7 things you (probably) didn’t know about Event Horizon

Chris Tilly

Event Horizon – the sci-fi horror that flopped on release but has since built up a cult following – turns 25 today, so we’re dropping some fun facts about the film.

Event Horizon revolves around salvage ship, the Lewis and Clark, investigating the re-appearance of a spacecraft that went missing years prior. The crew board said ship – the Event Horizon – and discover that it caused a rip in space and time, and is now possessed by an evil force.

Written by Philip Eisner and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, the film stars Sam Neill, Laurence Fishburne, Jason Isaacs, Sean Pertwee, and Joely Richardson.

But following a truncated post-production period and disastrous test screening, Event Horizon was snuck out during the summer via a confusing marketing campaign, and the result was box office failure.

But Event Horizon is scary. Really scary. And the film’s reputation has grown in the years since, so that now, 25 years on, it’s considered something of a cult classic. So to celebrate, the following are 7 things you (probably) didn’t know about Event Horizon…

Se7en scribe Andrew Kevin Walker did a re-write

A still from Se7en, written by Andrew Kevin Walker.

Event Horizon was Philip Eisner’s first produced screenplay. But studio Paramount felt it needed fine-tuning, so they brought in writer Andrew Kevin Walker – then riding high from the success of Se7en.

Walker introduced the idea of hell and damnation to the story, or as Anderson told Empire in 1997, he “punched up the darkness and the yeuch kind of stuff.”

Notre Dame is inside the Event Horizon

Disney’s Notre Dame.

Because he was telling a gothic story set in space, Anderson looked to gothic architecture for inspiration, and found what he was looking for in Paris.

“Using an architectural cam program, we basically built Notre Dame Cathedral in the computer” Anderson told The Ringer in a 2020 retrospective. “Then we pulled it apart and we used different elements of it to build the Event Horizon. So, the towers from Notre Dame became the engine thruster pods.”

Joely Richardson’s character was originally a man

Joely Richardson (with Laurence Fishburne) in Event Horizon.

Lieutenant M.L. Starck – communications officer of the Lewis and Clark – was originally a man. But on the film’s commentary, Anderson explains that when the opportunity arose to bloody the star of 101 Dalmatians, he changed the character.

“It’s a major first for the British Film Industry,” Anderson told Empire at the time. “Taking a Richardson and dumping nine tons of blood on them. Joely keeps saying, ‘They never trained you for this at RADA. Sword fighting – yes. Hand-to-hand combat, strangulation and having blood dumped on you – no.”’

Event Horizon’s maggots were too much for test audiences

A scene in which Kathleen Quinlan’s medical officer’s sees visions of her son’s legs covered in lesions was originally much more disturbing, but test audiences couldn’t cope with that version of the hallucination – which had him covered in maggots.

“When you put it in front of an audience, it was too much,” Anderson told The Ringer. “They were horrified by seeing the child and seeing the legs, but then when you showed the maggots, people disengaged. They went, ‘Oh my god’ – they would turn away from the screen. And you realize that as a filmmaker, you’d broken the suspension of disbelief.”

The Six Million Dollar Man inspired the Event Horizon’s gravity drive

Inspired by The Six Million Dollar Man (ride).

One of the most memorable visual images in Event Horizon is the the “meat grinder” corridor that leads to the spinning core of the gravity drive in the heart of the ship.

The script simply described blast doors dividing the crew from the drive, but Anderson wanted something more exciting, and took inspiration from a Six Million Dollar Man attraction at Universal Studios where your tram stops in a tunnel that then messes with your equilibrium.

The studio thought it was getting Star Trek

Patrick Stewart played Enterprise captain Jean-Luc Picard from 1987 to 2002, and returned to the role in 2020.
Patrick Stewart’s Picard was perhaps more what the studio expected.

Paul W.S. Anderson believes Paramount thought they were getting dark Star Trek rather than what he was crafting, which was more akin to The Shining-meets-Hellraiser in space. Meaning they weren’t expecting a rough cut of the movie to be given an NC-17 rating by the MPAA; tantamount to death at the U.S. box office.

Just last week he told Variety: “Someone actually said to me, ‘We’re the studio that makes Star Trek!’ They weren’t only horrified by my movie; they felt I was besmirching Star Trek somehow, because I was also in space and doing all this terrible stuff.”

Diabolical deleted scenes were sent to a Transylvanian mine

That NC-17 rating – which was ultimately downgraded to R after cuts – was largely due to a brief sequence detailing what happened to the crew of the Event Horizon. And it wasn’t fun and games, with Den of Geek describing their fate as follows…

“Deleted shots include a female crew member who had her mouth held open by clamps, while a crazed guy performs amateur dentistry by drilling screws into her teeth. Another unlucky chap has his legs smashed apart by steel bars and crawls away leaving parts of them behind, while another crew member had her breasts torn off. The scene also included more cannibalism and sex.”

Anderson shot the scenes at weekends in London, away from the watchful eyes of the studio, and it’s fair to say Paramount was surprized when they saw the results.

“I think that maybe they thought we were shooting close-ups of people pressing buttons or something like that,” Anderson told The Ringer. “Maybe they never saw it until the test screening, and then they were shocked. I’ll definitely say that.”

Once excised, the deleted scenes were sent to a Transylvanian salt mine for storage, where they then degraded beyond repair. Anderson says producer Lloyd Levin has a cut of the movie on VHS that he hasn’t yet seen, but which may include the fiendish footage. For now however, the sequence remains the stuff of legend, and something of a Holy Grail for Event Horizon enthusiasts.