a) The Event Horizon event
Event Horizon came out in 1997, and joined a rare group of scifi and horror movies with some very interesting art direction, which included Alien.
The early photos and the images of the spacecraft promoted the mystery of the ship's exterior and engine room.
Once one actually got down to watching it, it revealed itself to borrow from a number of different scifi and horror films at the time including Alien but not in terms of having an alien monster running loose.
At the time the film's plot seemed very derivative, one could immediately see the comparisons to Hellraiser but images such as the main ship's design engine room gave the film a sense of mystery.
Over time the film gained more respect from the public because the film industry offered less and less over the decades that could be seen as any better.
After a while once the Hellraiser film series lost its way after three films, it almost became a near enough welcome addition to Hellraiser making the ship's odd design seem like another Lament Configuration from that film series.
Larry Gordon bought it off a pitch.
Phil Eisner told Larry Gordon "I want to do a haunted hose in space, "
Larry replied enthusiastically, "That's great, what happens?'
But Eisner replied "I don't know, I have to write it".
And so Larry and his associates response was 'Doh! You've got to give us more than that."
And I came back and told them, "Okay, this is the set-up, the ship is the first ship that has been faster than light. It's vanished for seven years, it comes back and no-one knows what happened, and these people go out to find it,'
This all sounded good and so they said "Great!"
They liked the idea enough to trust him to do it.
A popular point of discussion is how the Paul Anderson sci-fi horror movie "Event Horizon" (released in 1997) was inspired by Alien.
However when Philip Eisner wrote the script for Event Horizon, he wanted to avoid comparisons between it and of course Alien which deals with the investigation of a derelict ship, he talked about how he tried to take inspiration from horror movie such as The Shining and The Haunting which are both classic movies, yet his script includes the lone corpse of one of the crew found aboard the ship and the disappearance of the other members of the crew which is something found in Alien as well, but they both share this trope with the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker published in 1897.
As Anderson would further note like a ship that's been abandoned, but the lifeboats haven't been used and there's no sign of the crew.
There are blood stains on the walls, but there are night signs of any bodies. As they begin to salvage the ship, the search-and-rescue crew start hearing strange voices and start seeing strange apparitions.
They gradually realize that something is terribly wrong.
Still both Event Horizon and Alien have an inhuman sounding distress signal as part of the scenario which became mistranslated from a distress call to a warning.
The spacecraft surrounded in the clouds is supposed to be reminiscent of a haunted house surrounded by mist and the story is much like taking a classic haunted house story and putting it in a science fiction realm.
However, Eisner's script featured tentacular slimy aliens which Anderson didn't appreciate and so he did a rewrite under Anderson's supervision.
Then Anderson brought in Andrew Kevin Walker to do a rewrite, he was fresh off writing the script for Seven which had been released in 1995, and then he was brought into it the idea of hell and damnation.
d) Inspired by Alien?
The final Event Horizon as with Alien presented a movie where the remains of a dead pilot are
found and the rest of the crew have disappeared, however it's only a question asked in Alien about what happened to the rest of the crew, there is no evidence that there must have been any others aboard.
However both of the movies contain a mysterious roughly spherical chamber with a large inspiring centrepiece contraption, (in Alien, the Space Jockey seat, and in Event Horizon the Gravity Drive that in flashbacks transforms into a torturing machine).
However Sam Neil's character, Doctor William weir appears to be the Ash the robot of the Event Horizon throughout much of the movie, unable to say why anything is happening causing anger because of his indecisiveness, and by the end of the movie he becomes as it were near enough the alien monster that's become a Hellraiser cenobite by the end of it.
And like Lambert and Dallas, two members of the crew become victims when they go load up gas cylinders.
There are various words and phrases here and there flung around that seem to echo various sentences uttered in Alien.
It appears to be a time when it is very hard to get out of the grip of what the Alien script was with all of its ideas and content, but an important difference between that and the resulting Event Horizon movie is that the monster is the ship, and the thing that you're afraid of is the dark inside everybody.
A monster can only do what it can do, while in this film, if they're surrounded by horror all the time, it can burst out at any moment.
e) Alien and Event Horizon discussed by director.
Despite Paul Anderson's attempt to make Event Horizon a movie different from Alien, he found himself talking away in interviews about Alien and Event Horizon as if they were interrelated subjects.
But really, although he loved the original Alien movie, he didn't see the alien as being particularly scary 20 years on in the way it was being used in the franchise.
It continued burst out of people's chests (or stomachs so he said), so what?
Jeremy Bolt the producer was talking in the same terms, and that after 20 minutes into the film, any notion about Alien will have faded away.
Meanwhile Event Horizon had elements of the unknown, and for a long time people wouldn't have any idea what was going on in the ship.
He wanted to stress a comparison with Solaris, and also how the ship itself as a conscious entity is to be compared to the creature from Alien in that you never know what it is going to do to do next while it plays mind games with its victims, the film plays on fears and guilty big time.
When it came to the production of the film, they freely thought about the run down dirtiness of the Nostromo when they created the human's ship Lewis and Clarke, and each of the human's bunks were decorated with photos of family and nude girls in a similar way to Alien, by the actors.
It also so happened that Alien's editor Terry Rawlings came along to give advice and suggestions for two weeks leading to shots such as the jump cut from Sam Neil using a razor to window blinds opening which was the first big visual jump in the picture.
g) Techno Medieval Origins
The superb oddity of the "techno medieval" set decoration that the director talks about giving the feeling of "being in a dungeon somewhere, underneath a castle in some catacomb," as different as it might be does inspire people to have discussions about comparisons between this film and Alien.
While the interior of the spacecraft might defeat any rationality for a hardnoses science fiction enthusiast, the technomedieval look at the time would have been familar to the players of the tabletop game Warhammer 20,000 along with its cathedral ships popular in England at the time.
Amongst the other things from various scifi and fantasy genres entering into its creative mix one can see how obvious it is that people were being inspired by Giger's artwork.
So it seemed to be something for Anderson to throw into the creative mix for Event Horizon.
|Warhammer 40,000 (1987)|
|The Emperor's Imperial palace from the Warhammer 40,000 game book|
William Malone had the idea of taking the premise of Philip Noyce's film Dead Calm and setting it in deep space.
He came up with the idea of an alien device called the Thanatron; a machine capable of transporting someone directly to Hell as a short cut, where they would meet Satan himself, The Thanatron - which had been designed by Giger.
The story features an evil character who comes aboard the ship with the device, allowing Satan to come through this portal to wreak havoc. Its immediate obvious comparison would have been a sort of Hellraiser in space.
The problem with Dead Star was that it kicked around Hollywood for about ten years. It was a script that everyone liked but nobody wanted to make.
The project then got knocked off by five or six different movies - most notably Event Horizon. Malone had to imagine that - because Event Horizon is so similar - major portions of it were lifted from his script.
By the time they got around to making `Dead Star' renaming it Supernova, Malone was no longer involved with the film, and it was very different from what he'd originally conceived.
Perhaps the fact that Alan Kevin Walker was brought in to rewrite the Event Horizon script was what made it into Hellraiser in Space. ( See William Malone's Dead Star)
|William Malone's illustration of a demonic vision unleashed by the Thanatron|
- Philip Eisner: Larry Gordon bought it off a pitch. I said, "I want to do a haunted hose in space, " and he said "That's great, what happens?' And I said "I don't know, I have to write it". And they were just "Doh! You've got to give us more than that." And I came back and told them, "Okay, this is the set-up, the ship is the first ship that has been faster than light. It's vanished for seven years, it comes back and no-one knows what happened, and these people go out to find it," and they said, "Great!" They liked the idea enough to trust me to do it (Dreamwatch, "Terror Icognita," p28)
- Interviewer: And how did this project come to you guys exactly
in this little interim space, were you approached with it or was it
something you talked about before.
Paul Anderson: Yes, we erm, we were, no we would er, we were approached by Paramount to do it, and er, I read the screenplay and really liked it, erm. The first version of the screenplay that Philip Eisner, erm, had written had aliens in it, like big tentacular slimy aliens, and er, I really didn't like that aspect of it so, kind of under my supervision, he did a rewrite, and then we also brought in erm.
Jeremy Bolt: David Webb Peoples, er no erm, the guy who wroter Seven, Andy Kevin Walker
Paul Anderson: Andy Kevin Walker, that's it. Erm, we brought in Andy Walker to do a rewrite, kind of introduce the whole idea of hell and er, damnation. And Andy Walker did some great stuff
Jeremy Bolt: And the finger
Paul Anderson: Yeah
Jeremy Bolt: He came up with this clever idea that they first get onto the event horizon is this object floating towards them, and it's just a finger, and then, then the tooth. Just the finger .....
Paul Anderson:Yuh . Well, that was Andy. Andy had just done Seven, so he was like, he was on fire,
Jeremy Bolt: He was so dark,
Paul Anderson: He was in dark disturbing mode, and er, I don't know if any of you met Andy Walker, he actually looks like the Devil. It's quite interesting and fun working with him. (Paul W.S. Anderson Event Horizon Q&A Toronto Underground Cinema 18th December 2011 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXL_CM4DXZ8)
- William Malone: I thought it would be interesting to take the premise of Philip Noyce's Dead Calm and set it in deep space. I came up with the idea of an alien device called the Thanatron; a machine capable of transporting you directly to Hell, where you would meet Satan himself, The Thanatron - which had been designed by Giger - acts as a shortcut.The story features an evil character who comes aboard the ship with the device, allowing Satan to come through this portal to wreak havoc.The problem with Dead Star was that it kicked around Hollywood for about ten years. It was a script that everyone liked but nobody wanted to make. The project then got knocked off by five or six different movies - most notably Event Horizon. I have to imagine that - because Event Horizon is so similar - major portions of it were lifted from my script. By the time they got around to making `Dead Star [as Supernova], I was no longer involved with the film, and it was very different from what I'd originally conceived (Rue Morgue #149. p22)
- Paul Anderson: I love Alien and think that movie did as far as monster movies set in Space go. I would never want to make a film like Alien, because it's just perfect. When I read Event Horizon the thing that exited me was that it wasn't trying to be a monster movie in Space, it was actually a collision of two different genres; it's a Science Fiction film set in a haunted house. In terms of production design, and the whole way that the movie was put together, we tried to stay as far away from Alien as possible. (Shivers #45, 38)
- Jeremy Bolt: There's no monster in Event Horizon. It's psychological, it's within, it's Dante, there's nothing with big teeth in our film. (Shivers #45, 38)
- Paul Anderson: After reading five pages of the script, I thought "I've seen this before". Twenty pages in, and I was going "What the fuck's happening?"(Neon, p22, 1997)
- Paul Anderson: It looks like 2001 with the lights on and Torquemada's dungeon with them off. (Neon, p22, 1997)
- Jeremy Bolt: It's very frightening. not the way Alien is, - there's no specific monster. It's more psychological. When the film comes out, people are going to want something extreme. And there will be nothing as extreme as this. (Neon, p22, 1997)
- Paul Anderson: For me, what makes the movie really original is that you're expecting another monster movie, another variation of ALIEN, and that's not what you get at all. Instead, you get a very scary psychological horror movie. (Starlog / September 1997, p42)
- Paul Anderson: If you say SF-Horror, immediately people think ALIEN, which this isn't. SF ghost story is closer to the mark. If you took Solaris and turned it into an American action movie, you may end up with Event Horizon. There are many similarities between these two films, but we're not three and a half hours long and we have much better FX. (Starlog / September 1997, p42)
- Paul Anderson: We wanted to come up with something original, rather than ALIEN and Blade Runner rolled into one, which is what many movies look like to me. The design concept we came up with was what we called techno-medieval. When the lights are on in the spaceship, it looks very technological, very kind of 2001: A Space Odyssey. When the lights are off, you feel like you're in a dungeon somewhere, underneath a castle in some catacomb. (Starlog / September 1997, p42)
- Paul Anderson: It [looks] like a ship that's been abandoned, but the lifeboats haven't been used and there's no sign of the crew. There are blood stains on the walls, but there are night signs of any bodies. As they begin to salvage the ship, the search-and-rescue crew start hearing strange voices and start seeing strange apparitions. They gradually realize that something is terribly wrong. It's much like taking a classic haunted house story and putting it in a science fiction realm. (Cinescape July/August 1997))
- Paul Anderson: Once you know the monster, you cease to be afraid of it. The great thing about Alien is that the monster kept on changing. It started as this creature on your face and then it burst out of your stomach and then it became this huge beast. So when you first went to see that movie, your never knew what to expect. Event Horizon is an attempt to return to that, because you're expecting a monster, but you never know what the ship is going to do to you next, and not being able to anticipate it makes it much more scary. (Starlog / September 1997, p44)
- Joseph Bennet: I thought it was an incredible exciting script, and talking to Paul, I felt the design aspect could be very interesting and challenging. But also there was a great scientific background to it. I was trained as a scientist, so it was the pure physics aspect of it that interested me to an extent. But it was also the psychological aspect - the way that there was a kind of warping of space and time which warps (the protagonists') heads, so that it became an internal game, an Alien film without the alien. (SFX # 29, September 1997, p30)
- The main problem, Phil Eisner says, was trying to avoid comparisons with other such movies of the genre, especially those like Alien, which deal with the investigation of a mysterious derelict ship. (SFX # 29, September 1997, p53)
- Phil Eisner : My reference wasn't really Alien, because the film is less an SF film than a pure horror film, in the sense of something like The Shining and The Haunting. (SFX # 29, September 1997, p53)
- Phil Eisner: One of the things I've always loved about movies like Alien or Independence Day is when you go into a room and it's like nothing you've ever seen before. One thing Event Horizon provides is that sense of exploration. (SFX # 29, September 1997, p54)
- Paul Anderson: Martin Hunter cut nearly all the picture but we had Terry Rawlings who's a fabulous British editor, he came in and gave us a few pointers, he just gave us a couple of weeks and he came with this cut, which was cutting from Sam Neil's razor to the window blinds opening, which was the first really big jump that we got in the picture. (DVD commentary)
- Jeremy Bolt: You know I also like the fact that the whites in the ship, they're a little bit dirty and smudged, it's not completely pristine, it's kinda like the ship in Alien. (DVD commentary)
- Paul Anderson:Yeah, we were obviously very influenced by the look of the Nostromo when it came to designing this, you know, like that grubby realistic view of the future and we gave the actors a chance to personalise all of their bunks, so when you see erm, you know, all the, all the clippings and all the nude girls and everything like that, stuck inside the bunks, that was all the work of the actors. (DVD commentary)
- Paul Anderson: I'm really happy with the, the mixture of characters and actors we have in this movie. It was one of the things again, I mean obviously we were very inspired by Alien, but I think it was one of the genius things that, er, Ridley did in Alien was have very very distinct different character types and that's something we were definitely, you know, striving for here. (DVD commentary)
- Jeremy Bolt: We were quite inspired by the cube in Hellraiser and the way that it realligned itself and reshapes itself. (DVD commentary)
- Paul Anderson: The difference between us and all the other [science fiction] films out there is that ours is the only movie that's just going to terrify people. I don't find Alien scary any more. We all know what know what it did 20 years ago in the original movie and it hasn't changed much. So it's going to burst out of your stomach? So what? Event Horizon has the element of the unknown - for a long time - people wont have any idea what's going on in this ship. Ours may be the only movie [this summer] that's going to have people running from the cinema or passing out or just going, 'Oooooh, that was gross! The kind of reactions people to to The Exorcist are what we went for. (Cinescape July/August 1997)
- Jeremy Bolt: Once past the first 20 minutes, any Alien notion will completely vanish. We've all seen too much of the alien in Alien now. The creature is not frightening anymore. Event Horizon is going to scare you to death if we get it right. Our film hits all kinds of unusual nerves. It plays on fears and guilt big time. Essentially it's a very medieval philosophy that lies at our hard centre - if you are guilty, you will pay for your sins. Another Se7en similarity (Starburst 229, p35)
- The centrepiece, a 100 foot long metallic tube, has been nicknamed the meatgrinder. (Neon, p22, 1997)
- Paul Anderson: It's like a house of fun. It fucks with your inner ear, and you fall over a lot. (Neon, p22, 1997)
- Jason Isaacs: I'm so glad we haven't got a man running around in a rubber suit playing the bad guy. This is spooky and you're not quite sure what's going on or why or how this will play out - and that's more scary. I didn't at first immediately clock on to the story and how it was going to be sorted out at all. Instead it deals with what frightens you, but doesn't do it on the screen - it's about what people conjure up to scare themselves. When my girlfriend and agent watched it for the first time, they were burying their head in their hands. (90s Movies: The Ultimate Celebration)
- Paul Anderson: What we are making is essentially a haunted house film like The Haunting, which is one of the best haunted house films ever made. It wasn't a big budget movie, but the way they lit it and shot it was very intelligently done. There was a sense of terror all the time. On the other hand you have, say, Alien 3 where they had double the budgets of Alien and Aliens combined, yet it was a worse film because the previous ones had been so much better thought out. I think that one of the strengths of Event Horizon is it doesn't need to be a science fiction movie. It could be about a group of people aboard a minibus who head for a house on the moors. The owners are missing and there's some blood on the kitchen floor. The question is" what happened here?" (90s Movies: The Ultimate Celebration)
Event Horizon (1997) — “Glimpses of Hell”
“You know, when you make people a lot of money it gives you leverage in Hollywood,” Anderson says of his radical transition from Mortal Kombat to Event Horizon, a nightmarish sci-fi that wears its R-rating loud and proud. “I love the movies like Solaris, the original Solaris — the script clearly draws from [it]. Those kind of meditative European films that are unsettling, but don’t really play to a modern audience. By adding that kind of visceral thrill, that’s making it my own.”
Event Horizon is Anderson unfiltered. In the film, a rescue team descends upon a spaceship long thought to have been lost in the abyss of a black hole. The reason for the ship’s reappearance turns out to be … quite hellish. A montage of gruesome visions is when Anderson sees the movie transcending its roots.
“Sometimes it’s only like two frame cuts of truly grotesque, unpleasant, but beautiful images. That, to me, is where the movie becomes really special,” he says. Anderson recalls touring art galleries with his production designer, absorbing paintings by Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel in hopes of delivering a different kind of horror to the mainstream. “When people were painting images that had to do with hell several hundred years ago, they believed in hell. And they believed it was the flip side of the majesty of heaven — as amazing as heaven was going to be, hell was going to be the dark side of that. These paintings that were just gorgeous, but really terrifying at the same time. " (https://grantland.com/hollywood-prospectus/the-other-paul-anderson-the-psychotic-action-vision-of-pompeii-director-paul-w-s-anderson/?print=1)
- Paul Anderson: The strong thing about Event Horizon, is that
the monster is the ship, the thing you're afraid of is the dark inside
everybody. In a conventional monster movie, the monster can only do what
it can do. But with this film, if they're surrounded by the horror all
the time, it can burst out at any moment. (Empire, September 1997)