Let's Make a Horror Movie podcast
Episode 14: Sunken Gods
Host Dave weaves a horror movie pitch around the origins of the Antikythera Mechanism.. how and why it came to be and where it was really from. Welcome to his Pitch notes:
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Caveat: This one isn’t fully formed – there is loads of room for input & changes everywhere, but I was having fun with something, so here you are!
We open on a craftsman working on something. Full black screen with only the figure & his very immediate surrounds illuminated by candle light. We struggle to get a sense of perspective, but as we pull in we get the sense he’s in a crazy workshop.. He’s hunched over his bench working on a cog based machine in a box.. After some fiddling and clicking, he closes the lid and starts winding a brass arm on the side.
As he winds, after a few moments we begin to get some distinct flickers in the candlelight and sounds that are definitely something else but are too enmeshed in the winding of the brass crank to be certain. The craftsman is focused on the flat panel on top of the box, sweating and increasingly agitated by the odd sounds and dampening light. Wide eyed he watches as the lid of the box starts to blur and shift, and as he continues to wind it changes into all sorts of colours before giving us what looks like a glimpse of the cosmos before turning a dark purple hue and refocusing on what looks to be a moving image of the craftsman.
The craftsman in the box appears to be rich, surrounded by coins and gold & silver objects, grinning and prancing around. We see the picture shift as he meets a lady, and a series of images appear to show a budding romance, but in the last image we see the craftsman in an argument with another man, one who morphes into a huge, horrific looking brute – almost nightmarish & unreal.. he’s wielding an axe and confronts the craftsman.
The craftsman in the room, cranking the box starts to shake, he tries and pull his head away from the vision in the box but he can’t. Straining to pull his face away, we all watch as the in-box craftsman looks straight out of the vision at the real life craftsman, with a horrible twisted grin and empty eye sockets. Still looking at the real CFsMan, the hideous one raises an arm out to his side and the huge brute with the axes comes in swinging, chopping the arm off – cue screams in the room as we see in real-time the real craftsman’s left arm drop to the floor as if its been invisibly hacked-off.
The real craftsman, screaming in pain desperately tries to remove his hand from the brass crank as blood cascades from his left shoulder. He can look away from the box now but he can’t get his hand off the crank & the box is immovable. The vision-craftsman takes a step into the path of the Brute again as the real craftsman becomes hysterical trying to get away from the box but being unable, the Brute takes a large low, vertical swing and slices up vision-CfmsMan’s belly, and again in real time we see a cleft drive up the craftsman’s belly, and as drops to his knees, cutting to another angle so we can’t see the vision on the box anymore, we see the Craftsman trying to hobble away on his knees.. finally his hand is released from the box and as he frantically starts shuffling himself to his feet, his entire frame freezes and then both his legs drop off as if lopped by a woodsman’s axe.. The Craftsman drops to the floor like a stone, and with horrific heaving sobs puts his remaining arm out in front of him, as we see over his shoulder a long distended, and unbelievably thin arm with a gloved hand emerges from the top of the box on the bench, picks up a leg, and drags it back up onto the bench and down through the top of the box.
Cut to black.
[I changed that last part a bunch of times, couldn’t decide what was scariest.. please add suggestions!!]
----------------- ACT 1:
In a huge and elaborately decorated library of sorts, humming with activity, we see hundreds of people, all dressed in similar robes & variants, going about some business or other, around the desks and stacks. Hanging in the middle of this domed structure, sits a huge mechanism of cogs and wheels, all turning and moving. Powering something.
In the middle of the floor of this great central room, in a space that opens onto endless book and equipment shelves, amongst what appear to be a small army of scribes busy at work across innumerable rows of desks, sits a vast, square, gilded wooden frame – seemingly the output point of whatever the cog-machine is doing – flat on the floor. Almost like a square well, but closer to being flush with the floor, more like a huge, low-set indoor pond. The space within the square frame is hazy & shifting, but occasionally there seems to be an image of some sort. The frame itself is sat within a circle of armed guards. Judging from their dress this is late pre-christ, say around 100 BC, and though at a glance they look like they’re wearing Roman armour, something is different about it. Its more elaborate in places & more stripped back in others. Also the weaponry is unusual.
We follow a scribe and we get some general context with light conversation & interactions with other people – colleagues really, in the area she works. People referring to what they may have seen in the window today, and did anyone catch that person X saw Y in the window & its going straight into Z’s most recent work on T [. etc. to be filled out in script.]. A few mutters of ‘Mummu’.
Anyway, our scribe is approached to go and welcome a newcomer to the island. Through a series of establishing shots of the island, we determine its not very big but is reasonably populated and thriving, & we come back to the scribe meeting the newcomer off the boat at the small harbour.
Here we get a fair chunk of relevant exposition. Our scribe is Belili and she’s meeting Lagus off the boat & taking him to the Great Library. The island is renowned centre of knowledge & learning with advances far beyond contemporary Rome or Greece, and Lagus is here to work in the great library too. Islanders were all initially exiles from Babylon at the time of Xerxes invasion 400 odd years ago, & since then its been a hidden haven that has prospered through remaining secret.. and possibly other means too. Additional islanders are normally found & invited, like Lagus, from Egypt, with his technical ability. The island is run by a conglomerate of elders from the centre room of the great library (the one Belili works in as a scribe), & they, somehow or other, know who to reach out to when needed (i.e. frequently other exiles). Based on what limited knowledge Lagus has gathered on the boat trip here, he asks more about the source of the knowledge this island apparently produces, though its fairly clear this isn’t knowledge she’s going to share.
A chunk of Act 1 is getting a little more insight into what Lagus is doing here, he’s a bit of a natural swordsmith / blacksmith/engineer type, we see his quarters and get a bit of an idea of the place.
We also follow Belili back to her scribe’s position in the great central room but in her story we get a bit of uncertainty creeping in from some odd or out of place looking groups of people here and there throughout the outer halls of the great room. Also a seemingly mad man screaming for ‘them to change the lens’…
Towards the end of the Act we build the tension as we get some of Belili’s POV in the huge cavernous space, with a series of escalating shouts and some screaming.. some smashing sounds, all coming from different places around the chamber but we can’t see where from.
And the then in an instant the entire central room falls into inky darkness.. Essentially the we get a series of scares here but not jump scares. Rather there is panic & people & frenzy, in darkness. Some people that get close enough for us to glimpse, are panicking, some are just curious to whats going on, but there are screams and shouting getting louder from beyond the black veil..
Out of nowhere, the guards that we saw at the start of the film, encircling the frame/window in the floor, burst out of the darkness in procession past Belili, who by now has a candle lit, providing the limited light. There’s an increase in the noise & its clear there is fighting going on very close and perhaps a retreat.. then as that dies down what we presume is the last of the guards falls into the candlelight, only to have a large, sharp fingered, gloved hand from an unnaturally thin & long arm, protrudes from the darkness and pierces all its fingers through the guard’s back and out through his chest armour.. before dropping him and disappearing again.
The Act culminates in a scene where essentially there is an uprising based on the usage of this window that seems to show them things & as far as we’ve discerned, give them knowledge in some fashion. …. From the darkness emerge a band of rebels and rebel leaders, one of which is holding the box from the beginning but intentionally facing it away from him into the darkness, whilst cranking it.. in fact, that’s where the darkness appears to be spilling from – if that’s possible.
Amongst the inky shahows we occasionally catch a glimpse of a giant, thin limb, hinting at someone huge but wretchedly gaunt, but we never see them/it.
The act ends with the rebels collecting together and killing the, as we discover, ‘ruling’ elders of the island who were also in that main hall, killing them with terrible stuff from the box. This uprising is to ‘change the lens’, we learn. The lens we gather is what is showing us the images in this floor window, and for centuries it has been trained on Mummu. And now, apparently, its time to see what other knowledge can be learned from the gods.. Cue a lot of panic and more exposition and screaming around why changing the lens would be a bad idea.. more people killed and as they start to change the lens. That’s part of the giant cog machinery in the hall & it will change what they will see / who they have access to in the portal window.
Back to Belili’s POV, she’s getting the fuck out of dodge and bolts in the other direction to the action.. out of the chamber.
Act 2 sees Belili, by chance, bump into Lagus again, who we’d last seen essentially getting introduced to his new digs and duties.. He being new to the island doesn’t have any idea what is going on but can see, as can we, that there seems to be some sort of wider revolt happening outside the hall. He has no idea whats happened inside the hall, but he flees with Belili out of the Great Library complex entirely as they head for her family house.
- Belili gets home to find her father/family being murdered (due to father’s part in current island governance – descendant of Babylonian originals), cue horror, and though they lay low for most of it, they get the shit kicked out of them by a handful of remaining usurpers. This must have been an organised & funded movement.
- The changed lens, as seen by a new band of Mummus (so, we probably introduce a secondary storyline with a scout type character – Seline - who witnesses this, & then reporting back to a small gang of fighters for the now overthrown elders), is drawing now from Hanpa, the ancient god of evil. The haze of the frame spills up and over the edges like a slow flood. Everyone watches (and our guy and we see it touch it someone who’s flesh immediately starts to shrivel and turn deathlike grey as they age with immense speed.. finally his robe falls away from his frail frame and his belly splits like a wet paper bag. The contents spilling out, pulling the dying corpse downwards, and in the doing we even see some of the face start to pull away from the skull before it hits the ground. We get scenes of the original elders being sacrificed to things they’re seeing in the window.. establishing a sort of leader of the usurpers & setting that context up a bit. We also see how the visions from this god are not benign like the previous one, and instead they start interacting with people in that great room & around, like in the opening scene of the movie.. so we start to get the feeling that either this is all planned by these people, or its moved quickly out of their control.
- Belili and Lagu join up accidentally with the fighting group we’ve just been introduced to, and alongside them & other resisting populations, prepare to go back & mount a challenge to change the frame.. Unlike most people, she actually knows what is going on & now the fighters have updated her, she is one of a few who knows how big the danger of changing the frame to Hanpa is (though obvs, we’ve seen a taste here & there ourselves, but this is with regards to the other islanders who don’t work in the great hall of the library itself. The knowledge isn’t so much forbidden as politely not spoken about to those not in immediate contact with the window/great library central room).
- They make a plan to get back to the frame & change the lens back or try and destroy it as those who know the history of this window know that Mummu was the only benevolent ‘view’ they’d found in the dark early days of the tech & the danger of leaving it an open conduit to the corruption of Hanpa, is an existential threat.. so just fleeing the island isn’t really an option, plus its their home.
- The Protagonist Party, inc established players Belili, Lagus and more recently Seline, encounters fighting and horror to get back to the frame. There is more influence leaking out than just the literal flood element inside. People are going bonkers all around. I’d imagined that this inky blackness had spread throughout this great library complex and was growing ever outwards like a dark lava… We get a long sequence of the party entering the complex and fighting/surviving their way through, with losses on the way. I’m picturing a sort of Ancient Greek with Babylonian elements nightmare version of the scene in Aliens when the troops first enter the Alien hive. Everything starts to look the same & it becomes confusing because of the darkness everywhere & the increasing sense of exposure & panic.
- This climaxes with fights and horrors inside main building, more deaths and losses which leads to a panicked dash to the controls for the frame in the main room, though of course its all so dark that most of act 3 is all lit very close by candles or flame torches. So the previous scales of these rooms and buildings is irrelevant, and danger could come from any direction at any time.
- The Act climaxes with the remaining protagonists, I’m thinking both belili and Lagus are still alive and perhaps a key couple of remaining people from the fighting group b-story, inc. Selene the scout. Though she wasn’t a scout before this, she just happened to be doing that role once the usurpers started their attack. She has a more of a storyline that I’ve covered here. They get to the lens controls and via some further scares and fighting, and the loss of Lagus, we finally get the lens changed, though in the scramble to do it, the mechanism breaks at the same time. So though Belili is gutted about Lagus, at least he helped her change the lens back.. and the darkness around is starting to change.
- However, through another scare we understand that this final, last ditch changing of the lens again, wasn’t back to Mummu, and instead to something completely unknown. Not through anyone’s fault, but it had taken them years of trial and error to find Mummu so it was always a gamble..
- The new window view causes the entire building & in fact island, to start violently shaking..
- The frame holding the window shatters entirely along with the huge cogs hanging above it, which have become visible again… ,
- In the now somewhat illuminated chaos, Belili and Selene witness the leader of the usurpers meet a grizzly end – similar to the opening scene but worse, as he had looked too long into the new window view, which was now spreading worse than before (having had the frame destroyed). B&S see the original little box lying next to them, so grab it and make their escape.
- It ends with them making it to a boat and as we look back at the island a literally gigantic black tongue breaks through the huge dome of the great library like it was a tiny matchbox building, and starts lolling swathes around the vicinity.. buildings are dashed to pieces and anything caught by the saliva slowly melts, including people.. Its clear the island is going under.
- B&S jump on a packed refugee boat and we see, from a distance, the whole island start to shift and tear.. Its now surrounded by a dark pall and we can only make out the silhouette of a hand, almost the size of the island itself, before everything is lost to black.
- The final scene in the movie is of the refugee boat, days later, floating somewhere (presumably) off Greece. Someone asks where they are and the captain says he reckons they’re near the island of Antikythera. The captain remarks that its fine weather for the tail end of 10th month (which is December in their calendar at the time). Cut to Belili removing the ragged blanket from around the box she took from the island they fled.. An old woman sees it and starts screaming, panicking, ranting and raving – a few people join her and before we get any real idea of whats going on the same inky darkness from earlier flows out from the box at breakneck speed, and as it covers the deck, the whole ship starts to lurch downwards, and as they get pulled inexorably under the waves the darkness fills the mouths and the screams of the inhabitants and the either drown from the sea, or from the evil darkness.
- The End!
The Antikythera Mechanism (above)
So if you hadn’t guessed, I wanted to create the mythology for the origin of the Antikythera Mechanism, which was pulled from the sea in 1901 off the coast of that island. The technology used in this mechanism was built in about 100 BC and yet was lost until reappearing in the 14th Century. Almost one and a half thousand years later! And no one knows exactly where it came from or who built it, though of course there have been guesses.
They believe it was an astrological mechanism used to predict astronomical positions and eclipses for calendar and astrological purposes decades in advance. It could also be used to track the four-year cycle of athletic games which was similar to an Olympiad, the cycle of the ancient Olympic Games
I know it was supposed to be a Christmas episode, but technically that didn’t exist yet, so I’ve just set it at Christmas time, pre Christ. I was going to make this story fit into the Christmas story but it got too complex, so I just kept it to the origin myth.
Modern recreations of the mechanisms: