The man behind cult classics such as Re-Animator, From Beyond, and Disney’s Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, has passed on, but his legacy will live forever.
Sadly, the world woke up on Wednesday morning to the news that Stuart Gordon, the cult director behind the unforgettable Re-Animator, and many more, had passed away at the age of 72.
Stuart Gordon will go down as a significant figure in annals of horror movie history, thanks to his bloody great contributions to the genre. He splattered onto the scene and screen with stone-cold cult classic Re-Animator in 1985, a loose adaptation of the H.P. Lovecraft serialised story, where Herbert West, a medical student, obsessively tries to conquer death. Attempts to play God never go down well, and in Re-Animator it’s no different. Heads roll, eyes pop, and organs reanimate in this delightfully gory, and darkly comic horror. Such was the impact of Re-Animator that it spawned 2 sequels, and launched the careers of Barbara Crampton and Jeffrey Combs, both of whom would become frequent collaborators with Gordon.
Gordon followed Re-Animator up with From Beyond, another tale of scientists prodding things that should never be prodded, and subsequently suffering the consequences. If you observe midnight movie mass, the film makes a good companion piece to Re-Animator. Not only does it feature a familiar cast and crew, but it’s also an adaptation of another H.P. Lovecraft story, and it wouldn’t be his last.
Gordon went on to plumb the depths of Lovecraft’s work again throughout his career, eventually directing 3 more adaptations with Castle Freak, Dagon, and Dreams in the Witch-House. The legacy he leaves, however, isn’t just the adaptations he directed, it’s that he has done more to popularise (along with Brian Yuzna) Lovecraft’s work in the realm of film than anybody else. The success of Re-Animator alone would have drawn more eyes and interest to Lovecraft’s writing (I know it did me), and subsequently influenced generations of creatives to come. Is it any wonder that Lovecraft and the Cthulhu mythos run rampant in pop culture today? We may not have had a ton of adaptations since Gordon’s heydey, but Lovecraftian influences abound film, TV, and literature more than they did 20-30 years ago. It might have happened eventually, but it would be hard to deny Re-Animator and Gordon didn’t expedite the process.
The funny thing is, Lovecraft probably would have hated his movies. Where Lovecraft did his best to describe in little detail the indescribable monstrosities that lurked in his stories, Gordon used his medium to get visual. Very visual. Severed head going down on a woman visual.
Gordon’s legacy may be remembered primarily for the films he made, but he was also an acclaimed playwright, theatre director, writer, and friend to those he worked with. He leaves behind a highly influential body of work that will inspire and gross-out viewers in equal measure for years to come. He was more than a Master of Horror, he was a Master of Lovecraft, and so much more.