• Graveyard Shift

The Production Of 'Event Horizon' Was Its Own Level Of Hell

Event Horizon is considered a sci-fi cult classic today. But like many cult classics, it first had to endure a tough time at the box office. The 1997 film tells the story of a ship called the Event Horizon that disappeared after testing an experimental gravity drive that could create a black hole. When the Event Horizon mysteriously reappears, a rescue ship called the Lewis and Clark is sent to investigate, but its crew quickly realizes that the Horizon is much more sinister than they realized: It's become sentient after traveling to an alternate dimension, and it wants to destroy them. 

From the outset, the movie itself was nearly as doomed as the crew of the Lewis and Clark. Paramount rushed it into production to compensate for Titanic's many delays. Director Paul W.S. Anderson was given far less time to work on Event Horizon than a typical film would receive. The set was plagued with problems and accidents, and the cast considered it "cursed." Anderson turned in a rushed cut that freaked out test audiences so badly that it had to be severely edited. As a result, it was a box office flop. 

Despite its flaws, Event Horizon still has plenty for sci-fi and horror fans to enjoy, from impressive set design to memorable scares to disturbing visuals. Here's the story of how Event Horizon overcame a hellish production to become a cult classic. 

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  • The Problems With 'Event Horizon' Began Because Of Delays In The Production Of 'Titanic'

    Event Horizon faced an uphill battle from the outset, and it was all because of another film entirely. Titanic was originally supposed to be released on July 4, 1997, one of the most lucrative release dates of the year. But in the spring of 1997, it was clear that Titanic director James Cameron would be unable to complete his film in time for the Fourth of July. It was also one of the most expensive productions in movie history at that point, with its budget ballooning past $200 million. 

    Paramount delayed Titanic's release until November of that year, which left a gap in its summer production schedule that needed to be filled. 

  • Due To A Gap In The Summer Schedule, Production Was Ramped Up Significantly

    Prior to directing Event Horizon, Paul W.S. Anderson had just completed a successful movie adaptation of the Mortal Kombat arcade game in 1995. Coming into 1997, Anderson was also juggling several other commitments, including an Alien sequel and an adaptation of the X-Men comics. He also had the opportunity to direct his own project, and he fell in love with Event Horizon and its "haunted house in space" premise.

    Paramount offered him a budget of $60 million to direct, but it came with a catch - Anderson had to agree to the rushed production schedule in order to complete the film in time for a summer release. 

  • The Tight Production Schedule Meant Filmmakers Had To Hire An Inexperienced Production Designer

    The role of production designer is particularly important on a science fiction film, because they are responsible for bringing its futuristic world to life. Sci-fi movie production designers often wind up becoming legendary within the film community, like Star Wars's John Barry or Blade Runner's Lawrence Paull. 

    Since Event Horizon was greenlit just 10 weeks before the start of production, most established production designers turned down the job. Instead, Anderson and his producers took a risk and hired newcomer Joseph Bennett. "The reason we hired Joseph is that he was incredibly young and enthusiastic, and what he lacked in experience, I thought he would make up in sheer flair," Anderson said. "He hasn't disappointed."

    Hiring Bennett would end up being one of the few production decisions that went right. His blend of near-future technology and oppressive gothic architecture gave the film a unique look that even contemporary critics appreciated. Bennett's designs remain one of the highest-praised aspects of the film today. 

  • To Hit The New Deadlines, Paul W.S. Anderson Worked Seven Days A Week, Filming And Editing At The Same Time

    Due to the new deadline, Anderson had only four weeks to film, forcing him to work seven days a week. He was given only six weeks to edit the film, but at the start of editing, he still had two weeks of filming with the second unit, which effectively reduced his editing time to just four weeks. By comparison, a film typically gets 10 weeks of editing time, per Directors Guild guidelines. 

    Anderson also had to contend with adverse weather. Many scenes were originally planned to be filmed on location, but severe conditions caused by El Niño forced the production to rely on sound stages. Anderson later felt that this compromised his film's overall look.