"The Cutting Room: Event Horizon" from Fangoria issue #170
by Anthony C. Ferrante
Perhaps the most viscerally promising film of last summer was Paramount's SF/horror entry Event Horizon. Yet when the movie finally hit theaters in August, it didn't live up to the "event" part of its title, and many put the blame on its truncated running time of 95 minutes (trimmed from an original two-hour rough cut).
However, director Paul Anderson reveals that the theatrical version was exactly what he wanted, and that the tightening was to keep the suspense and the story moving forward. "When you read a script, everything seems important," says Anderson. "The funny thing about film making, though, is that you can never tell what works and what doesn't until you actually stick the movie together."
While the story revolves around a space rescue team having their worst terrors turned against them aboard the formerly missing experimental ship of the title, Anderson wanted to avoid having the film become "pedantic" by skirting over this issue in some of the characters. The greatest fear of Cooper (Richard T. Jones), for instance, was losing someone close to him, which is represented in the movie by the unfortunate accident that claims Justin (Jack Noseworthy) in the film. The Justin character also lost come back story that provided a stronger explanation for why he enters the ship's strange vortex, which ultimately sends him into a coma.
"My character was absolutely, positively the only person on the ship who wanted to go on this expedition," says Noseworthy. "It's not so much that I had a fear; I had a desire, and the ship turned that against me."
The feelings that Starck (Joely Richardson) has for Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne) were also glossed over in the final cut. "Starck is very much in love with Miller, though nothing happens between them," says Richardson. "When I saw the film, my big scene where you see this was gone - but I was glad they made that and other cuts, because everything began to feel repetitive."
Even with all the deletions, Fishburne was surprised that he still found the characters well-rounded in the final cut. "I'm always worried when I'm making a film that they're going to leave all those little character things out," the actor says. "When I saw the movie for the first time, I was really amazed by how personable everybody in the crew was and how instantly, when you enter the Lewis and Clark, you know who everybody is."
Other trims included a detailed explanation for the gateway and the black hole, which Anderson felt confused the hellraiser out of test audiences because it offered "too much extra information." Another lost moment was written by Seven scribe Andrew Kevin Walker (who provided a quick, uncredited dialogue polish) and involved a subtle homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
"When the crew first enters the Event Horizon, there are all these objects floating in space," Anderson explains. "One of them was a single tooth, and there was a shot of the bone still attached to it. So instead of the space station turning like it was in 2001, it was this tooth. The intention was to letpeople know there was something freaky and scary coming, but we realized we didn't need it. If we had done our jobs by that point, audiences would know something freaky and scary was coming anyway."
Surprising, cutting down the gore was not a major issue, since Anderson decided to present the elaborate visceral images in quick flash cuts. "They were two- to four-second cuts, and I found that when you start to cut away really fast, people start reading their own personal fears into what they saw," the director notes. "My feeling about gore is that if you hold on it too long, for the first second you think it looks great, the second it's not scary, the third you start noticing that someone's intestinges look a bit like rubber and by the fourth it's, 'By God, they are rubber!'"
Ultimately, Anderson wanted to create an "express elevator to hell"-type feeling with Event Horizon, and he feels he succeeded without compromise (so don't expect the missing half hour to reappear anytime soon on laserdisc or DVD). "Once you're on the elevator and you begin to plummet, you're in a bit of a free fall," he says. "You don't want to stop and have a discussion for ten minutes. If you let the audience relax, the sense of horror goes away. What you want to do is get the audience really tense, let them laugh a bit, dissipage the horror and then immediately crank up the tension again, and I believe that is what we achieved."