WEIRD, FOR WEIRD’S SAKE: In Memory of Stuart Gordon

The first time I watched Re-Animator, I laid in bed staring at a laptop screen perched up on an office chair near my night stand. It was late at night, after an unpleasant day. I was ready for bed but not ready to sleep, alone and indulging the familiar setting of a late night curiosity. This moment takes me back to a tiny box TV in my bedroom, or the living room TV at midnight when my parents went to sleep; the secret and forbidden world of horror that would unravel itself only after the city slumbered.

It’s this familiar setting that’s really stuck in my mind the last few days, alongside remembering the hushed whispers of speaking of the ill and odd, of loving being scared, or being a bit of that odd misfit kid seen as an “emo” or “goth” and being ridiculed for it. Love of the macabre where I grew up wasn’t always seen positively both at my school and religious communities. Though, lately, I’ve been able to start to love that little misfit kid that still exists within me. That fateful night years ago watching Re-Animator was a vocal point in a journey of learning that a fascination with the equally weird, wonderful and disturbing things I sought for in film and literature, was okay, and there were people out there got that.

So when the news of Stuart Gordon graced my mobile screen a few days ago, I’ve just been in a veil of… sadness.

What a loss.

I am a baby in the horror community, as my love for the genre has taken its fine time to bloom after years of returning to the things that I’ve equally feared as I did love. If any filmmaker has taught me that, it’s been Stuart Gordon. To have been able to work close to him would have been an immense honour, and honouring his memory in my own weird take has taken me a couple days to piece together.

I can’t speak from a place of great knowledge, since I never met him, nor did I know of him for a long time. I only began keeping up with him last year, even though I’ve known of his work for a deal longer.

A place I can speak from, however, is one of immense gratitude.

He isn’t just singlehandedly responsible for my growing obsession for H.P Lovecraft and weird fiction, he has taught me a great deal about fear, and not taking oneself so seriously. He has been cause for me to often reflect on each endeavour I wish to undertake. He was a powerhouse of passion and creativity, and though his reach wasn’t just within the realms of the horror genre, there’s no denying he had an eye for the macabre and allowing his audience to not only experience it, but embrace it.

“People think horror movies are kind of mindless, but in actuality they’re a way of making statements about things that people really are afraid to talk about.”

From 80s horror documentary In Search of Darkness

From his theatre beginnings with Screw Theatre, cult-classic film Re-Animator, screenwriting Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, collaborating with Ray Bradbury for The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, numerous other Lovecraftian works, and even directing a one-man Edgar Allan Poe stage show, something I’ve admired from his body of work is his sense of authenticity. It seemed, he never really took up a project he never wanted to do.

He’s a master at making the audience uncomfortable, but, oddly okay with being uncomfortable. Occasionally, I hold movie nights where I host some friends and play some movies that they’ve likely never seen before. For one of my first, I had an H.P Lovecraft theme, and my choices to screen that evening were his films Re-Animator and Dagon. It was a double whammy of shock and horror for those involved, but somehow there were always moments we were able to laugh about situations the characters were in, and at ourselves, even though the situations depicted in these movies were rather horrific and not intended to be funny.

I’d always felt apprehensive about sharing my love for horror or gothic things with others, and that halted me seeking out my love for the genre for years. Embracing enjoying the weird and macabre, and knowing that’s valid, has given me incredible confidence.

That’s one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learnt from his movies.

“The greatest weapon you have is the mind of the audience member. If you can make the audience member think they’re going to witness something really, really disturbing then that’s the best thing.”

From an interview with Gordon on the Post Mortem podcast

There are many familiar faces that have worked with Gordon in the past that I turned to immediately after hearing the news:

Brian Yuzna, a friend who often collaborated with Gordon, honoured him on his Instagram with a very wholesome photo from what appears to be during production of Re-Animator.

Horror stars Barbara Crampton and Jeffrey Combs, pictured in the photo with Gordon and Yuzna and have starred in a number of their projects, honoured him on Twitter.

Even directors John Carpenter and Edgar Wright, alongside a wealth of many other filmmakers, have tweeted in his memory.

As the days come, I will be keeping up with many others in the film and horror communities online as they speak on his memory, and enjoying the gems that have influenced generations of filmmakers and fans. May we remember the legacy he’s left behind and celebrate it in all its gorey glory.

Rest easy, Stuart Gordon. Thank you for the weird.

Featured image: Fantasy Film Festival

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