Stuart Gordon, the writer, director, and producer best known for his cult-classic horror films Re-Animator (1985) and From Beyond (1986), has died. The news first broke on Twitter, and was later confirmed by his family as reported in Variety. He was 72.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Gordon first made a name for himself as a provocative figure in the already-provocative world of experimental theater, a passion that led Gordon and his wife, Carolyn Purdy Gordon, to found the Organic Theater Company in 1969. (The Organic Theater Company would go on to premiere David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity In Chicago, which was later adapted into the 1986 film About Last Night...) He made the transition to film in 1985, where he teamed up with producer Brian Yuzna and actors Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton for the first of what would be many projects together. That film was Re-Animator, an inspired adaptation of an obscure H.P. Lovecraft story that deftly rides the line between colorful camp and authentic horror and disgust.
That blend of gleeful fun and shocking violence and sexuality would become Gordon’s calling card as a horror director, a style he applied to films like From Beyond (1986)—another Lovecraft adaptation also starring Combs and Crampton—Dolls (1987), Castle Freak (1995), and Dagon (2001). Gordon wasn’t exclusively a horror director, however, and he found equal success in science fiction films like Robot Jox (1990) and Space Truckers (1996). And although they had to be toned down for a family audience, Gordon’s twisted sensibilities shine through in his original script for Honey, I Shrunk The Kids (1989), co-written with Yuzna. (Gordon was also set to direct the film, but had to drop out for health reasons before shooting began.) Of his style, Gordon told The A.V. Club in a 2002 interview:
I’m always looking for ways to get under people’s skin, to throw something at them that they’re not prepared for, to surprise them and to go someplace where they don’t think you’re going to go. Sometimes people hate it, and some people really enjoy it. I’m one of those people who enjoy it.
Gordon returned to the theater in his later years, combining two periods of his life by producing, directing, and co-writing the stage play Re-Animator: The Musical in 2011. His final stage work was the 2014 play Taste, based—in true outrageous Stuart Gordon style—on the true story of two German men who engaged in voluntary cannibalism in 2001. He was a well-loved figure among horror creatives in Los Angeles and beyond, some of whom have already begun posting tributes to him on social media.
He is survived by his wife Carolyn, daughters Suzanna, Jillian, and Margaret Gordon, and four grandchildren.