Oct 10: Event Horizon (1997)


Why not start the weekend off with a Sam Neill double feature and have Event Horizon follow In the Mouth of Madness?! Taking place in 2047, Event Horizon depicts the events surrounding the ill-fatal rescue mission embarked on by the Lewis and Clark in response to distress signals dispatched by the Event Horizon, a ship that disappeared seven years prior. The vessel had ventured into an experimental flight to test a gravity drive, which if successful, would decrease the travel time between two points in the universe. Upon reaching the Event Horizon, many sinister events take place revealing the remnants of the crew from the previous mission. Slowly, the crew of the Lewis and Clark are pulled into the hallucinogenic trances of the Event Horizon with some of the lives of the crew being claimed. Desperate measures are taken to return to earth, which unfortunately prove futile.


Among the most striking parts of Event Horizon are the hallucinations envisioned by the members of the Lewis and Clark. While hallucinations are often synonymous with psychotic disorders, general medical conditions and substance use must first be ruled out. In the film, it is possible that the hallucinations are due to delirium induced by hypoxia. Many of the hallucinations of the crew members began when they entered the Event Horizon and had less than a day of usable oxygen for the entire crew. The impact of being in stasis, perhaps complicated by electrolyte abnormalities (inadequate intake), could also have contributed to delirium. Of note, at the end of the film, Starck awakens from an over-two-month period of stasis with a delusion that Dr. Weir is impersonating one of the rescue workers. This particular type of delusion is known as the Fregoli syndrome (Weir can assume intermetamorphosis).

The hallucinations, in Dr. Weir’s case, could also be as a result of pathologic grief. While adaptive bereavement may include guilt over actions taken or not taken with the deceased while they were still alive, it is pathologic when the guilt becomes pervasive and debilitating. In Dr. Weir’s case, his pathological guilt over his wife committing suicide results in hallucinations of her insisting that he stay on the Event Horizon.

The character of Ensign Justin depicts the use of dissociation as a defense mechanism. After witnessing horrid images from the gravity core, he enters a catatonic state. When the catatonia resolves, he demonstrates Acute Stress Disorder, constantly reliving the images he saw. This leads him to attempt suicide. His means underscores the principle that men use more lethal mechanisms for suicide, as he tries to leave the ship without a space suit. It’s interesting that a crew member on a ship named Lewis and Clark would prompt a discussion of suicide, as its namesake, Meriwether Lewis, was found with two gunshot wounds at a roadside inn at Grinder’s Stand, Tennessee on this very date in 1809. He died the next morning on October 11, 206 years ago due to wounds from his suicide attempt.

Oct 9: In the Mouth of Madness (1994)


We go back-to-back today with John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness. Considered by Carpenter to be the final piece of the apocalyptic trilogy preceded by The Thing and Prince of Darkness, In the Mouth of Madness is told as a patient history. Dr. Wrenn performs a psychiatric evaluation on John Trent who discloses his history of present illness (HPI) that culminates with admission to an inpatient psychiatric hospital (where the movie begins).


John Trent is an insurance investigator who was recently hired by Arcane Publishing to investigate the disappearance of Sutter Cane, an author whose novels are purported to cause acute onset of disorientation, memory loss, and paranoia in their readers. The effects fit a diagnosis of delirium, specifically disturbances in cognition (including attention, orientation, and memory) that develop over a short period of time. The disturbance is a direct physiological effect of a medical condition or a substance. Since we see through the perspective of Trent, a closer investigation may reveal the etiology of his delirium (did he give a urine drug screen upon admission to the hospital?).

Trent’s investigation leads him to Hobbs End, the fictional town in Cane’s novels. There, he finds Cane who reveals that they are all characters playing a part in a larger story, the last “chapter” of which is captured in his new novel aptly named In The Mouth of Madness. Cane also informs Trent that his fans’ belief in his stories have freed an ancient monstrous race that will overrun the earth (i.e. the end of the novel and therefore, their ultimate fate).

In viewing the film, one must consider that Trent used cocaine upon being hired while reading Cane’s novel “to research” his new client (the “altered” eyes and nosebleed of the reader killed by Trent are symbolic of cocaine’s intoxication effects). His intoxication “got him caught up” in the novel, where he was unable to differentiate fiction from reality. The cognitive deficits and perceptual disturbances that are pervasive throughout the film are the result of cocaine-induced delirium. Trent’s feelings of derealization and loss of time query the use of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). Along with cocaine, LSD has a sympathomimetic effect, so their concurrent use risks sudden cardiac death. Perhaps Carpenter’s theme of the apocalypse is a metaphor for the public health crisis and economic burden of drug use and heart disease in the US.

Oct 8: The Thing (1982)


At the Amundsen’Scott South Pole Station, most personnel leave by the middle of February, leaving a few dozen “winter-overs” (mostly support staff plus a few scientists) who keep the station functional through the months of Antarctic night. The winter personnel are isolated between mid-February and late October. After the last flight has left for the winter, an annual tradition is a double feature viewing of The Thing and The Shining.

So, following yesterday’s blog on The Shining, its only right to examine John Carpenter’s The Thing next. Based on John W. Campbell, Jr.’s novella, Who Goes There?, the movie is about a parasitic , extraterrestrial lifeform that assimilates organisms at the molecular level, thus allowing it to mimic the host phenotypically.

Set in Antarctica, The Thing begins with a Norwegian helicopter pursuing an Alaskan malamute to an American research station. When the last surviving Norwegian is shot and killed, the Americans go to the Norwegian base only to find it burned to the ground. MacReady and the crew learn that the Malamute was alien, and before they could kill it, the thing begins to assimilate the other dogs and members of the research team.

Considered by Carpenter to be the first part of an apocalyptic trilogy along with Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth of Madness, The Thing pays homage to Dracula, depicting the trials of MacReady (modern day Van Helsing), who leads the team as they try to capture and kill the inhuman scourge before it can hibernate and move beyond the continent.


We discover that the thing was trying to freeze itself and hibernate, thus introducing the notion of dyssomnias; sleep abnormalities in the amount, quality, or timing of sleep involving abnormalities in mechanisms generating sleep-wake states (as opposed to parasomnias which are abnormal behaviors occurring in association with/around the time of sleep such as sleep walking). One dyssomnia, Non-24 Hour Sleep-Wake Type (a Circadian Rhythm Sleep-Wake Disorder), is characterized by abnormal synchronization between the 24-h light-dark cycle and the endogenous circadian rhythm. Given that a) the setting of the film is the Antarctic night, b) the alien’s circadian rhythm is longer than 24 hours, c) the alien needs to hibernate, The Thing may be viewed as an exercise in the Sleep-Wake Disorders.

The Thing can also be interpreted as a case study of “mass paranoia;” with imminent danger behind every familiar face, the film oscillates between hypervigilance and Shared Psychotic Disorder. For example, Blair becomes increasingly paranoid, calculating that if the alien escapes Antarctica, all life on earth will be assimilated within a few years.
In the final scene, MacReady and Childs watch the camp burn and acknowledge the futility of their distrust and share a bottle of scotch. The ambiguous ending is clarified 30 years later by Joss Whedon; in The Cabin in the Woods, the scene revealing the “Fail” in Sweden most likely reveals the cataclysmic outcome of The Thing.