The director of the greatest cult horror movies of the 1980s has died.
We are saddened to hear of the death of Stuart Gordon, one of the great names of 1980s (and beyond) genre cinema, and one of the most articulate defenders and imaginative creators of outré movies.
His seminal films Re-Animator and From Beyond were among the best works of their sometimes difficult era, outrageous and loose H.P. Lovecraft adaptations that piled on the excess – wild performances from Jeffrey Combs (who would become a genre icon on the back of these movies), spectacular gore and deviant sexuality would be the hallmarks of Gordon’s films, all delivered with a tongue-in-cheek attitude that made him the natural successor to EC Comics. But these were also films that dripped with visual style and extraordinary ideas, lifting them above the rest of the competition at the time.
Re-Animator was Gordon’s first feature film – his first love had been theatre, and he would return to that in later years with challenging projects and more fun shows like Re-Animator – The Musical. After From Beyond, his career suffered somewhat from the directionless, throwaway nature of the horror and science fiction film in the 1980s and 1990s – projects for Charles Band’s Empire like Robot Jox, above-average horror films like Dolls and Castle Freak, one of several Poe adaptations that appeared at the start of the Nineties (Pit and the Pendulum), apocalyptic action film (Fortress) and the disappointing Space Truckers were usually well above the average, but perhaps lacked the individuality and style of the earlier films. But Gordon could also turn away from the camp and lightweight to deliver to hard, brutal King of the Ants, showing his versatility. In later years, he contributed two impressive films to the Masters of Horror series, one of the best episodes of anthology series Fear Itself, and the fascinating Stuck.
Like many people, Gordon found himself tied to the horror film, perhaps to the detriment of his career – along with Re-Animator producer Brian Yuzna, he came up with the story for Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, but there was no way that Disney at that time was going to employ the men who had been filming a severed head performing cunnilingus on a naked co-ed. But Gordon seemed more comfortable in his somewhat enforced role as exploitation filmmaker, and certainly, his work offered enough variety and opportunity and imagination to keep any creative mind more than satisfied. The mainstream cinema’s loss was our gain. And horror cinema needed people like Gordon – intelligent, educated and sophisticated, he was a good spokesman for the genre. He’ll be missed.