Many video stores either merge the science fiction and horror sections or place them beside each other. The basic cable channel The Sci-Fi Channel often shows horror movies that have no connection to science fiction. Event Horizon is a film that manages to combine science fiction and horror without giving too much focus to one genre and not enough to the other. Event Horizon fits right in inside the combination sci-fi/horror section at a video store (or on a basic cable channel), whereas Star Trek has no business mingling with Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street has virtually no relation to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Plot Synopsis
In 2047CE, Doctor William Weir (Sam Neill) joins a search and rescue team led by Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne) on a top secret mission to recover a ship called the Event Horizon. The ship was designed by Dr. Weir to travel faster than the speed of light not by actually propelling itself at such high speeds but by creating a wormhole between two points in space to allow the ship to "tunnel" its way to its destination. When the Event Horizon didn't return from its test run seven years prior, the public, not knowing about the craft's true purpose, was informed that it had been destroyed in an accident. A signal from the ship was received after those seven years however, placing it in a decaying orbit around Neptune. Dr. Weir, Capt. Miller, and his team are sent to recover the ship. Once they reach the Event Horizon, however, they find her crew missing in action and begin to experience a number of strange and frightening phenomena, arguing over whether the causes are truly supernatural or only hallucinations.

This movie, as I mentioned earlier, works very well as both a science fiction and horror flick. It's not perfect though. The ragtag team of military types is hardly an original idea and Event Horizon uses a few other clichés: Each member of said team spending most of his or her time alone or only in pairs, thus reducing their ability to combat or make sense of a situation, a minor black character who seems to joke around a lot, an evil character with evil red eyes, etc. The clichés aren't too numerous though and are forgettable once the movie gets going. I also couldn't help but wonder why the Event Horizon would be designed to be so creepy in appearance within. The ill-lit, claustophobic corridors, for example, don't seem like the type of thing on a ship one would want to be spending a lot of time in while alone in the cold deep of space. Those drawbacks aside, however...

Event Horizon is among the very few horror films that actually creeps me out. Despite that design a ship to be so creepy looking in certain areas may not make sense, the design of the ship is amazing and outright unnerving at times. The chamber that houses the Event Horizon's reactor used to create the portal it travelled through, for example... wow. The film presents advanced technology as a monstrosity. The equipment on board the ship can do amazing things with wonderful potential but the equipment itself appears as something out of a nightmare, giving the impression that perhaps humanity shouldn't be creating wormholes through the universe.

The acting is solid with decent performances from many of the lesser characters and great performances from Fishburne and Neill. Some of the characters are stereotypical for both science fiction and horror films but, nevertheless, they do all feel like they could be real people. Event Horizon seems to take a lot of common concepts from sci-fi and horror films and turn them into something that's actually interesting, despite being done before. This is because Event Horizon actually uses these concepts well.

The science portrayed in the film is never sacrificed for the horror. Technology that is outright impossible is never used as a plot device to keep things going in the hope that the audience isn't aware of such impossibility. On the other side of this coin, the scientific concepts are never concentrated on so much as to leave viewers without knowledge of gravity wells or wormholes in the dark. What might turn some people off of the movie though is the excessive gore. Once again a common element of horror films appears (a high body count resulting from some inventive events) and, though it is extremely bloody at times, manages to work better than in most horror films. Some might think its over the top, some might not. I didn't think it was over the top here but it was getting pretty close to the mark. Since the characters do come across as seeming real though, seeing these sometimes-extravagantly bloody demises didn't make me think of the deaths initially as inventive or even comical (as in the case of some really bad horror flicks) but as events that were actually horrible.

In the end, Event Horizon is definitely worth watching if you like horror films (or at least the concept of a horror film) or science fiction (providing you can deal with the horror aspect as well). The flick isn't perfect and not entirely original in places but it does excel at what it presents itself as and shouldn't be forgotten or overlooked.

Directed by: Paul Anderson.
Written by: Philip Eisner.
Running time: 95 minutes.
Rated R by the MPAA for violence, gore, language, and some nudity (the film received a similar rating in most countries it was released in).
Released in 1997.

A Decaying Orbit

Well that was it. We gave in. Fell in, got sucked in. It was disturbingly easy how easily everything fell apart; it seemed so solid, but there is always stuff out there way bigger than us. Stuff we just can’t anticipate.

An event horizon is the point of no return in the regime of relativity. Around a singularity it is the threshold beyond which there is no escape. Moving toward the singularity is analogous to moving forward in time

So all of the promises that we made, the security blanket that we stitched together – I’ll stick it in a trunk labeled memory. The trunk doesn’t keep anything safe, everything inside eventually fades away to dust. The latch is an event horizon. It is a boundary that, once crossed, makes it impossible for the things inside to physically affect things outside. Emotions are energy that is ripped and hurled away as painful things slowly fall away beyond the latch. Powerful and unrelenting at first, energy eventually disperses and is lost among the background radiation of what makes me who I am.

Entropy is the ugly monster that lurks just under the surface of The Second Law. It is everything that can never be retrieved or rebuilt. It is the heat death of the universe, the fading of our memories, and the failure of our bodies.

And things get more disorganized, and so this giant contraption continues to unwind. Everything gets imperceptibly closer to being the same temperature. You can't fix something without breaking something else.

I thought it mattered. I thought we could overcome any obstacle. But we are out of time and out of gas. Fatigue and life set in. I thought we could matter.

But I’m empirically insignificant.

One of my favorite facts gleaned from listening to Science & Futurism with Isaac Arthur is that black holes are almost banal in their simplicity particularly with regards to what an event horizon is. What goes up must come down unless it's traveling fast enough. Throw a ball at twelve thousand meters per second on Earth's surface (pretend atmospheric drag doesn't exist) and it is likely to end up traveling to the moon or beyond. Different spheres have different surface gravity and different escape velocities. Our Sun's is much higher than Earth's and bigger stars are higher still. The Milky Way Galaxy has various escape velocities from different points within it. So what does this elementary consequence of the laws of motion have to do with black holes?

The universe has a maximum speed at which causality propagates. For whatever reason this is also the exact speed that electromagnetic waves travel in a vacuum. There is a minimum speed which something must be traveling in order to continue traveling away from a gravitational field. Therefore, it stands to reason that an intense enough gravitational field would create a region of space that nothing escapes from. That region is the inside of an event horizon.

I've spent years hearing about how black holes break physics because blah blah general relativity blah blah quantum mechanics. I'm sure all of that is true but I wish it hadn't taken a decade for somebody to outright say that event horizons are just the point where the escape velocity exceeds the speed of light because that makes black holes about ninety percent less mysterious to me personally. Sorry to anybody for whom this was completely obvious from the first second that they had black holes explained to them but I spent a long time in the dark about what is actually a very intuitive phenomena that follows easily from basic mechanics and a superficial understanding of gravitational lensing.


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