In 2047, a distress signal reveals that Event Horizon, a starship that disappeared on its maiden voyage to Proxima Centauri seven years before, has suddenly reappeared in a decaying orbit around Neptune. The Lewis and Clark is sent to investigate. It is crewed by Captain S.J. Miller (Laurence Fishburne), and the crew consists of Lieutenant M.L. Stark (Joely Richardson), pilot W.F. Smith (Sean Pertwee), medical technician Peters (Kathleen Quinlan), Engineer F.M. Justin (Jack Noseworthy), Doctor D.J. (Jason Isaacs), and rescue technician T.F. Cooper (Richard T. Jones).

They are joined by Doctor William Weir (Sam Neill), who designed the Event Horizon. He informs the crew about the ship’s experimental gravity drive, which generates a black hole to link two points in space-time. The distress signal is a series of screams and howls and the Latin phrase “Liberate Me.” On boarding the Event Horizon, they find evidence of a massacre. They search for survivors, but the gravity drive activates, pulling in Justin for a moment and damaging the Lewis and Clark. They are forced to move to the Event Horizon. Justin emerges in a catatonic state, tries to space himself, but is saved by Miller. They place him in stasis.

The team sees apparitions of individuals from their past, and hallucinations concerning their fears and regrets. They find a video log of the Event Horizon’s crew fornicating and mutilating each other after the gravity drive is engaged. It ends with the image of the Event Horizon’s Captain John Kilpack holding his own gouged-out eyes and saying, “Save yourself from Hell.” Clearly, the gravity drive opened up a portal to some hellish dimension outside the known universe and it seems the ship is now sentient and predatory.

Miller orders an evacuation and intends to destroy the Event Horizon. Peters is lured to her death by a hallucination of her son. Weir, now possessed, destroys the Lewis and Clark with an explosion that kills Smith and throws Cooper into space. Weir kills D.J. and corners Starck on the bridge. Weir then begins a ten-minute countdown until the Event Horizon will use the gravity drive to return to the other dimension.

Cooper uses his spacesuit’s oxygen supply to propel himself back to the ship and appear at the window. Weir fires at him and is blown into space. Miller, Starck, and Cooper seal off the bridge. Miller hopes to separate the Event Horizon into two parts and use the forward section as a lifeboat. He is attacked by Corrick, who is really Weir resurrected. Miller detonates the explosion, killing himself. The gravity drive activates, pulling the stern section into a black hole. Starck and Cooper enter stasis and wait for rescue. 72 days later, the ship is boarded by a rescue party.

The film was directed by Paul W.S. Anderson and written by Philip Eisner. It was a difficult shoot, rushed by Paramount Studios. Originally 130 minutes long, it was heavily edited by the studios, to the director’s consternation. It was a commercial and critical failure but was rescued by home video and became something of a cult film.

In early versions, it was too similar to Alien, with tentacled aliens, but was rewritten as a haunted house story in space, with the ship itself possessed. The studio wanted it released before Titanic and the editing was problematic. Several in the test audience fainted at the gore, supposedly. After it became a success on DVD, there was a search for the excised material, but most of it was missing. The bloody orgy was extended, using actors with missing limbs and pornographic film actors. Michael Kamen wrote the unsettling music. Reviews were unfavorable by those who liked the early science-fiction scenes and were disappointed by the rest, and favorable by fans of Satanic horror.

One shot of the space station (45 seconds long) used up a third of the film’s visual effects budget and took ten hours to create. The black hole device, visually, was an homage to the puzzle box in Hellraiser. The visions of Hell and the video log were inspired by 16th Century painters Hieronymus Bosch and Peter Bruegel. Executives did not expect this from the studio that made Star Trek. The spacesuits were so heavy that the actors had to rest hanging from hooks because standing or sitting down for any length of time was painful.

Kurt Russell predicted that the box-office failure would be a cult favorite on DVD. The shoot consulted with Clive Barker. The Event Horizon is modeled on Notre Dame Cathedral. Doctor Weir’s name comes from Johann Weyer, the 16th Century demonologist. Screenwriter Robert Gordon modeled the Chompers in Galaxy Quest on the Meat Grinder tunnel in Event Horizon, which he found amusing. It is supposed to represent the nine circles of Hell from Dante’s Inferno. It made camera operators dizzy and had to be filmed with a fixed camera. At one point, it caught fire.