‘During the height of the splatter film craze of the 1980s, Stuart Gordon’s seminal 1985 horror film, Re-Animator, based on the work of H.P. Lovecraft, was something different. While many horror films of the period were presenting a fairly “paint by numbers” exercise in stalking and killing, with violent on screen death as the ultimate, grim thrill offered up to viewers, Gordon’s erudite and assured first film squirmed with a playfully anarchic psycho-sexual black comedy. In Re-Animator, the human body, mutilated, mangled, and wildly desanctified, became the site of a dark, taboo-shattering slapstick, wherein, as the film’s poster famously promised, “Death is Just the Beginning…”
‘Gordon, who died last week, began his commitment to provocative art not in the film industry but in Chicago’s avant-garde theater. In the late 1960s, Gordon entered the theater department at University of Wisconsin. There, he would stage several shocking productions, including a version of Peter Pan inspired by his own participation in the 1968 riots at the Democratic National Convention. The production, which cast Peter and the lost boys as hippies and Captain Hook as Mayor Daley, left the original work largely intact. The trip to Neverland however, was reimagined as a nude dance sequence, resulting in an obscenity charge for Gordon and his wife, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon.
‘The couple would go on to form the pioneering Organic Theater Company, staging and premiering works such as David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity in Chicago and giving future stars Joe Mantegna and Dennis Franz their start. The boundary-pushing politics of the avant-garde theater of the 1960s continued to inform Gordon’s work throughout his career, as the filmmaker told Cineaste in a 2009 interview: “It’s just something that’s been part of my art ever since.” Actor Jeffrey Combs, a frequent collaborator, attested to this when I spoke with him after the news about Gordon broke: “He was always a bit of a Don Quixote, charging at windmills, battles just for the sake of ‘if not me, it won’t be done.’ He saw himself as a bit of a crusader for the right, straight out of the ’60s, and down with the man.”
‘After his success in the theater, Gordon made his first foray into film. Re-Animator, the story of a bizarre, anti-social medical student who resurrects corpses with a glowing green liquid, found an audience with gorehounds and film intelligentsia alike. Pauline Kael celebrated the ghastly comic excesses of Re-Animator in The New Yorker, writing of Gordon’s splatter-comedy, “the bloodier it gets, the funnier it is.” But along with the fountains of blood and inventive gore, Gordon’s expert work with actors was also attention-grabbing.
‘Barbara Crampton, who co-starred with Combs in Re-Animator, would go on to star in four of Gordon’s films, as would Combs. “He was precise in what he wanted you to do, always prodding you to explore a little deeper what you were feeling,” Crampton said in an interview last Friday. “‘More’ was a word he used often—‘be more afraid,’ ‘scream a little more,’ ‘more crying.’ He encouraged me to work intensely and genuinely, and any good moments I may have had on film even in other works which are even remotely deep or real, I can say unequivocally are owed to him, pushing me in ways I might not push myself. He taught me to look deeper.”
‘Crampton and Combs worked with Gordon again for his next, and perhaps headiest film, From Beyond (1986), the story of scientists who, in the course of their experiments, come under the sway of beings from another dimension. Based on a Lovecraft short story, Gordon’s second feature seethes with even more erotic energy than Re-Animator. The undulating visual effects become untethered from any material reality, and the result is body horror at its most fantastical and far-reaching in its implications.
‘A far cry from the ethereal weirdness of From Beyond, the 1995 film Castle Freak confronts horror at its most emotionally raw. Combs and Crampton play a couple who inherit a castle with a murderous, feral creature lurking inside. At the heart of the film, though, is the story of a family dealing with the death of a child. Combs is devastating as the self-destructive, alcoholic father tearing them apart. “He always pushed,” Combs said of Gordon’s direction. “Actors don’t want to be thought of as being over the top, but over the top was just fine with Stu.”
‘Combs’s ability to bring a boyish comedy to the most perverse of on-screen circumstances made him the perfect leading man for Gordon. Like Gordon’s films, he was simultaneously appealing and repulsive—part Jack Lemmon, part Boris Karloff. Combs remembers Gordon’s particular affinity for actors: “He loved actors. I worked with a lot of directors who are like ‘just hit your mark.’ Stuart was like, ‘Let’s go out and do something. Let’s work.’ He loved the life that actors exuded.”
‘Throughout the late ’80s and early ’90s Gordon would work outside the horror genre, most notably co-writing the story for the 1989 Disney film, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. As director, his work explored new territory as well. Fortress (1992) depicts a bleak, totalitarian near-future, in which couples with more than one child are thrown into a nightmarish techno-prison. In Robot Jox (1990), gigantic, fighting robots represent the world’s nations in combat. Gordon would also direct a version of Ray Bradbury’s magical fantasy, The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit (1998).
‘With the exception of the impressively mounted Lovecraft adaptation, Dagon (2001), the new millennium would bring some of Gordon’s boldest steps outside of the horror genre. Edmond (2005), starring William H. Macy, adapts Mamet’s 1982 play about a businessman who upends his life after visiting a fortune-teller, and Stuck (2007), Gordon’s final film, takes its inspiration from a true story of a man left to die in the windshield of a car by the driver who hits him.
‘Gordon’s film work has earned him a spot among the ranks of masters of horror, but like the best of his contemporaries—Carpenter, Dante, Argento—the category feels narrow for what the director brought to the screen. His films presented a uniquely potent cinematic id, replete with oozing slime, blood, sex, and death—things we secretly long to touch, taste, or know about, but don’t dare. What made Gordon’s films unique and troubling was their power to seduce as well as scare.’ — Chris Shields
Stuart Gordon @ IMDb
Stuart Gordon @ Twitter
Remembering Stuart Gordon and the Fantastic Films He Left Behind
In Memoriam: Stuart Gordon
Stuart Gordon’s Alternative Avant-Garde
Remembering Horror Legend Stuart Gordon
Every H.P. Lovecraft Story That Became A Stuart Gordon Movie
Larry Fessenden Fondly Remembers the Horror ‘Maverick’
The brutal and brilliant final films of Stuart Gordon, scary genius
Did one person invent Chicago theater? If so, it was Stuart Gordon
Stuart Gordon @ MUBI
Stuart Gordon interview
Looking back at Robot Jox
From Beyond, Stuart Gordon, and MPAA censorship
Stuart Fordon @ Letterboxd
Leave of Absence: A Posthumous Interview With Stuart Gordon
Script to Pieces: Stuart Gordon and Barbara Crampton’s Bloody Bess
Stuart Gordon’s further adventures in Lovecraft
CELEBRATING THE UNENDING LEGACY OF STUART GORDON
Celebrating the Gooey, Gory World of Stuart Gordon
Stuart Gordon’s Happy Body Horror
Death is the Monster: A Conversation with Stuart Gordon
Remembering Stuart Gordon
A Conversation With Stuart Gordon
RIP STUART GORDON – A Video Tribute
[ Fantasia 2020 ] A Miskatonic Tribute to Stuart Gordon
Cineaste: Of Re-Animator, Pauline Kael wrote, “This horror film about a medical student with a fluorescent greenish-yellow serum that restores the dead to hideous, unpredictable activity is close to being a silly ghoulie classic—the bloodier it gets, the funnier it is. It’s like pop Buñuel; the jokes hit you in a subterranean comic zone that the surrealists’ pranks sometimes reached, but without the surrealists’ self-consciousness (and art-consciousness)… Barbara Crampton is the dean’s creamy-pink daughter (who’s at her loveliest when she’s being defiled).” What was your reaction to this review, which, along with other rave reviews, put the film on the map?
Stuart Gordon: I was amazed, because I made a film that I thought the critics would hate. In a way, the fact that I took that approach is one of the reasons why I think it worked out as well as it did. I wasn’t worrying about the critics and I really didn’t expect the critical success, because what I had set out to do was: first, to make a film that I wanted to make; and second, to make a film that I thought the fans wanted to see. I think it was Roger Ebert who discovered the movie at Cannes and his review wound up creating buzz for the film that resulted in other critics reviewing the film, so I was pleasantly surprised at the responses that the film was getting. I have always been an avid reader of Pauline Kael, so when I read that she liked the movie, I just loved what she had to say, especially about Barbara Crampton’s character.
Cineaste: Do you find that, when it comes to horror, the fans tend to drive the industry more than other genres?
Gordon: The fans are definitely the most loyal of any genre. The horror fans are just incredible. The thing I keep discovering is that, first of all, they read everything. They’re incredibly well-read, so I’ve had great discussions with them on Poe or Lovecraft. And secondly, they don’t necessarily like everything. They’re extremely discriminating. I think that when it comes to horror fans, they really do try to see and know everything within the genre.
Cineaste: It seems that almost all of your films deal with ambition, power, and greed, from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, where ambition both literally and metaphorically shrinks a scientist’s children, to Re-Animator, where it leads to horrific scientific advances. Are these statements about ambition’s negative effects intentional?
Gordon: I think these films are about dreams, and how incredible dreams can be. And the horror about dreams is that you have to be careful, because sometimes they can wind up becoming nightmares. Basically, at their root, they follow that old adage you’ve got to be careful what you wish for.
Cineaste: What do you think of the phrase “torture porn”?
Gordon: I hate it. First of all, there’s the phrase “porn” being thrown in there and there’s always been that stigma of horror being likened to porn. Secondly, torture is something that’s existed in drama since the very beginning. Shakespeare uses it effectively in King Lear. Honestly, I think whoever uses this phrase just doesn’t like horror very much.
Cineaste: Given their explicit violence, could films like The Pit and the Pendulum and Dagon (a 2001 Lovecraft film) be considered “torture porn”, though they’re derived from classical sources?
Gordon: There’s torture in them. But I think horror reflects society, and the fact that for decades we’ve had horror films that have torture in them reflects the fact that for years we’ve had a government that endorses torture. Most recently, torture has been on the front page of the newspapers almost every day, and you’ve got people like Dick Cheney defending torture as something that’s necessary for our national security. So of course you’re going to see it reflected in art.
Cineaste: The films mentioned in reference to torture porn are films like Saw or Hostel, which came out just after details about Abu Ghraib were starting to surface in the press. Does the backlash against a film like Hostel, where humans are commodities, or its director, Eli Roth, come from torture just being too stark of a reality for some people to face?
Gordon: The thing about horror is that it deals with issues that we don’t really want to talk about—starting with the most basic idea, which is death. All horror films deal with death, which is a topic that most people don’t usually discuss. To have the ability to discuss or explore things that society wants to avoid is what makes the horror industry a very great and powerful thing.
Cineaste: Do you find the trend toward remaking horror films of the Seventies and Eighties derivative or inspired in its own way?
Gordon: I think it’s pointless. I don’t like these movies at all. I think when the movie was made, the filmmaker had something to say. When a studio goes out and hires some music video director to remake a film, it’s largely a commercial enterprise.
Cineaste: If you or someone else were planning to rework your older films, what might you do differently?
Gordon: What I’d do differently is that I wouldn’t rework any of my older films. And I’m not that big into sequels. I think that once you’ve done something, you should go on to something else. Unless, after the first film, you feel that there’s still more to say about the subject, which sometimes can happen. I was planning to make House of Re-Animator, but we missed our chance for the film to be relevant as it was to be centered on the Bush Administration. So, in a way, I’m kind of delighted that I don’t have to make it.
Cineaste: How has the marketplace changed for your films?
Gordon: I’m just lucky that people keep watching them. So at the end of the day, it’s really a matter of whether or not you’re proud of your work and the projects you’ve put forth.
Cineaste: What does it mean to be considered a “Master of Horror”?
Gordon: Well, you know, that term started out as a bit of a joke. It came from a documentary being made that was called Masters of Horror and they were interviewing all of us for it. It was [producer-writer-director] Mick Garris who realized that none of us were getting to meet one another as we were being interviewed separately and invited us all to dinner together. So that label “Masters of Horror” was basically born out of that first dinner. Here we were, sitting at this big table at a restaurant, and at a table near us they brought a cake for someone celebrating their birthday. Guillermo del Toro got all of us to stand up and sing “Happy Birthday.” And it ended with him saying, “The Masters of Horror wish you a happy birthday.” It was really fantastic. Then we started meeting every couple of months, and eventually Mick got the idea to do the series so we could all work together.
Cineaste: Edmond was an unusual choice to bring to the screen. How did you and David Mamet collaborate on the adaptation?
Gordon: It was something we had been talking about for years. In fact, I think he had written the screenplay shortly after he had written the play back in the Eighties. When it came to actually make the movie, we worked closely with one another, but the film actually wound up staying fairly close to the original, as it was quite brilliant.
Cineaste: What about the play attracted you?
Gordon: Again I think it’s tackling something that people really don’t want to talk about. The topic being, of course, racism, which is always a difficult one to broach. And the film addresses the idea that everyone is racist, which is something that people don’t want to admit, but it’s true. It’s just a part of the human condition. All you have to do is get into a bad traffic situation and you’ll find yourself saying things that you never would’ve expected could come out of your mouth.
Cineaste: Edmond and Stuck show horror erupting in everyday surroundings. Is there such a thing as “normal life”? Are we all fated to become monsters?
Gordon: I don’t think there’s such a thing as normal. [Laughs] I think that’s something that everyone likes to be. I think everyone has monsters within them and are in one way or another trying to contain them. And a lot of my movies are about monsters, but they’re not about fighting monsters, they’re about being one.
Cineaste: What drew you to the fact-based story of Stuck?
Gordon: It was about an ordinary person, this caregiver of senior citizens, who becomes a monster. How did that happen? After reading about it in the newspaper, I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. I’m influenced by both film and theater, but what I try to be most influenced by is real life. I really think that it’s an artist’s job to take life and put it into an artistic framework.
Cineaste: Why did you alter the race of the main character, Brandi?
Gordon: My intention was to make it unclear what the race of the main character was. In fact, the character was named after someone I knew who was a light-skinned black girl with green eyes. And so, with her character, there is that element of, “Is she a black girl or is she a white girl who is maybe a black wannabe?”
Cineaste: Edmond and Stuck present a harsh portrait of race. Does the election of President Obama inspire hope or deepen the fissures?
Gordon: I think it’s a great thing, an amazing thing. In fact, I think it’s the only good thing that came out of the Bush Administration. Because it never would’ve happened if things hadn’t gotten as fucked up as they did. But I don’t think his election is going to stop racism. People will always have that irrational fear and that’s not going to go away.
Cineaste: Those fears are surfacing now.
Gordon: I grew up in Chicago and while I was there, Martin Luther King, Jr. decided to march in the streets. And Mayor Daley said, “Well, this is Chicago, there isn’t any racism here”; King’s response was, “Then there shouldn’t be a problem, should there?” But, of course, there wound up being a huge problem as the protesters had stones and bricks and objects hurled at them by my neighbors as they marched. People who didn’t think there was racism in their city found out that, when confronted with the issue, there was a ton of racism within the city. I think it’s better to get it out there and to discuss it than to keep it bottled up and behind closed doors.
Cineaste: I’ve seen photos of you online out at the picket lines during the Writers Guild of America strike. Do you consider yourself an activist?
Gordon: Absolutely. I think I did a lot more back then than I do now. The writers’ strike was the first time I was out on the picket lines in years and years. But I do consider myself an activist.
Cineaste: How does your background in theater and politics of the Sixties inform your work?
Gordon: I think the Sixties were a time of us realizing for the first time that all art is political. We had a lot of turmoil going on around us and we were constantly reacting to that in our work. It’s just something that’s been part of my art ever since. That is, anything I’m going to do is going to be political in one way or another.
Cineaste: On the drawing board is ‘68.
Gordon: I’m hoping to get that made, but it might be a bit of a challenge as it’s the first time I’ll be making a love story. My wife and I are part of the story, so it’ll involve how we met and fell in love. But it’ll also involve our being tear-gassed at the convention and our arrest following the adaptation of the Peter Pan play.
Cineaste: So it’ll extend the politics of your work?
Gordon: Absolutely. It’ll be focused on the politics of the Sixties, as I really don’t think there’s ever been a great film about the Sixties that’s been able to capture the turmoil and turbulence of the time.
Cineaste: Edmond says, “Behind every fear is a wish.” Do you agree?
Gordon: I think your fears change throughout your life. But, I think that you always wish the best for the people you love, so there’s always that fear that something bad will happen to them. There’s this whole subgenre of horror films emerging right now about children who are killing their parents. And I think that’s one of the new fears now, that we’re becoming afraid of our own children. I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s a Boomer thing, that my generation is now getting old and should just get out of the way of the younger generations. Maybe it’s technology that’s become a dividing line between us and our own children. “Oh, Dad is too dumb to figure out e-mail.”
14 of Stuart Gordon’s 22 films
‘Re-Animator is one of the best and most well-known Lovecraft adaptation, it transfers from a schlocky series of short stories to 80s splatter flick quite smoothly. The concepts were perfect for the 1980s “the gore, the merrier” ethos towards horror films and its penchant for practical effects. In many ways it provides the blueprint for splatter flicks and horror-comedies moving forward with Evil Dead II (1987) taking the torch and setting the benchmark even higher a mere two years later.
‘Make no mistake, Re-Animator is a classic splatter flick in every sense of the word. This is a movie that is about gory, practical special effects culminating in a bloody crescendo in the final confrontation. West casually disembowels one of the freshly-made undead with a medical saw and there’s a messy decapitation later leading to one of West’s zombified specimen working its body independent from its head in a display of the film’s macabre sense of humor. The humor in the absurdity of the gore is always present even as the movie juggles its more dramatic aspects.’ — James DeWitt
Stuart Gordon on “Re-Animator”
From Beyond (1986)
‘The special effects are sensational, creating fascinating grotesqueries and mutilative, fleshly horrors with makeup, prosthetics, and gooey puppeteering. Realizing that Charles Band operated as an executive producer might seem discouraging, but Gordon and Yuzna have crafted a truly unique, terrifyingly visceral fright flick. Blood and bodily carnage continually test the audience’s intestinal fortitude. It’s also not without a hefty dose of humor, demonstrated through McMichael’s lack of control, hasty push for exploring the scientific values of a clearly murderous device, and her powerful curiosity to proceed with further trials even after nearly being raped and devoured by an oversized lamprey monster. After witnessing the excessive catastrophes of Pretorius’ sickening metamorphosis, she also insists upon cooking up some eggs, which hilariously drip like thick saliva into the frying pan.’ — Mike Massie
‘Looking back at Gordon’s output, Dolls is an outlier. His gory sense of humor has been replaced with an overt sweetness that favors whimsical fantasy over straightforward horror – though it still delivers on that front too. With its R-rating, it’s not quite suitable for children, and yet it’s the perfect formative horror film for a younger audience in spirit. It certainly played a vital role in my formative years as a horror fan.
‘Fairy tales tend to exist as cautionary tales, offering moral lessons buried within the whimsical and scary. There’s a lot that the film says about basic kindness and decency, and the role parents play in their child’s life. Above all, though, Gordon’s Dolls relays the importance of keeping your inner child alive and well fed; celebrating the irreverence of youth and what made you happy as a child, toys and all. Clinging to the aspects of your personality that reacts and thinks like a child -playfulness, spontaneity, and creativity- are strengths. That Gordon conveys this through horror is demonstrative of his power as a filmmaker, too; with Dolls, he explored the challenging aspects of humanity through his inner child, wry humor and all.’ — Meagan Navarro
Kid Safe: The Video (1988)
‘A real thing that exists: SOV-horror domestic safety tape for children, directed by Stuart Gordan and shot by Stephen Ashley Blake, DP for Deadly Prey and Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama. Joe Flaherty appears as Count Floyd, along with Andrea Mitchell as a bratty home-alone kid and Meshach Taylor as a firefighter. There’s a bootleg Jason Vorhees too. Brought to you by Triaminic® cough and cold products.’ — Gregory Joseph
Robot Jox (1990)
‘In 1987, Stuart Gordon found himself marveling at the rampant success of Transformers. They were one of the most popular toy lines ever, and the concept of giant battle bots struck him as the perfect backdrop for a whizbang, effects laden action picture. Thanks to a failed partnership with award winning sci-fi author Joe Haldeman, Gordon knew who he wanted to bring in to help mold his concept into an full fledged screenplay. The two had met when trying to adapt Haldeman’s “The Forever War” into a mini-series. Funding for that project fell through, but the two were able to repurpose some of it into a stage production. After surviving such a tumultuous trip through development hell together, surely there next production together would be a cake walk? Hmm…
‘Gordon, who had a wonderful working relationship with Charles Band and Empire Pictures (Re-Animator, From Beyond), felt he could rely on Band to pick up the bill for his Transformers cartoon come to life. Not so fast. Empire was known for pushing out low budget cheapies, and Robojox (as it was originally known) was far from the confined location, quicky horror flick the studio was known for. Gordon’s vision would require extensive effects work at a price tag Band wasn’t comfortable with. It took a series of test shoots featuring stop-motion robot action to convince Empire to come on board. Of course, as thrifty as the company was, that test footage ultimately became the opening scene of the film itself. With a budget locked in around $6 million, Robojox was set to be the most expensive film Empire had ever, or would ever, produce.’ — Zachary Paul
Daughter of Darkness (1990)
‘An atmospheric, sub-hallucinogenic venture into the world of the unknown. The enigma facing a young woman is the identity of her father. Unfortunately for her, she becomes drawn into a small Romanian underworld of brooding menace, darkness, torture chambers, and bizarrely over make-over’ed vampires. The moody undertones and well chosen locations are certainly a bonus, as is the comically funny finale.’ — Letterboxd
The Pit And The Pendulum (1991)
‘I love Stuart Gordon (for Re-Animator) and was always praying that he’d reach those heights again. But like the other films he made for Full Moon, Pit seems phoned in to me. But I appreciate that he never dropped the edge in his work. This film has all the sex and violence that it should have. And in a way, the cast is a supergroup… with all the heavy hitters of B-movie/horror/genre of the time all together — Lance Henriksen, Jeffrey Combs, Tom Towles, Mark Margolis and Oliver Reed.’ — Sean Baker
‘Initially launched as a vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gordon was hired to direct Fortress at the insistence of the Austrian oak who was impressed by the zeal of Re-Animator, which he’d watched as it briefly featured his pal and body double, Peter Kent, as a zombie. Shepherded by Arnie’s Predator (1987) producer, John Davis, Fortress proceeded to kick around in development for a couple of years, the greenlight coming just as Gordon was gearing up to lens Body Snatchers (1993) — a project that was ultimately brought to life by Abel Ferrara. Of course, by that point, Arnie had backed out. His role, that of a man trapped in a hellish, futuristic penal colony buried thirty storeys below the ground, was then recast with Lambert, whose everyman quality appealed to Gordon’s sensibilities — though whether the character of a decorated ex-army officer can really be described as ‘everyman’ is another matter. Nevertheless, it’s this that stands as Fortress’ first overtly Gordon flourish. Average Joe’s are a staple of his output, from Dan Cain in Re-Animator and the proletariat milieu of Robot Jox (1989); to Antonio, John Reilly, John Canyon, and Sean Crawley in The Pit and the Pendulum (1991), Castle Freak, Space Truckers (1997), and King of the Ants (2003). Ordinary guys thrust into extraordinary situations, Lambert’s John Brennick fits the mould, armed forces experience notwithstanding. He’s even propelled by a similar sense of rebellion; an impish, ‘I ain’t taking this shit’ distaste that likely reflects Gordon’s own anti-establishment bent. Gordon did, after all, hone his craft amidst the counterculture theatre scene of the ‘60s and ‘70s, his productions pushing boundaries and, in the case of his somewhat legendary political re-telling of Peter Pan anyway, sometimes breaking laws.’ — The Schlock Pit
Castle Freak (1995)
‘Like most Full Moon features, Castle Freak began life with a title and a poster. Stuart Gordon was called into Band’s office and shown the poster, asked what the film was about and was essentially told that it was about a castle and a freak and other than that, he could pretty much do whatever he wanted. As always with Full Moon, the primary concern seemed to be that whatever it was, it got delivered on time and on budget. According to Gordon in an interview for the book It Came from the Video Aisle: Inside Charles Band’s Full Moon Entertainment Studio, Castle Freak came together incredibly quickly—which was not at all uncommon for Full Moon—and had a rushed production schedule. Gordon: “The thing that was kind of amazing was that I met with Charlie about it in February and we were shooting it in June. It was very fast. And we shot the first draft of the script, which is something you never do.”’ — Bloody Disgusting
Making of … (documentary)
Space Truckers (1996)
‘Space Truckers is the kind of film that’s so oddly judged, it was bound to pick up a cult following – despite the negative reviews and disastrous box office. Hence this extras-packed Blu-ray release, in which all the tasteless production design, cheap special effects and slightly out-of-focus camerawork have nowhere left to hide.
‘Dennis Hopper, at his least intense, plays John Canyon, an independent space trucker who’s two days late delivering his cargo of square pigs and who gets royally shafted by the company for his trouble. When the local company honcho Keller (George Wendt) gets hoist through his own henchman’s bullet-hole in the space station’s outer shell, Canyon gets fingered for the death and goes on the run with a shipment of what he believes to be sex dolls – but that we know to be an invading force of robots, heading for Earth.
‘The whole production looks like nothing so much as a too-hasty 1980s pastiche, albeit the preponderance of yellows, greens and oranges in the colour scheme gives the visuals a lurid garishness that suggests the decade that taste forgot has been vomited half-digested across the screen; a year later Paul Verhoeven would do something similar with Starship Troopers – and this isn’t something that often gets said about the Dutch director – considerably more tastefully. This is unquestionably terrible. But it’s also rather fun.’ — JR Southall
‘As the years went on, Gordon’s output was sparse. But he never forgot about his love for Lovecraft. Then, in 2001, he released his final adaptation, Dagon. Dagon tells the story of two couples who end up being stranded on a remote island off the coast of Spain. At first, the island seems deserted. But soon the couples are stalked by creepy fish people trying to kidnap the women.
‘But this film is far darker and unsettling than any of Gordon’s previous Lovecraft entries. There’s the haunting reality of being hunted by a mob of fish people, the dreadful empty soundtrack with just screaming, rainfall and groaning, and finally the unnerving realization that all hope is lost and that nothing can be done but to give into fate. Dagon is a fantastic entry to Stuart Gordon’s Lovecraft series and a severely overlooked film from the early 2000s.’ — Bud Fugate
‘At first glance, horror meister Stuart Gordon would not seem the obvious choice to direct an emotional psycho-drama cinematic rendering of a David Mamet play, yet with Edmond, he displays a deft touch for the material and allows the actors to carry the day.
‘Originally penned as a stage play, Edmond tells the story of namesake Edmond Burke (William H. Macy), a mundane white collar worker who has spent his entire life being a faceless cog in the big industrial machine. The rescheduling of a business appointment to 1:15 (a number which re-occurs in the film) propels him to idle away his time with a visit to a tarot reader who tells him he’s not where he’s supposed to be. From there he begins a slow spiral into depravity and insanity that begins with telling his wife he’s leaving her and progresses to an outback-like dreamwalk into New York City’s seedy underbelly of bars pimps and prostitutes.’ — Craig McPherson
Dreams in the Witch-House (2005)
‘A college student renting an old room in a boarding house discovers a plot by sinister, otherworldly forces to sacrifice his neighbor’s infant. Based on the short story by H. P. Lovecraft. Just because it was on television doesn’t mean Stuart Gordon’s pulling any punches when it comes to that Lovecraftian insanity and horror. A much more conventional narrative crammed into 55 minutes, the film moves along quite well with enough shocks to keep one engaged and entertained. It’s definitely a tough act to follow for the next “Master.”‘ — Nalligood
The Black Cat (2007)
‘This is the one I’d been waiting for since the first time it was announced that Stuart Gordon would be directing an episode of the first season of Masters of Horror. Originally “Dreams in the Witch House” was supposed to star Jeffrey Combs, actually, but scheduling conflicts prevented it from happening. It was worth waiting to see him knock this episode out of the proverbial park, though.
‘Combs plays Edgar Allan Poe, famous literary figure that really needs no introduction. Gordon had the idea to take the idea that is in Poe’s titular story, which has been filmed before many times but never close to the source, and incorporate elements of the man’s life into the overarching tale. The result is arguably one of the best things to come out of the Masters of Horror franchise and something every horror fan should seek out.’ — Dread Central
p.s. Hey. FYI, I did get hit with the dreaded second vax shot side effects, and I have a fever and feel quite zonked and yuck, so I apologise for what will be a hampered p.s. ** _Black_Acrylic, Just what I need and in the nick of time. Great, thanks Ben! Everyone, a new episode of Ben ‘_Black_Acrylic’ Robinson’s great podcast Play Therapy full of ‘House, Proto-Cold Wave, Psychedelic Dub strangeness and much more besides’ is yours. ** Dominik, Hi!!! How did you fare? I feel like absolute crap, ugh. I hope you don’t. That makes sense about your wariness re: eating, yeah. Good you have one of those enviable metabolisms. Like I said, I hope at least half of my yesterday love worked on you. And I’ll do what I can to help your yesterday love’s wish come true. Might be tough. Sure would be nice though, thank you. I have an inoperable imagination today, so I’ll just send you love that is insanely cute and hot, G. ** wolf, Wolf! I’m sorry to be such a sad state for this much appreciated visit from the mighty you. Yeah, I hope Brigitte does a make-up date, but I think her will to perform is finally getting trounced by her body’s unwillingness. Big mutual up about Eileen. Other than having what feels like the flu but which is, I guess, something else, I’m doing okay, loving the reopening of Paris. It’s so great out there. Come visit! It’s worthy here again. Not sure about London. At some point surely, but I don’t know when. Big love to you! ** Jeff J, Hi, Jeff. No, I haven’t experienced their stuff live yet. I think Larry Clark has always painted in some fashion? Not entirely sure. Unfortunately I got the hitch, but thanks for wishing otherwise. No, I haven’t talked Michael S. Wonderful if he wants me on his show. I’ve been anxiously wondering what he thinks of the novel. Have a good weekend. ** Bill, Terence Koh’s big moment is over, I think, but he’s still doing his stuff. Thanks. I feel like complete shit, ha ha, but oh well. Have fun. ** maggie siebert, Hi, Maggie! Oh my god, I hate Aronofsky’s films. It’s so nice to find fellow non-believer. Yay! Yeah, I think I’m unfortunately joining you in the weird, nasty fever thing. Ugh. Hopefully only for the weekend at the longest. Great to see you, and sorry for my bleah today. ** Misanthrope, Yes, right now! Have a fun weekend, even the errands part and especially the artsy fartsy part. ** Steve Erickson, Thanks, but the vaccine flu got me. Grr. Nice about the Lizzie Borden, and about the Brooklyn Rail context. Yes, Paris is doing a gay pride parade this year. I don’t know when. I went to one years ago to see what a French pride parade was like, and it was just like any other, meaning non-essential for me. I’ll check the video, thanks. ** G, I read ‘For Now (Why I Write)’ just recently, and, yes, I definitely recommend it. So nice about your brother and everything else! Do I sound like a zombie with a fever? Because I am. Urgh. Have a really great weekend! xo. ** David Ehrenstein, I love ‘Novel With Cocaine’. The rumor used be that Nabokov wrote it under pseudonym, but that turned out to be a long shot wish. ** Brian, Hi, Brian. Thanks a lot, bud. Ha ha, you in a leather jacket at a ‘Cruising’ screening is pretty cool and funny. I’m not the huge Cronenberg fan that a lot of my friends are. I’m okay with him generally. There are some of his films I really don’t like, ‘Naked Lunch’ being one, and a number I sort of like with qualifications, but the only ones I actually like quite a lot are ‘Dead Ringers’, ‘Videodrome’, and ‘Crash’. I hope your weekend fully rewards you. I’ll be a slug during mine, so you can have all the energy of mine that I won’t be able to notice. ** Wow, I made it through. Okay. Stuart Gordon made some fun films, and I thought I would foist them on you this weekend. See you on Monday, hopefully in much better shape.