Event Horizon Ending Explained: Where You're Going, You Won't Need Eyes To See

Fresh off the overwhelming success of 1995's "Mortal Kombat," Paul W.S. Anderson set his sights on helming an R-rated horror that mimicked the scares of a haunted house mansion set in space. Although Anderson sought inspiration from a dozen classic sci-fi horrors, including "Alien" and "Solaris," during the film's script rewrites, the end result was a profoundly unnerving brand of nightmare fuel that consistently manages to repulse and terrify. Welcome aboard "Event Horizon," Anderson's finest cinematic offering about an exploratory vessel that mysteriously reappears near a decaying orbit seven years after its disappearance. Aboard this titular research vessel, Hell is only a word, and the prospects of salvation are incredibly slim.

Today, "Event Horizon" is a certified banger, a cult classic that is rightfully revered for unflinching plunging viewers into a world that is insufferably bleak and beyond hope. When the film was released 26 years ago, it was both a box office flop and a critical disappointment, mostly due to unfavorable comparisons to established sci-fi space horrors with overlapping themes. On closer examination, it is clear that the film's strengths do not lie in being original or groundbreaking — instead, "Event Horizon" soars because it commits itself to the grotesque and the gnarly, and relies heavily on the palpable fear of the unknown to heighten the stakes of the events that occur. The fear that saturates each frame stems from the depths of the human subconscious, combined with the real eldritch terrors that lie just beyond the edge of the void.

The ending of "Event Horizon," a combination of two discarded alternate endings, employs an effective jumpscare that reinforces the themes of paranoia and guilt that overpower the film's central narrative. To understand this better, let's delve deeper into the abyss of "Event Horizon."

A graveyard of (tortured) souls

The rescue team assigned to board the mysterious vessel and scout for potential survivors is led by Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne) and the eccentric Dr. Weir (Sam Neill), the architect of the Event Horizon. The first shot allows the abandoned ship to loom into view, making it look like a giant crucifix in space, while the interiors appear like a desolate gothic mansion. Weir explains the ship's experimental gravity drive — a mechanism that is the literal catalyst for all hell breaking loose — which immediately sets off a chain of hallucinatory guilt-trips in every crew member. 

Everyone is haunted by some deep-seated trauma, either one that belongs in the past or lies in the anxieties of the future, and the sentient vessel turns on its current residents by using these fears against them. For instance, Miller and Weir are haunted by people they could not save, while Peters (Kathleen Quinlan) is lured to her death with visions of her son, whom she had left behind on Earth after a broken marriage.

Except one dead body, Event Horizon is a ghost ship, making the rescuers wonder what exactly happened to the crew. D.J. (Jason Isaacs), who finds the captain's garbled video log, is able to isolate the Latin phrase "Liberate me," which translates to "Save me," denoting that the crew was either in danger or were driven to seek religious salvation (or both). The latter interpretation is bolstered by Anderson's consistent usage of Christian iconography, from the demonic howls in the distress call to the use of Latin to express a dying sentiment. These aspects culminate when Weir reveals the true nature of the gravity drive: upon activation, it forms a black hole that doubles as a parallel dimension that is literally hell

Welcome to purgatory. 

Eros and Thanatos

Although "Event Horizon" offers several unforgettable scares, the most viscerally terrifying sequence is the one in which everyone watches the video message left behind by the crew. The buildup to this "captain's log" horror trope is immaculate, as the ultimate reveal is so shocking that it still manages to induce discomfort after repeated viewings. In what can only be described as a blood orgy, there's extreme violence, gore, and graphic acts, including a man dislocating his shoulder while shoving his arm down his throat. The sound design in this scene is truly terrifying, echoing the idea of hell being drowned with the screams of the damned, who rip and claw their way to extreme debasement.

The final twist of the knife is the captain holding his freshly-ripped eyeballs while exclaiming "Liberate tutemet ex inferis" — chillingly translated to "save yourself from hell." This recording, which culminates the dual impulses of desire and death — Eros and Thanatos — in the most repulsive of ways, serves as a grim warning to the rescue crew. However, it is too late, as the malicious entity that resides in the vessel takes a hold of its maker, Dr. Weir, who follows the previous captain's footsteps and gouges his eyes out. "Where we're going, we won't need eyes to see," he says, before going on a sinister rampage of murder and vivisection.

While Anderson has ignited the dim hope of an uncut version of the captain's log over the years, this extended version seems to have been lost forever. Although it would definitely make for an intriguing addition, the current cut works perfectly due to a combination of stark depravity and the fear of the unknown, which is left at the mercy of our individual imaginations. Here, our personal hells define what remains hidden.

In this death maze, there are no exits

Towards the end, Miller, driven by the need to atone for his past, sacrifices himself along with the ship to save two members of his crew. Weir, who is possessed to the point of no return, is sucked into space, but still comes back to haunt Miller moments before his noble sacrifice. The true nature of Miller's tragic fate hits harder when one realizes that he does not simply choose to die, but chooses to willingly relegate himself to hell. The denotation triggers the black hole, which sucks Miller into hell — haunted by the visions of the burning man he could not save, Miller decides to willingly bear the cross of his own sins, while allowing his crewmates a chance at salvation. An almost Jesus-like figure, if you will, just amidst the backdrop of an inescapable death maze.

Starck, Cooper, and a comatose Justin, who manage to survive hell and await being rescued, are not completely in the clear. The dread of being dragged back to the gaping jaws of fear jolts Starck on the verge of salvation when she hallucinates Weir posing as one of the rescuers. This trauma will outlive the temporary relief of the survivors, especially if one keeps in mind that Justin was forced into stasis after he had attempted to kill himself after experiencing horrors. Alternatively, it is unclear whether Weir's presence is real or a nightmare, heightening the ambiguity that grips the fates of the final trio. Even if they did manage to escape, can one truly escape the clutches of a primordial terror that uses our fears to drive us insane?

Ultimately, "Event Horizon" endures and persists due to Anderson's chilling vision of what humanity's deepest fears look like. Needless to say, it ain't pretty.