Interview with Stuart Gordon

From his 1985 debut as a cult-horror director with "Re-Animator" to his 2002 H.P. Lovecraft film "Dagon" (originally written, it turns out, as the follow-up to "Re-Animator"), Stuart Gordon has consistently delivered quality horror to the masses, and is now considered by many of us to be one of the most important fear film-makers of the past 30 years. Like Tobe Hooper, who will always be remembered for "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," Gordon will likely always be best remembered for "Re-Animator," but his other horror films have always been top-quality endeavors. "From Beyond," the remake of "Pit and the Pendulum" and "Castle Freak" are just some of his later efforts. "Dagon" is arguably the best thing he's made since "From Beyond." We were fortunate enough to pose a few questions to the director during his promotional tour for "Dagon" in May of 2002.

"Dagon" was great. It seemed like the lead character was written for Jeffrey Combs. Was it written for him? And, if so, why didn't he star?

Itís very perceptive of you. It was written for Jeffrey, 15 years ago. It was supposed to be the film to follow "Re-Animator." Unfortunately, in the time that past weíve all gotten older, so I needed to find a leading man in his early 20ís to really make the story work. And I thought Ezra Goddsen did a great job in the lead role as Paul.

What's your next project after "Dagon"? Last I heard you were at work on another, HP Lovecraft project. Is that still going to happen?

I am working on a project based on the Lovecraft story "The Thing on the Doorstep." At this time there isnít a specific start date for it although Iím hoping to be doing a film called "King of the Ants" next, which is a "Reservoir Dogs"-type film about a housepainter who becomes a hitman.

Many people consider "Re-Animator" your best film. What do you think? Do you have a personal favorite?

Iím very proud of all of my films for different reasons. They are kind of like children so it's hard to single one out as the favorite but Iím hoping that as a filmmaker Iím learning and developing as I go. So Iím hoping that the best is yet to come.

Do you think, given the heightened political correctness we've seen in the U.S. since the 1990s, that "Re-Animator" could have been produced and released today?

Yes I do think it could. I think that there is still a market and an audience for movies that go beyond what normal films do. Itís exciting for me to see films that are coming out now that are just as disturbing as "Re-Animator" in their own way. Films like "Audition," a Japanese film. I thought that was an amazing movie.

Are you surprised the following for "Re-Animator" has lasted this long?

Iím very surprised and pleased. When we made the movie we hoped that fans would like it but I never realized that it would end up becoming a cult classic. Now its reaching its third generation of audiences and itís wonderful.

What's it like working for Fantastic Factory as opposed to Full Moon Pictures? What happened to your relationship with Full Moon? You had directed a number of films for them.

Well I just finished executive producing a project for Full Moon called "Deathbed," which is the story of a haunted bed. Itís directed by a very talented director named Danny Draven. So Iím still in touch Charlie Band and Iím still a fan of his work. Working with Brian Usted at the Fantastic Factory reminded me a great deal of the movies we made in Italy for Empire Pictures. Movies like "From Beyond" and "Dolls." It was a great experience and Brian was a great producer who encouraged me to go further than Iíve ever gone before in some of the sequences. He brings out the worst in me. (laughs)

Stuart Gordon Horror Filmography:

- Re-Animator (1985)
- From Beyond (1986)
- Dolls (1986)
- Daughter of Darkness (1990)
- Pit and the Pendulum (1990)
- Castle Freak (1995)
- Dagon (2002)

Any new filmmakers out there that you are watching with interest? Particularly horror filmmakers. Did you have a chance to see "Ginger Snaps" and, if so, what did you think?

I was very impressed with "The Others" by Amenabar. I think he is an incredible filmmaker. And there are some other great Spanish filmmakers as well, people like Alex Eglacia, whoís work is very much like Terry Gilliam. So there are some terrific new filmmakers coming up. I also like "Requiem for a Dream" very much.

I did see "Ginger Snaps" and I liked it very much. I thought the relationship between the two sisters was great. The movie put a new spin on the werewolf legend and I thought it was terrific.

What do you think of the state of horror films today? Are the movies better or worse than they used to be?

I think that we seem to be moving towards ghost stories again, which is a result of the repressed times that we live in. The last time ghost stories were this popular were in Victorian England and I think the times weíre living in are returning to that, especially with all its political correctness. I think horror is a pendulum, and different things scare different people at different times. I think its not a question of better or worse but what is effective for an audience today.

Your films lately have seemed to be more serious than what you used to produce. Do you agree with this statement? Any desire to make more horror-comedies of the "Re-Animator" variety?

Well I always think there is an element of humor in my movies. I think "Dagon" has a lot of black comedy as well, thanks to a large degree to Ezra Goddsenís performance as Paul. Ezraís hero is Harold Lloyd, the great silent movie comedian. When I found that out, I encouraged him to play the role as Harold Lloyd and that was why he wears glasses in this movie.

What do you especially like about "Dagon"?

I like the idea that there is this other world that exists below the sea, an entire civilization that we are unaware of. Because that Lovecraft said that man lives on an island of ignorance surrounded by things that are beyond his understanding.

"Dagon" was your first horror film in about seven years. Are you veering away from horror?

No, I had to take a break from it I think. I wanted to do some other things. If you do too much of the same work I think it becomes repetitive and dull for both you and the audience. So I did some comedies, I even did a musical number in "The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit" which was great fun.

Can you tell us more about the "Re-Animator" sequel you had in mind (one reportedly set in the White House)?

This is an idea I had for a movie called "House of ReAnimator," and yes, it was set in the White House. In it, the president dies and has to be reanimated by Herbert West. 

Final comment: The best is yet to be.