The other day, we wrote about the passing of composer Osamu Shoji. While writing that obituary, I came across an anime that Shoji composed by the name of Roots Search, a 1986 sci-fi horror OAV directed by Hisashi Sugai (their sole directorial work). Since I’m a sucker for horror anime, I sought it out to give it a watch and wow…it hasn’t aged well. In fact, I don’t think it was all that good to begin with, so it really didn’t have a lot of room in which to improve through today’s lens.
While watching the 40-ish minute OAV, I began noticing an interesting theme running throughout the film. There was this nagging feeling that I couldn’t shake that I’d seen this film, or something like it, before. Then it hit me: what I was watching was strikingly similar to Paul W.S. Anderson’s 1997 sci-fi horror film Event Horizon. Let me explain where I’m coming from.
In Roots Search, a ship with warping capabilities reappears out of the blue with 9 of its 10 crew members dead. Already we’re off to a comparable start. The crew that comes to their aid help the lone survivor but also stumble across an alien being (see the header image) that the captain immediately orders ejected from the ship into the cold vacuum of space. Smart man.
However, it seems that this alien being is a (self-proclaimed) “Messenger of God” that can do whatever it wants, so it magically returns to the ship and decides to kill this new crew by – and here’s where the similarities really kick in – bringing up traumatic memories of their past and using those visions to kill people one by one. There’s a sequence where one of the crew is lured to an airlock only for the outside doors to open, causing him to explode in a grotesque mass of flesh and blood. It bears a strong resemblance to the airlock sequence in Event Horizon, though the outcomes are somewhat different between Norman and Justin. Hint: Norman doesn’t survive.
Later, and this is also a callback to 1979’s Alien, the remaining crew decide that the only way to defeat this psychic-powered creature is to, you guessed it, blow the ship up. Much like how Miller is unable to make it off the Event Horizon, Moira and Buzz also end up trapped in the catastrophic explosion. And much like how the evil in Event Horizon is too strong to be contained within the walls of a spaceship, this alien creature somehow manages to not only survive, but it brings Moira and Buzz within its folds – quite literally, I might add – in a scene that pays homage to Lucio Fulci’s 1981 Italian horror flick The Beyond.
Not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination, Roots Search is still fascinating for how strange and absurd it gets. It’s also convinced me that Event Horizon writer Philip Eisner must’ve seen it or at least known its story in some capacity.
Plus, it gave me this gloriously absurd screenshot.
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