be full of gore-porn, but there you have it. Now I'm going to go and see what other theories people have come up with to give this story more substance. The premise was interesting, but inadequately executed. Such a shame, really.

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