Horror fans around the globe are mourning the loss of Stuart Gordon. A writer, director, and playwright, Gordon quietly and steadfastly walked to the beat of his own drum.
On Twitter this morning, Don Coscarelli (Phantasm) said:
At the first “Masters of Horror” dinner, Stuart said something which resonated with every horror filmmaker: “Horror films are a rehearsal for our own deaths.” In eight words he answered why we make them and watch them. Stuart, you made the finest. RIP, my friend. #StuartGordon pic.twitter.com/QQAHRXCOhT
— Don Coscarelli (@DonCoscarelli) March 25, 2020
From his earliest days in filmmaking, Gordon sought to master what so few have been able to successfully do in adapting the works of H.P. Lovecraft to the screen. The author’s work, filled with creatures whose mere presence can drive men mad, is strikingly visual and yet nearly impossible to fully realize on screen.
That did not stop Gordon, however. He loved these stories, and they deserved to be on film.
With that in mind, I thought it would be a good time to look at five of his more interesting adaptations of Lovecraft’s work. I will also include where to stream these films in case there are entries you’ve never seen before or if you’d like to revisit them.
Re-Animator (1985): Streaming on Shudder and Showtime; Available to Rent on Amazon, Google Play, and AppleTV
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
While Gordon had previously directed a made-for-TV film titled Bleacher Bums, Re-Animator–based on Lovecraft’s “Herbert West, Re-Animator”– was his first big screen venture.
The film starred Jeffrey Combs as Dr. Herbert West, a man obsessed with overcoming death, who goes to terrifying and sometimes hysterical lengths to prove his theories true. There are things in this film you have to see to believe, and it works so well thanks to Gordon’s direction and the complete commitment of Combs in the title role.
The film also starred horror legend Barbara Crampton (Body Double). Both she and Combs would work with Gordon many more times in the course of their careers. Gordon was used to working with a company of players in the theater and he brought that same idea to his film work.
From Beyond (1986): Streaming on PlutoTV; Available to rent on Vudu and Amazon.
Gordon, Combs, and Crampton reunited a year later for From Beyond, based on Lovecraft’s story by the same name.
Dr. Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel) and Dr. Crawford Tillinghast (Combs) create a device called the Resonator whose sole purpose is to stimulate the pineal gland in order to open up the sixth sense. After a terrifying experiment with the device in which Pretorius loses his life, Tillinghast is sent to a mental institution and put under the care of Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Crampton).
Soon Tillinghast and McMichaels find themselves in a fight for survival with terrifying creatures that could mean not only their deaths, but the destruction of the world as we know it.
Castle Freak (1995): Streaming on Shudder and Tubi; Available to rent on AppleTV and Amazon
Combs and Crampton return in this tale as John and Susan Reilly, an American couple who, along with their blind daughter (Jessica Dollarhide), travel to Italy after inheriting a castle there. Unbeknownst to them, a deformed creature lurks in the castle’s depths and when it is accidentally set free, it begins to viciously murder locals leading the authorities to suspect John.
The film is loosely based on Lovecraft’s “The Outsiders” and came into being after Gordon saw a poster in Charles Band’s office. Band reportedly told Gordon he could develop the property so long as there was a castle and a freak in the story since they already had a poster made up for a film which did not yet exist.
Dagon (2001): Available to rent on Vudu, AppleTV, Amazon, and Google Play
I can’t tell you how much I love Dagon which is just as well because I can’t tell you why I love Dagon. All I can tell you is that it’s a guilty pleasure I have returned to time and again.
Based on Lovecraft’s “Dagon” and “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” Dagon centers on a young businessman named Paul (Ezra Godden) who, along with his girlfriend, Barbara (Raquel Merono), is washed ashore in a strange village after a boating accident off the coast of Spain.
The couple are soon on the run for their lives as the village’s strange inhabitants emerge after sunset. I don’t want to give too much more away, but the film delivers one shock after another as Paul discovers the village’s history which leads to terrifying possibilities about his own future.
Masters of Horror: Dreams in the Witch House (2005): Streaming on Tubi, Vudu, Vidmark, and The Roku Channel; Available to rent on Fandango Now and Amazon
Stuart Gordon was a natural choice for Mick Garris when he began to assemble directors for the Masters of Horror television series, and for his first entry, the director returned to Lovecraft and Ezra Godden.
Based on Lovecraft’s story by the same name, Dreams in the Witch House finds Walter (Godden), a graduate student, renting a room in an old house to work on his thesis. He soon discovers, however, that the house is more sinister than it seems. An ancient entity lives there, and it is hell bent on forcing Walter to sacrifice a neighbor’s baby.
Gordon pulled out all the stops in this hour-long film. It will make you uneasy and queasy by the time the credits roll.