Terror in Space – Event Horizon

Event Horizon is currently available on instant Netflix.

One line review: Hooey but pretty, entertaining hooey with a good cast.

Event HorizonEvent Horizon (1997) – Rated R

Seven years after it went missing, a spaceship sends a garbled signal back to Earth that sounds a lot like a cry for help. A rescue ship is dispatched to investigate, but the crew soon realizes that something unimaginable has happened on board.”

I thought it said “liberate me” – “save me.” But it’s not “me.” It’s “liberate tutame” – “save yourself.” And it gets worse.”

Oh, to be forced to sing the praises of Paul W.S. Anderson. I have never seen his directorial debut, Shopping, but his sophomore effort, Mortal Kombat is big, pretty, loud dumb fun. Event Horizon is big, pretty, loud dumb fun. Soldier is big, pretty, loud dumb fun. Ditto Resident Evil. Ditto Alien vs. Predator. Never mind that the last two were very much missed opportunities.

His more recent efforts of Death Race, Resident Evil: Afterlife, and Resident Evil: Retribution have been increasingly dumb and decreasingly fun. I have not seen his version of The Three Musketeers and I do not hold much hope for the upcoming Pompeii, in spite of a decent cast. I have no doubt that there will be another Resident Evil with his wife, Milla Jovovich.

Event Horizon is very pretty and stylish. It has been called a cross between Alien and Hellraiser and it does shamelessly rip off ideas from both, though admittedly most modern space horror rips off Alien.

Event Horizon is fun in a check your brain at the door kind of way. The science is predictably and laughably bad. The ship is going to pull 30 g’s so everyone has to be in tubes yet they fail to secure a lot of the ship. The Event Horizon and in particular the ‘meatgrinder’ and gravity drive look pretty cool, although I’m not sure what purpose the large spikes in the engine room serve or the massive number of lights in the service corridor.

There is a good cast assembled. Laurence Fishburne is the star as Captain Miller. Sam Neill plays the enigmatic scientist Dr. Weir. The distaff side of the crew are played well by Joely Richardson (Nip/Tuck) and Kathleen Quinlan (Apollo 13). Other crewmembers include Sean Pertwee (Dog Soldiers), Richard T. Jones (Collateral), Jack Noseworthy (U-571), and Jason Isaacs (The Patriot).

While the science is, to put it charitably, dodgy, the first half is quite good. Event Horizon starts off as science fiction and gradually segues into horror. The science fiction aspects are silly but tense. Unfortunately the horror aspects pile on incredulity after incredulity so some may enjoy the first half, some more the first three quarters, etc. Eventually most people will reach the point of hooey but I find Event Horizon pretty entertaining.

People Watch: Noah Huntley who, unrecognizably, plays the Burning Man has gone on to play Mark in 28 Days Later and King Magnus in Snow White and the Huntsman.

Daybreakers

Daybreakers is currently available on instant Netflix.

Daybreakers (2009) – Rated R

“Earth’s population is up against a vicious plague that’s transforming everyone into vampires and draining the world of an increasingly precious resource: blood. As the human race count nears zero, could science hold the key to a solution?”

“Let’s be clear about this. Humans were offered a chance to assimilate, but they refused. Therefore, they are enemies of the state and will be captured and farmed for blood supply.”

In 2003, twin brothers Peter and Michael Spierig made a nifty little horror movie called Undead. Both of them wrote, directed, edited, produced, and worked on the visual effects for the film. Peter even worked on the sound for Undead.

Daybreakers is the Spierig brothers sophomore effort and they have a much bigger budget to work with. Special effects, worked on by the brothers, are quite good. Creature effects are by Weta workshop and the quality shows. The Spierig brothers manufacture some amazing visuals: mirrored shots of clothing (vampires cast no reflection but clothing does), shadows pierced by glowing eyes, normal vampires waiting for a subway train while devolved ones fight under the platform. A human blood farm in this strange new world is particularly startling.

The movie opens with a young (in body anyway) vampire committing suicide by awaiting the dawn. The credits then play out over an abandoned-by-day urban landscape. I love the world created here by the spread of vampirism – something that is quite logical but ignored by other vampire movies. There are certainly moments of humor but the concept is taken quite seriously.

Indie darling Ethan Hawke is the lead here as our concerned vampire researcher, Edward Dalton. Sam Neill is our chief vampire, Charles Bromley, head of Bromley Blood Banks. Thankfully, he gives us a restrained and urbane villain. Willem Dafoe gives us a rather less-restrained performance but not over-the-top performance as Lionel ‘Elvis’ Cormac, leader of the human underground.

The rest of the cast is populated by an assortment of Australian and Kiwi actors, an astonishing number of whom were in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. Claudia Karvan is good as Audrey Bennett. Michael Dorman is zealous as Edward’s younger brother, Frankie Dalton. Jay Laga’aia makes an impression with a small role as Senator Turner.

The acting, direction and story are all good but the real reason Daybreakers works is the unique and very fleshed out world that the Spierig brothers have created. I look forward to their next feature, Predestination, also starring Ethan Hawke.

Jurassic Park III – Size Matters week

In honor of the wonderful present my wife gave me, I am featuring giant things this week. Jurassic Park III is cheating a little bit as these are not giant dinosaurs but dinosaurs are giant. Jurassic Park III is currently available on instant Netflix.

Jurassic Park III

WATCH: Jurassic Park III (2001) – Rated PG-13 for intense sci-fi terror and violence.

“In need of funds for research, Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) accepts a large sum of money to accompany Paul and Amanda Kirby (William H. Macy and Tea Leoni) on an aerial tour of the infamous Isla Sorna. It is not long before all hell breaks loose and the stranded wayfarers must fight for survival as a host of new — and even more deadly — dinosaurs try to make snacks of them. Laura Dern, Michael Jeter, Alessandro Nivola and Trevor Morgan co-star.”

“Reverse Darwinism – Survival of the most idiotic.”

“This is how you make dinosaurs.” – “No this is how you play God.”

Okay I just want to put “WATCHDinosaurs eat people!” so this probably will not be a very objective review. I just love the Jurassic Park series.

The script is completely silly. The reasons for our cast to end up on Isla Sorna are not just ridiculous but actually mind-bogglingly stupid. Thankfully director Joe Johnston does not waste much time at all on this. It would have made far more sense to have simply had an airplane go off-course and crash on Isla Sorna.

Sam Neill is really the only returning cast member. He does a good job even considering the script has him doing things Dr. Grant would not do. Laura Dern has what amounts to a cameo role. William H. Macy seems largely wasted and out of place here as does Tea Leoni but their presence is welcome.

The cast is notable as much for who was not in it as who was. Jeff Goldblum was originally in it but hurt his leg shortly after filming began and dropped out. Three of my favorite character actors (Steve Buscemi, Stellan Skarsgard, and Tony Shalhoub) were all considered for roles.

So what does this Jurassic Park have that the two Spielberg ones do not? One word: Pteranodons! Spinosaurus! Oh wait that is two words.

Joe Johnston should be applauded for cramming everything into an hour and a half. It is not that I like a short movie but I am sure he was pressured to bring the time on this one down. It is just amazing how much he managed to squeeze in.

The first two films were epic in scope and length. Johnston wastes no time in getting straight to the action and after that it is one dinosaur attack after another. It seems almost like a rollercoaster ride.

If I did not love the dinosaur special effects so much, I would probably rate this a pass. As it is WATCH: Dinosaurs eat people!”

People Watch: Bruce A. Young (M.B. Nash) is also Captain Banks from the TV show, The Sentinel. Director Joe Johnston most recently completed The Wolfman which I have yet to see.

Dead Calm – Don’t Get on That Boat week

Sometimes it seems too easy to do a particular week on a genre or a particular star or director. This week is Don’t Get on That Boat! week. Dead Calm is currently available on instant Netflix.

Dead Calm

WATCH: Dead Calm (1989) – Rated R.

“The Ingrams — John (Sam Neill) and Rae (Nicole Kidman) — set off for an extended sailing trip after their young son dies tragically in a car crash. When they come across another seafarer (Billy Zane) feverishly paddling away from a sinking schooner, they bring him aboard — and quickly realize he’s a murderous sociopath. Masterfully directed by Phillip Noyce, this violent, psychological thriller helped launch Kidman’s film career.”

The beginning of this movie shows a wonderful economy of storytelling. We meet John on a railroad platform presumably waiting for Rae to arrive. Within the next few minutes the tragic circumstances setting the scene have occurred and we’re on the extended sailing trip. By the ten minute mark, we have already spotted the schooner.

There are other characters in this movie but this is essentially a three-person story. Nicole Kidman’s and Billy Zane’s careers were launched with this taut thriller. They had been on other films but this one put them on the map. Sam Neill’s career was in full swing when he made this. All three give wonderful, complex performances.

There are major gaping plotholes but the story is told so well by director Phillip Noyce that we aren’t left to linger on them for more than a moment. For instance why does John take the dinghy to the schooner instead of simply piloting his boat to the schooner?

I highly recommend this fast-paced thriller.

People Watch: Lisa Collins (Billy Zane’s ex-wife) plays one of the Orpheus Cruise girls. Sam Neill met his wife, makeup artist Noriko Watanabe, on the set of this film.