With Amazon’s announcement of an Event Horizon series in development there is no better time to revisit all the madness of this cult classic. Billed at the time as The Shining in space this movie did not do all that well in theaters, but has since found its footing as a guilty pleasure. It was just one of many genre movies Sam Neil cranked out during this time frame with Jurassic Park and In The Mouth Of Madness rounding out the top three. It has a great cast including Laurence Fishburne, Kathleen Quinlan, Jason Isaacs, Joely Fisher, Richard T. Cooper, Sean Pertwee, and Jack Noseworthy comprising the rest of the ensemble cast.
Fishburne of course, went on to The Matrix trilogy and Isaacs has been in everything from recently axed The OA to Star Trek: Discovery. The concept of a black hole provides a heady jumping off point for horror. A place were space and time can’t even exist in the same way because of the sheer power of the hole is more than most of our feeble minds can comprehend. It isn’t that big a stretch for us to imagine a dimension of chaos where destruction and terror are the only things that survive. After rewatching this 1997 sci-horror personal favorite I was struck by two things. The first being that some of the special effects just don’t hold up that well, and the second that the ship and the Hell scenes are still scary AF. Here are seven things you didn’t know about Event Horizon.
1. The political landscape has changed significantly in 2047.
The major countries all seem to exist, they are just different than our current makeup. For example, the United States has 55 states instead of the current 50. If you look closely at the flags on the uniforms worn by the crew the US flag has 55 stars. It is likely the five additional states represent the current US territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, The US Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa. The Australian flag worn by Dr. Weir is missing the Union Jack and an Aboriginal flag is in its place. The British crew members have a European Union flag with 22 stars. This, of course, predated Brexit.
2. The entire ship including the gateway machine were one massive symbol.
Every nuanced angle of the ship was designed to invoke images of Hell. Even without all the blood and guts everywhere this is a dark and unpleasant ship. The portals Kathleen Quinlan’s character Peters runs through chasing her ghost son are shaped like coffins foretelling the deaths that are to come. In addition, the machine itself was originally designed to be flat black but was redesigned to be reminiscent of the puzzle box in Hellraiser. The airlock the Lewis and Clark docks with Event Horizon is Roman Numeral 13. The rotating corridor that separated the drive from the rest of the ship symbolized Dante’s nine circles of Hell. Those nine circles are Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud, and Treachery. In case you are wondering there are eight members of the Lewis and Clark crew.
3. The role of Dr. Weir was originally offered to Scott Glenn and Bill Pullman who both turned it down.
Both of the actors are great in the own right with Glenn appearing in Sucker Punch and Pullman in Independence Day and USA’s The Sinner. Dr. Weir would not have been the same without Neil’s creepy delivery which elevates his simple mad scientist character to a complex personality of warring emotions and motivations. It took Neil seven hours daily to get into the makeup for the final scenes.
4. The extended cut of Hell was inexplicably scattered and has since been destroyed.
The first cut of the film was 30 minutes longer than the released version, and so violent director Paul W. S. Anderson was forced to cut 30 minutes out. Parts of the movie have been found in places as remote as an abandoned salt mine in Transylvania. In 2012 the longer rough cut was found but by a strange twist of hellish fate the method used to recover the film was shoddy and the film had to be destroyed. Pieces of the extended scenes and alternative endings were included in the Special Collector’s Edition.
5. Sam Neil’s character Dr. Weir is named after a Dutch physician, occultist, and demonologist.
The Dutch doctor’s name is Johann Weyer or Weir and he was born in Grave, Netherlands in 1515. He was an activist against witch-hunting using his scientific mind to dispel hysterical beliefs. Despite writing against the persecution of so-called witches, he did believe in demons and the Devil. He wrote a catalog of demons titled Pseudomonarchia Daemonum that listed names and descriptions of the beings along with what was needed to conjure and control them. Like Dr. Weir’s namesake he too is a man of science that believes in Hell.
6. The Hell scenes and visions were all inspired by Renaissance paintings by Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel.
Bosch completed a series of four paintings titled Hell, Ascent of theBlessed, Terrestrial Paradise, and Fall of the Damned Into Hell. His Hell was a fantastical world with grotesque acts of savagery and often ridiculous creatures like birds who vomit dice. Fifty years later Bruegel, who became known as a second Bosch, created his own depictions of Hell on earth with blood and feces covering embattled warriors. Both of these artist’s works have become a touchstone for religious and non religious alike as a reminder that everything has a price. Their works were the original genre pop art as the agony and misery portrayed in the art drew as much fear as morbid curiosity. Very little of the recovered footage of the Event Horizon’s original crew is shown, but the hints of the torture and degradation are enough to haunt me. They did some unspeakable things to each other.
7. The Hell scenes were actually much longer and more graphic than released.
In the flashed moments of the aftermath of the Event Horizon’s return from an inter-dimensional Hell shown there is cannibalism, self-mutilation, screaming, eye-poking and lots and lots of blood. The rough cut received an NC-17 rating which was the kiss of death back then. As a result, the scene was shredded to squeak under the R rating rules. In the extended scenes women crew members sodomized male ones with lead pipes, the crew participated in a mountain of cannibal orgies, heads were spiked, eyes were poked out, intestines removed through the throat in agonizing detail, breasts and legs are ripped or beaten apart, and teeth are drilled with screws. These scenes were especially frightening because adult film stars were used to make the sexual scenes more graphic and actual amputees were used to make the dismemberment more realistic.
If the Amazon series is even half as memorable as the film we will be in for a wild ride. With today’s sensibilities, special effects, and streaming giant funding Hell could be brought to the screen as it was intended. If that happens all I can say is “liberate tutemete ex inferis”. I want to watch but I don’t want to get sucked into that black hole.
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.