Film: Sci-fi romps; surreal suspense; school daze

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Event Horizon (18)

CIC (available to rent 13 March)

When the experimental space-ship, "Event Horizon", mysteriously reappears in 2047 seven years after it vanished, Laurence Fishburne and the Horizon's designer, Sam Neill, are despatched to investigate where it and its crew have been.

Well, whichever infernal dimension the Horizon escaped from, there's obviously a pretty good video shop there. As they scrape up what remains of the maiden crew, Fishburne, Neill and their support team (including Sean Pertwee and Joely Richardson) appear to be wandering around a classic sci-fi/horror film museum, re-enacting edited highlights of Alien, 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining. Scriptwriter Philip Eisner mistakes gung- ho techy inanities ("Locked, cocked and ready to rock!") for dialogue and one-dimensional archetypes for characters (firm-but-fair Fishburne leading touchy-feely women and superstitious/disturbed/vulnerable men). What diversions there are in the script (the ship can apparently "read" minds) director Paul Anderson handles with all the psychological nuance you might expect from the man responsible for Mortal Kombat.

Disappointing and derivative certainly, but the special effects pack a visceral punch in a film which appears to have based its vision of Hell on Duran Duran's `Lost Boys' video - at least it got one thing right. 2/5

Lost Highway (18) Polygram (available to rent 16 March)

Demanding narrative clarity from a David Lynch film is like bemoaning the lack of a good car chase at the end of The Seventh Seal. As in Eraserhead and Blue Velvet, or the gloriously off-beat Twin Peaks, Lynch's best film and TV work relies on the stylish and witty subversion of almost everything an audience can reasonably expect of a film.

And so it goes with Lost Highway. Musician Bill Pullman's uneasy relationship with his femme fatale wife, Patricia Arquette, is further blighted by the malevolent attentions of a demonic stalker. Until he pulls off a bewildering U-turn an hour in, Lynch seems to heading for a quirkily noir-ish destination. Suddenly, with the barest of narrative threads to hang on to, we're pursuing Balthazar Getty, a small-time crook, who falls for a charismatic gangster's moll. Arquette, formerly brunette, is now the seductive blonde. What's more, the fiendish intruder is now the gangster's personal assassin who, as with Pullman, interposes threats aimed at Getty with the alarming insistence that the two of them have already met.

Studded with husk-dry wit, Lost Highway - even if it sags in the third quarter - has the instinctive, terrifying logic of a fairy-tale. If you can stomach Lynch's complete disregard for what the film textbook calls "disclosure", it's unlikely that you'll spend a more rewardingly disconcerting evening in front of your TV this year. 4/5

187 (15) Warner (available to rent 13 March)

"A teacher wrote this movie" testifies 187 at its conclusion - so how come a dunce directed it? That this portentous statement can be read either as validation or disclaimer tells you a lot about Kevin Reynolds's overly ostentatious execution of Scott Yagemann's script.

187's broadest contention - that a nifty physics experiment isn't necessarily going to send American inner-city high school kids scrumping in the orchards of academe - sounds about right (the title refers to the police radio code for homicide). The bleached out, filtered colours successfully impart the threatening air of the hostile classroom as experienced by Samuel L. Jackson (a principled teacher brought low by a violent encounter in a previous school).

It quickly transpires, however, that Reynolds's emphasis on moody cosmetics is at the expense of any imaginative use of the provocative screenplay. Jackson's problems stem from a core group of kids (all, questionably, Latino) but Reynolds's attempt to see what homes produce these problem children is dangerously schematic. The director's coy omission of the violence committed in the name of vigilantism shouldn't deceive anyone about Jackson's real vocation in 187 - Charles Bronson with leather elbow patches. 2/5

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