Scariest Movie of My Life: Event Horizon

Planet Comic 01, digital comics museum

Event Horizon, 1997I will be the very first to admit that when it comes to slowly building tension, dimly-lit hallways, and ominous music rooted in an ever-increasing progression of minor chords, I am a wimp.

I don’t like scary movies, and never have. As a child, I was so terrified by my older sister’s description of The Shining that I had nightmares for a week straight. From the description. I have never seen The Shining. I also had nightmares about that scene in The Little Mermaid where Ursula gets huge and then is violently skewered by the jagged prow of a ship risen from the depths, so.

The Little Mermaid, Walt Disney Co., 1989
Oh, like I’m the only one.

See above re: wimp.

So scary movies aren’t precisely my oeuvre of choice, and I generally shoot them down as options when choosing movies with a large group of people. You know, as long as I know they’re scary movies. Psychological horror, slasher flicks, torture porn, those moody slow-paced thrillers where every scene containing a shot of a woman walking cautiously down a long hallway with poorly maintained lighting while every muscle running along your spine tenses one by one — I avoid them all. There are even episodes of Supernatural I won’t watch.

The problem is, sometimes scary movies come disguised as something else. Like, say, a harmless space adventure.

Aliens, Sigourney Weaver, 1986, James Cameron, 20th Century Fox,
Pictured: A harmless space adventure.

I was wrong. Oh, my poor innocent unscarred psyche — we were so wrong.

It was late fall. I was visiting a friend at his frat, and it was pouring and cold outside, so we opted to stay in and watch a movie. Which is itself a horror movie beginning. I should have known better, but when one of the brothers suggested Event Horizon and described it as “dark sci-fi,” I did not, as I would now, run screaming from the room to barricade myself somewhere with plenty of working lights and non-creepy stuffed animals.

See, Event Horizon is dark sci-fi, but while I was innocently imagining something along the lines of Dark City, what I got was ninety-five minutes of abject terror.

Event Horizon, Director: Paul W. S. Anderson Screenplay: Philip Eisner, Paramount Pictures1997
This is the only image I could find that didn’t require a trigger warning.

The premise of Event Horizon, for those of you lucky to have never seen it (or for those of you so traumatized by the viewing that you repressed memories) is this: a rescue vessel has responded to the distress signal from a seven-year lost ship, the Event Horizon, so named because it carried an experimental drive which could create a wormhole between two areas of space, thus cutting down travel time significantly. The rescuers, aboard the Lewis and Clark (because of course), are joined by Dr. William Weir, the designer of the Event Horizon and its gravity drive. Despite receiving no messages from the lost crew, the rescuers, presumably having never seen a horror movie before, decide to board the Event Horizon, subsequently kicking off the main plot.

Of course the crew was driven mad and murdered by a horrifying malevolent force now inhabiting the ship. Of course they were.

Anyway, aside from being a waking nightmare showcasing a murderous, sentient starship, Event Horizon also posits that playing God to the point of creating black holes backfires spectacularly, in that the wormholes created in fact breach the thin, thin walls of our dimension itself, connecting not with the next star system over, but with LITERALLY HELL.

Yeah, I’m not putting in any images of that. Have a puppy nuzzling a bunny instead.

This movie’s effect on me can only be described as catastrophic. I couldn’t sleep all night, transfixed with fear that I would look out a window and see Sam Neill’s blood-streaked face grinning insanity at me. The scenes of the crew members hallucinating and then getting hunted down by their actual worst nightmares haunted me. The video of what happened to the previous crew still ranks among the worst things I’ve ever watched. Extended cuts of the scene were reportedly described as “unnerving,” which seems mild in comparison to the fact that I now fold like cardboard into the fetal position whenever a particularly evil friend of mine whispers “where we’re going, we don’t need eyes to see,” in my ear.

(I hate that guy.)

The thing about Event Horizon is that the whole premise revolves around the idea of some malevolent outside force torturing people with their own worst fears and memories. Speaking as someone whose anxiety attacks have convinced her that there’s a lurking figure in my bedroom in the middle of the night, this particular theme hits my personal panic button like it aimed a precision nuclear strike against it.

And now that I’ve written about it, I’ll be going to watch some Disney. Where no one ever goes insane and tries to murder anyone else.

The Lion King, Disney Corporation, 1994
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Laura Harcourt

Laura Harcourt

Part of WWAC's editorial team, Laura has loved comics ever since her very first copy of Betty and Veronica Double Digest. Until her own superhero training is complete, she spends most of her time writing about others. She is most usually found in Western New England and is easily startled by loud noises.

4 thoughts on “Scariest Movie of My Life: Event Horizon

  1. Never made it through this one. It was all “outer space mystery!” and then that nice man from Jurassic Park was the devil.

    1. YES

      It haunts my waking dreams. Still. It’s one of the few specifics I remember about this movie.

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