One Of The Scariest Scenes In Event Horizon Sends You To Hell

(Welcome to Scariest Scene Ever, a column dedicated to the most pulse-pounding moments in horror with your tour guides, horror experts Chris Evangelista and Matt Donato. In this edition, Chris wants you to save yourself from hell).

Paul W. S. Anderson's best movie, "Event Horizon," was a box office flop when it arrived in 1997. But in the years since the film's release, it's built up a cult following, with fans singing the praises of Anderson's gory sci-fi/horror romp. Is it the most original film? Heavens, no! There's a ton of material here borrowed from an endless stream of movies, including "Alien" and "Hellraiser." But it's also full of unnerving imagery that has a way of unsettling even the most strong-willed of viewers. And it also features an all-time-great scene of horror that has the power to give you the creeps no matter how many times you've watched the movie. 

The setup

In the not-too-distant future (the year 2047, to be precise), a cutting-edge starship known as the Event Horizon vanished with its crew. Years later, the ship has reappeared near Neptune. A rescue crew, led by Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne) is sent to investigate, along with Dr. Weir (Sam Neill), the man who designed the ship — and its Gravity Drive, which has the power to open up a black hole in order to allow the Event Horizon to travel vast distances in the blink of an eye. Once aboard the ship, the crew finds one dead crew member, but the rest have vanished without a trace. And oh yeah, a bunch of spooky stuff starts happening, making this the equivalent of a haunted house movie set in space. 

The story so far

During the investigation of the ship, the crew discovers a garbled video message from the moment the Event Horizon crew opened up the Gravity Drive to unleash the black hole. The image is blurry and the sound is loud and eerie. And nestled in the midst of that sound is a voice saying "Liberate me." D.J., one of the crew who just happens to speak Latin, says the phrase means "Save me." However, the more the audio is cleaned up, the clearer the message becomes, and D.J. realizes what's actually being said is "Liberate tutemet ex inferis," which means "Save yourself from hell." 


The scene

Eventually, the crew is able to clean up the video and see what horrors it beholds: it seems the minute the ship opened a black hole, they also opened a gateway to hell. As a result, the video shows the crew engaged in all sorts of grisly, gruesome, graphic stuff — people shove entire hands down their throats, bodies are destroyed, blood ad gore is everywhere, screams ring out, and the Event Horizon's captain rips out his own eyes and holds them up to the camera (he's the one saying "Liberate tutemet ex inferis," by the way. Should've listened to him). As you can guess, things get progressively worse from there, and the main characters start getting bumped off in nasty ways. 

By now, an even more graphic version of "Event Horizon" has become the stuff of legend. Anderson's film was reportedly even gorier than its theatrical version, and he had to trim some stuff down to get an R-rating. For years there's been talk of releasing the uncut version, but unfortunately, it looks like the cut footage has been lost forever. Even so, the film is still plenty bloody, and this scene in particular always gives me the creeps. I've seen "Event Horizon" several times now, and yet every time I watch it, the video message from hell is so jarring and gnarly that it makes me incredibly uncomfortable. And that's what I'm looking for in a good horror movie. 

The impact (Matt's take)

I mean, it's "Hellraiser" meets "Society" in space. The above clip is cursed footage that delivers gore, repulsion, and degradation in such a despicably short burst. "We're leaving," spouts Laurence Fishburne's captain (as he should). Paul W.S. Anderson prepares audiences for a far more terrifying brand of science fiction than what's typically shot in space, and his characters react appropriately.

It's a functionally alarming manipulation of "Captain's Log" storytelling that keeps all the worst yet to come in full view. So often, inspecting characters will roll a past crew's recordings only for an abrupt ending before we can distinguish what went haywire. There's an element of suspense that Anderson doesn't need because he'd rather us know and fear the horrors aboard Event Horizon. There's no hiding from the sodomy and torn-out eyeballs. You pressed play. You live with your choices.

We all know Anderson as the blockbuster filmmaker who loves his video game adaptations, but "Event Horizon" is a sickeningly unsettling example of cosmic horror. "Event Horizon" manages to disgust and traumatize in a matter of seconds, and that's just a nauseating taste. The "Captain's Log" is such a glorious precursor to an exemplary interstellar frightener, filled with horrors meant for sadomasochistic nightmares. Anderson's always had an eye for the genre, despite his love of horror-action popcorn flicks. This scene is a reminder of what Anderson's truly capable of when in the right mood.