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The Hellish Production of ‘Event Horizon’

Paul W.S. Anderson’s flop is getting its own Amazon series. To celebrate, we look back at the troubled film that inspired its creation.
Event Horizon
By  · Published on August 14th, 2019

It’s difficult to predict a film’s legacy at the time of its release. Back in 1997, Event Horizon was written off as a flop after receiving mostly negative reviews and bombing hard at the box office. Over the years, however, Paul W.S. Anderson’s saga about a hellbound spaceship and its doomed crew became something of a cult curiosity.

Of course, in this day and age, any flop can receive the reboot treatment. According to Variety, Anderson’s sci-fi horror tale is making its way to the small screen courtesy of Adam Wingard and Amazon Studios. If all goes ahead as planned, Wingard will executive produce and direct the series for the streamer.

While a series is a great way for such an excellent concept to realize its full potential, there are still plenty of things to love about the original Event Horizon. The film is very stylish, grotesquely entertaining, and it contains more than its fair share of nightmare-inducing moments. At the same time, there’s a better movie in there somewhere just scratching to get out.

Event Horizon’s troubled crusade, ironically, arose from another movie about a doomed ship: Titanic. James Cameron’s disaster epic encountered production woes of its own, which meant its planned release date of July 4, 1997, was delayed.

With a gap in their summer schedule that year, Paramount penciled Event Horizon in for an August release. That didn’t give Anderson and his crew a lot of time to complete their task. They only had four weeks to shoot the film and six weeks for editing. With time running out, the team began splicing the film together as they were shooting it.

The initial cut of Event Horizon was put together in four weeks. It didn’t go down well with test audiences and studio executives at all. Some scenes and effects shots were missing, the sound still had to be mixed, and the violence on display was too shocking for people to stomach.

The finished version of Event Horizon hints at how depraved the film could have been without studio interference ruining the fun. The original cut boasted scenes of excessive gore, cannibalism, and eviscerated bodies. Viewers see hints of the madness during some of the film’s most memorable scenes, but for the most part, it’s left to our imaginations.

Following the disastrous test screening, Paramount ordered Anderson to remove the more horrifying scenes and cut the running time — originally 130 minutes — significantly. By doing so, the film not only lost some of its more intense thrills but also key story elements which would have made the whole bloody affair more cohesive.

Unfortunately, we’ll never get to see a complete director’s cut either. According to Anderson, there have been requests from Paramount for him to restore the deleted scenes, but the excised footage no longer exists. Unless it miraculously turns up in the vaults, the film will forever remain a case of wondering what could have been.

The filming process was also disastrous. In an interview for Den of Geek, Joely Richardson — one of the stars — described the experience as “cursed” and shared a couple of horror stories. The most notable one involves explosions and memory loss.

“There was one scene with Sam Neill and me at the console. We were meant to be typing away and then on a count of three, there’d be a fake explosion and we’d throw ourselves back off our chairs. When Sam and I did the scene for real, there was the count of three and then neither of us remember what happened next. The explosion went go off and we woke up a few moments later on the floor. That happened every single time!”

At the end of the day, it’s actually a miracle that Event Horizon turned out to be as good as it is. Despite its flaws, it’s still an effective horror film with impressive special effects, top-notch performances, and an oppressive sense of dread throughout that gets under the skin.

Here’s hoping that the upcoming series can recreate some of those lost scenes and fill in the gaps. This is one of those excellent concepts that can benefit from a well-executed redo, and surely the production process will be easier this time around.

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Kieran is a Contributor to the website you're currently reading. He also loves the movie Varsity Blues.