The horror genre lost one of the great rebel independent horror movie directors in Stuart Gordon, who passed away at age 72 from unknown causes.
Stuart Gordon did it his own way. When he was young, he was part of a rebel drama outfit at the University of Wisconsin, where he directed a politically charged production of Peter Pan, which ended up with the cast getting naked at the end, leading to his arrest for obscenity. He took that attitude to the cinema, where his brand of low-brow shock horror B-movies were married up to body horror interpretations of H.P. Lovecraft and some of the most revered horror movies of the VHS era.
Gordon partnered up with producer Charles Band, and their features were the backbone of Empire Pictures, which later would become Full Moon Video. Empire was emblematic of the straight to video grindhouse scene in the ’80s and ’90s. Despite the minuscule budget and tawdry subject material, Gordon’s films became cult classics and were a big cut above the schlocky competition. He was providing high-grade exploitation fare, as oxymoronic as that may sound.
His streak of feature favorites includes the mad-cap science of Re-Animator; the trippy inter-dimensional body horror of From Beyond; a creepy exploration of deadly toys in The Dolls; an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s “Shadow over Innsmouth” with Dagon; The hugely disturbing Castle Freak (filmed in Charles Band’s private Castle); the goofy romp Space Truckers; and one you probably haven’t seen… a mob job that went seriously wrong in King of the Ants. Gordon knew how to please an audience with gore, titillation, and monsters but at the same time deliver solid stories with acting better than you would normally get for grindhouse fare like this.
He made stars out of Jeffery Combs and Barbara Crampton, who rewarded him with memorable performances in Re-Animator, From Beyond, and Castle Freak. Each one of these pairings produced their own strange, kinky, and disturbing magic. Crampton quickly went on to her twitter feed to pay homage to Gordon with the following tweet:
An enormous talent, vibrant & boundary breaking, his work was in a class by itself. He created countless moments on film which were at once, funny, scary, daring & smart. He gave me my career. I lost a dear friend. I’m heartbroken. No words can do him justice. RIP Stuart Gordon
We at the Scariest Things couldn’t agree more. His brand of fun, gross, and very clever films were a rare combination. Few directors have the gumption to try and pull off what he did successfully. Farewell, Stuart, may you rest in peace, free of the machinations of Herbert West.