With From Beyond to Dolls, Stuart Gordon's Cult Classic Movies are horror movies you will never forget. Okay, so not every single film that Stuart Gordon made exploded with sexuality, but the ones that did were undeniably sensual and sexy. Gordon started his work in theater with Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, his wife, and formed The Organic Theater Company, that first produced the David Mamet play Sexual Perversity In Chicago. Gordon later produced Nevermore...An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe with actor Jeffrey Combs and co-wrote and directed Re-Animator: The Musical. He then started to work with Empire Pictures to create some of the films we still revere today. In honor of his birthday, here are 7 of his best-loved and most influential horror films.
Re-Animator was Stuart Gordon's feature film debut, and what a debut it was! It was a film that had a seismic impact on horror movies in the eighties. The sexuality, the dark humor, and scenes where re-animated corpses writhed with fury at being re-wakened from death electrified the audience. Starring Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Bruce Abbott, and David Gale, the film did well at the box office, but its popularity really blossomed when it went to the video stores. It is the definition of a cult horror movie classic that was made by the hunger for great horror movies on home video. You can read our exclusive interview where Barbara and Jeffrey Combs remember Stuart Gordon in Fangoria.
From Beyond (1986)
The very next year, Stuart Gordon made From Beyond, which is quite an achievement for your first two films. To go from Re-Animator, a Lovecraft adaptation, to another Lovecraft adaptation with your next movie and to succeed as wildly as Gordon did is fantastic. The film stars Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, who became part of his film repertory company of actors, and Ken Foree and Ted Sorel. From Beyond is seductive, and the ideas in the film, where unseen horrors swim around human beings all the time that we cannot see, understands the Lovecraft mythos in a way not many directors have. Check out our interview with frequent collaborator and co-writer Dennis Paoli about his work with Stuart Gordon.
The third Lovecraft adaptation is a Stuart Gordon horror movie that continues with the tradition he started with Re-Animator and From Beyond. The writer and director managed to make Lovecraft relevant to modern audiences in a way that was unmistakably all his own. Using sexuality and the darkest humor, Gordon's films made stories and novels previously thought unfilmable into the wildest and very popular entertainment in horror. Dagon has a particularly ripe feeling of decay about it, and that's what makes it so memorable. The film's feel is very similar to the feeling you get when reading The Shadow Over Innsmouth for the first time.
Castle Freak (1995)
Dagon and Castle Freak are both Stuart Gordon horror movies that were released straight to home video, although Dagon had a theatrical release in Spain, where the film was produced. Castle Freak, produced in Italy by Full Moon Features, was made with a small budget, but Gordon was given complete creative control. The story, reportedly influenced by the H.P. Lovecraft story The Outsider, stars Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Jessica Dollarhide, and Jonathan Fuller and is a favorite among Gordon fans.
Stuart Gordon's Dolls is a bit of a departure from his other films. It is more quaint as it concerns a scary old mansion filled with dolls who punish the wicked and the greedy; however, it still became a cult classic to the masses. The doll maker and his wife welcome people stranded by a fearsome rainstorm nearby, and the group accepts their hospitality. As the members of their group show their evil ways, the dolls take matters into their own hands. The film stars Stephen Lee, Guy Rolfe, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Hillary Mason, and Carrie Lorraine.
The Pit & the Pendulum (1991)
The Pit & the Pendulum is Stuart Gordon's adaptation of the Edgar Allen Poe short story with elements of Poe's The Cask of Amontillado woven into it. Filmed in Spain, it stars Lance Henriksen, Rona De Ricci, Jonathan Fuller, Mark Margolis, and Jeffrey Combs. In it, a woman named Maria cannot stay silent about the Inquisition's cruelty and bring the evil attention of Torquemada upon herself for objecting to a family's torment. If you ever had the desire to see Lance Henrikson play Torquemada, this is the film for you.
While Stuck is usually classified as a black comedy thriller, I feel it is a horror film. Stuart Gordon based it on a real-life case where a woman hit a man with her car and continued to drive around with the man stuck in her windshield. The woman left him and the vehicle in a garage overnight, where he died. That's a story of absolute real-life horror if I've ever heard of it. However, the film goes off in a different direction. It stars Mena Suvari and Stephen Rea.