“Hell Is Only A Word.”

My friend Denise was a little horrified to discover that I’d never seen Event Horizon before. Clearly, we had to correct that.

It’s a fun, gruesome sort of way to spend two hours.


Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne) and his crew are ordered to go retrieve a starship, the Event Horizon, which went missing several years ago and has suddenly sent a distress call. The ship’s designer, Dr. Weir (Sam Neill), tags along on the mission, only to discover that there’s someone or something on board the Event Horizon  . . . and it’s not too terribly friendly.


1. First, I must say that nothing makes me quite as happy as ridiculous taglines. Infinite space . . . infinite terror! Love.

2. Event Horizon isn’t exactly what I’d call scary . . . being made in the 90’s, there’s a certain amount of unavoidable cheese due purely to special effects . . . but it’s gory and enjoyable and a decent action-horror-sci-fi thing with one or two creepy scenes and some fairly interesting concepts. This movie does not need a remake, but when it eventually gets one because it just will . . . I’d be interested to see a film that focuses a tiny bit more on the . . . er . . . more metaphysical aspects of the storyline? Also, the characterization. It’s not horrible in this movie. I just think it could be sharper, that’s all.

3. More importantly, however, Laurence Fishburne is a badass.

I mean, Laurence Fishburne is kind of always a badass, right?

You don’t want your captain to be an asshole, I’m sure, but a wishy-washy pansy ass doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, either. Captain Miller is not a wishy-washy pansy ass. Captain Miller is on top of his shit. He makes smart decisions. Dr. Weir tries to bully him into getting what he wants, and Captain Miller’s like, Fuck you and your doctorate, buddy. This is my ship, and we’re playing it safe, got it?

I mean, everything still goes all to hell. But Captain Miller does not help it along, and I highly approve of that.

4. Of course, not everyone makes smart decisions. Some of them are at least understandable . . . it’s all very well and good to say, “Don’t follow the hallucination of your kid/wife/dead friend/” whatever, but I’m sure rational thought is hard to come by when you’re having hallucinations in the first place.

On the other hand.

When you know there’s a bomb somewhere in the near vicinity that’s likely to explode, you have two choices: A, try to find the bomb and deactivate it or B, run like hell. Unless you are actually an explosives expert with a supernaturally heightened sense of smell that will enable you to detect said bomb in a matter of milliseconds . . .  there is only one correct choice. For Christ’s sake. What part of there is a bomb get the fuck out is hard for people to understand?

Also, if you don’t know what something is . . . don’t touch it. Honestly. Even if it looks like a Stargate from, well, Stargate, you just don’t go sticking your hand through the gooey blue liquid. I mean, does this really need to be said? Apparently, it does. Asshats.

5. How many languages do you know? Is one of them Latin? Well, it should be. If you knew how to speak Latin, you could understand all kinds of legal terminology. You would kick ass at Jeopardy all the time. And you could perform exorcisms. See how useful the language is?

Of course, if you are going to be your posse’s Latin Expert (there can only be one per group; there are Rules, understand), you really need to be certain of your skill level. This, “Oh, perhaps I mistranslated” after the shit has hit the fan? Not cool, man. Not cool.

6. Jason Isaacs is in this movie! I love Jason Isaacs. It’s nice to see him play a good guy, for once. Don’t get me wrong; evil looks great on him—his sneer is legendary—but after several years of watching Lucius Malfoy, it’s cool to see a nicer side to him. (Also, if you’re a fan of Masterpiece: Mysteries,  you should check him out in Case Histories. I love him as Jackson Brodie. He’s awesome.)

7. This is one of those science fiction movies about the potential dangers of science, at least in part. Playing the role of the ethically dubious scientist today is . . . Sam Neill!

As opposed to the more ethically responsible scientist seen here.

Acting-wise, Sam Neill is mostly fine . . . there are a couple of times where I don’t fully believe his reactions, but overall, I enjoy him well enough . . . but his character . . . man, I just wanted to dive into the screen and slap the shit out of his character. You know how there’s always one asshole who makes dumb decision after dumb decision because he’s blinded by something that’s not really that important in the grand scheme of things? Dr. Weir is that asshole.

8. A few quotes—almost all of which aren’t that impressive out of context, unfortunately:

Starck: “How?”
Weir: “Well, that’s . . . that’s difficult to . . . it’s all math.”
Miller: “Try us, doctor.”
Weir: “Right. Well, um, using layman’s terms . . .use a retaining magnetic field to focus a narrow beam of gravitons – these, in turn, fold space-time consistent with Weyl tensor dynamics until the space-time curvature becomes infinitely large, and you produce a singularity. Now, the singularity—”
Miller: “Layman’s terms?”
Cooper: “Fuck layman’s terms! Do you speak English?”

Weir: “Captain, don’t do this.”
Miller: “It’s done.”

Claire: “I have such wonderful things to show you.”

Miller: “Fuck this ship!”

9. Paul W. S. Anderson is not exactly known for making cinematic masterpieces, but I generally enjoy his movies. That being said, I read that after making Mortal Kombat, he had to pass up on a number of projects in order to direct Event Horizon. One of those projects? X-Men.

I’m not saying X-Men is Shakespeare or something, but I think it’s a pretty good superhero film, and I’m a little horrified by the idea of Paul W.S. Anderson’s version of it. The amount of pure, unadulterated cheese . . . my arteries feel blocked just thinking about it.

10. Finally—and, admittedly, this is my standard note for most science fiction movies— if space travel ever actually becomes a thing in my lifetime? Yeah, I’m not going for it. It’s not that I have no poetry in my soul or anything—it’s just that there are so many truly horrible ways to die in space, and I prefer my star-gazing from a relatively safe distance, thanks.

If you wish to remain unspoiled, go no further . . .






So, as it turns out, the Event Horizon is so named because it’s powered by an experimental gravity drive that, in turn, is powered by an artificial black hole. Which . . . is not good. I may not know anything about science, but I feel confident in my assessment that black holes are dangerous and that our propulsion systems should not be powered by them. Am I wrong?

The experimental gravity drive allows the ship to go places no other ship could go, seemingly faster than the speed of light. (My immediate reaction when Dr. Weir is attempting to explain this to the team? “Tesseract!” Admittedly, I have no real understanding of what a tesseract actually is, but you know, I remember the illustration from A Wrinkle In Time. I’m a secret science master, yo.) No one knows exactly where the Event Horizon went for seven years, but the movie strongly implies that it landed firmly in Hell—or, at the very least, some awful hellish dimension that makes people go crazy and want to kill themselves.

Justin (Jack Noseworthy) is the first to go cuckoo when he decides to stick his arm through the blue, glowy gravity drive. He gets sucked inside the portal, and when he eventually gets dragged back out, he’s fairly catatonic. As he should be. I get he’s all young and innocent (as evidenced by his nickname “Baby Bear”) but come on, now. This is Darwin Award time, people. Justin kind of deserves to bite it.

At first, I figured Justin was going to wake up and be all crazy and/or contagious and start killing his unsuspecting crewmates. I quickly realized that I had the wrong end of it, however, as Sam Neill continued to be both a, a pompous schmuck and b, haunted by visions of his dead wife. He’s not the only one seeing things—everyone pretty much is—but he’s the only one who goes all Dark Side. And as we find out, Dark Side (like justice) is very literally blind. You see, Weir cut his eyes out because, where they’re going, they don’t need eyes to see.

But like Denise pointed out, while that might be true . . . you probably don’t need your asshole where you’re going, either, but that’s no fucking reason to tear it out!

Before Weir goes fully nuts/possessed, however, I should mention the part where Justin wakes up and tries to kill himself, if only because it’s easily the creepiest (and cruelest) scene in the whole film.

Justin tries to shoot himself out the airlock because . . . I don’t know, because stabbing himself in the throat with a giant knife or something just wasn’t awful enough, I guess. Peters (Kathleen Quinlan) tries to talk him down, but she can’t reach him. He just says that he won’t go back there, that he saw the awful, dark things inside of himself, and if she had seen them too, she wouldn’t be trying to stop him. Peters says that this isn’t Justin talking, and she doesn’t know how right she is.

Immediately after hitting the switch to open the airlock, Justin is all, like, “Wait . . . what’s going on?” There’s really something quite horrible about that. He (very understandably) freaks out and begs the others to help him, but the door won’t open now that the airlock has been released. The good thing is that Captain Miller is already outside the spaceship and has gotten in position to catch him once the outer doors open. The bad news is that, as the doors are opening, Justin is more or less turning inside out.

It’s so creepy. Pressure stuff always gets me.

Miraculously, Justin lives and is put into stasis to keep his body stable. This is about the time where Miller’s had just about enough of this bullshit and is like, “Well, fuck this all to hell. Now that we’ve fixed the Lewis and Clark (it was damaged earlier), we are getting on board, blowing the holy shit out of the Event Horizon, and going home.” It’s a good plan. I mean, it doesn’t quite work, of course, but still. Solid plan.

Smitty and Peters are . . . loading stuff, or something . . . when Peters sees her kid running around again. I want to fault Peters for running after her child who clearly is not on the ship, but parental instincts and whatnot. Fine. I can get that. At some point, though, you’d think Smitty would notice that Peters isn’t catching up to him as he leaves the ship. Seriously, she’s like, “I’m right behind you” . . . only she’s totally not behind him. Way to have your friend’s six, Smitty.

Anyway, Peters runs after her boy and ends up falling to her death. First casualty of the night. Of course, it improves Starck’s chances for survival immensely. Everyone knows if there are two women in a mostly male action-horror movie, one of those women will die. I don’t think I’ve ever seen both women survive, and it’s pretty rare when both women die.

Pressing on. Captain Miller’s one, kind of dumb decision is to tell Dr. Weir what he plans to do to the Event Horizon. Of course, he doesn’t know that Dr. Weir has transformed from Arrogant Asshole Dr. Weir into Possessed, Evil Dr. Weir. In response, PEDW steals one of the crew’s explosives and uses it to blow up the Lewis and Clark. (Can I just mention, I hate Lewis and Clark as a ship name? I mean, I get it, but I really hate it. It’s just too unwieldy.)

Miller figures out Weir’s plans and quickly warns Smitty (Sean Pertwee), who has enough time to spin around for two whole minutes before finally finding the bomb. Of course, when he finds the bomb, there’s about four seconds left before it detonates. On one hand, the expression on Smitty’s face is great because it’s so . . . I don’t know, devastated. You know, it’s not like an “Oh fuck, ha ha, I’m so dead” kind of moment. Smitty honestly looks scared and sad, and it’s nice to see a real reaction to the inevitably of death, for once. On the other hand . . . dude. Why didn’t you fucking run?

The film’s main comic relief, Cooper (Richard T. Jones), is outside in a spacesuit when the explosion happens and he’s knocked into free fall . . . free float? Whatever, he’s spinning through the infinite abyss. He freaks out (quite naturally) but manages to get his panic under control and figures out a way to propel himself back towards the ship. Quick thinking under pressure. I’d be so dead. Then again, as previously established, I wouldn’t be there in the first place.

Miller tries to warn DJ (Jason Isaacs) about Miller, and DJ decides to become suddenly and ludicrously overconfident. I mean, he picks up a giant ass knife, and that’s good, but the second he says something like, “I’ll get him” or whatever, you know he’s about to die. And sure enough, he turns around and there’s Weir, who then proceeds to vivisect DJ like a fucking dead frog. For a guy with no eyes, Weir is surprisingly handy at the whole sadism thing.

Poor Jason Isaacs. Honestly, he lasted ages longer than I thought, though. I will miss you, DJ!

Miller runs into Evil Dr. Weir. Starck (Joely Richardson) is on the ground—oh noes—but thankfully she’s not dead, just unconscious. Because that’s fair. Weir blows Smitty up and fucking vivisects DJ, but Starck, he just taps on the head a little. Sweet Jesus. Well, if I wasn’t sure when Peters bought it, I’m sure now. Starck is our survivor girl. She will make it through this film, no question.

Miller and Weir face off. Weir plans to take the ship back to Hell, but Cooper—poor, lost-in-space Cooper—has impeccable, plot-related timing, and when Weir tries to kill him, he ends up getting sucked into space himself. Unlike Cooper, Weir is not wearing a spacesuit, so it’s bye bye, Weir . . . or is it?

(Spoilers: it’s totally not.)

Miller plans to blow up half the ship and use the rest of it as a lifeboat, or something. He says he has to manually detonate the explosives, and if you hadn’t already figured out that he was going to die, you should probably know by now. The manual detonation of explosives is a popular motif in action films, and it is always immediately preceded by noble self-sacrifice. And maybe you’re thinking, This is the fucking future. Why don’t you get yourself a fucking REMOTE? But you see, it wouldn’t matter regardless. Even if they had a remote, it would have been somehow damaged in the fight with Weir. It is not a climactic battle without someone tragically blowing themselves up for the cause.

So Miller goes to detonate the explosives and is attacked by Weir . . . well, I guess a hallucination of Weir, or the ship’s manifestation of Weir, or however you’d like to describe him. Manifestation Weir isn’t much prettier than Evil, Possessed Weir.

Miller and Weir fight some more, and Miller manages to detonate the explosives, blowing himself—and most of the ship—up. The bad half of the ship is pulled into a wormhole and goes far, far away. Starck, Justin, and Cooper are in the other half of the ship. Starck and Cooper join Justin in stasis in rescue.

The ending is one of those ominous, twisty, are-you-really-free endings that bore me to tears, so I’m just going to ignore it and focus on the positives: while it’s true that Miller’s heroic death is somewhat predictable and Starck’s survival is somewhat inevitable, the fact that comedic relief Cooper and should-be-dead Justin actually survive really surprised me. I had those two pegged for death pretty quickly.

It’s nice when a film can be original, now and again.


Fun space-horror movie. Some interesting concepts, cool story, decent acting. Tiny bit cheesy at parts, though, and I wouldn’t have minded a little more characterization.


Laurence Fishburne




Science is bad, folks. Science will literally lead you to Hell.

2 thoughts on ““Hell Is Only A Word.”

  1. I like it too. Light, entertaining, not-too-scary haunted spaceship movie.

    I was a little disappointed that Sean Pertwee died, because he’s done that in every single genre movie I’ve seen him in, and I look forward to being shocked by his unexpected survival some day.

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