(Spain - 2001; US release 2002)
Directed by Stuart Gordon. Written by Dennis Paoli. Cast: Ezra Godden, Francisco Rabal, Raquel Merono, Macarena Gomez, Uxia Blanco, Brendan Price, Birgit Bofarull, Ferran Lahoz, Joan Minguell, Alfredo Villa, Jose Lifante, Javier Sandoval, Victor Barreira. (R, 98 mins)
Going back to his days as the founder of the Organic Theater Company in Chicago in the late 1960s, Stuart Gordon has always been a versatile director of stage and screen. But it's his association with the works of H.P. Lovecraft that have cemented his place in horror film history. Beginning in 1985 with the Empire Pictures cult classic RE-ANIMATOR, Gordon, along with screenwriter Dennis Paoli, and (with one exception) producer Brian Yuzna, created a quartet of Lovecraft adaptations that, while not completely faithful to the source, nevertheless generated a renewed interest in the influential horror writer whose work was never really discovered until after his death in 1937. Gordon's Lovecraft projects updated the settings and were very much the works of their maker, but RE-ANIMATOR and 1986's FROM BEYOND managed to brilliantly convey the essence of Lovecraft in spite of the liberties taken. Gordon moved away from Lovecraft for a number of years, directing 1987's DOLLS and a pair of sci-fi films with 1990's ROBOT JOX and 1993's FORTRESS, in addition to scripting Abel Ferrara's 1993 sci-fi/horror outing BODY SNATCHERS. He probably got his biggest commercial payday by creating, with Yuzna and their DOLLS screenwriter Ed Naha, the storyline behind the 1989 Disney hit HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS. Their script (originally titled TEENY WEENIES) was ultimately rewritten by Naha and Tom Schulman (DEAD POETS SOCIETY), and Gordon was replaced as director by Joe Johnston, but his "story by" credit remained and the film spawned two sequels, a TV spinoff, and a Disney theme park attraction.
Poesploitation entry THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM and would eventually revisit the Lovecraft universe for Full Moon with 1995's CASTLE FREAK (based on the short story "The Outsider"), which also reunited RE-ANIMATOR and FROM BEYOND stars Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton. Yuzna, meanwhile, directed the 1989 cult classic SOCIETY and kept the RE-ANIMATOR series going on his own by directing 1990's BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR and, much later, 2003's BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR. He also helmed 1991's SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT 4: INITIATION and 1993's RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 3, along with a pair of Corbin Bernsen video store staples with 1996's THE DENTIST, co-written by Gordon, and its 1998 sequel THE DENTIST 2. By 2000, Yuzna set up shop in Barcelona, working with Spanish producer Julio Fernandez's company Filmax, creating a horror-focused subsidiary division called Fantastic Factory. Yuzna reconnected with Gordon and Paoli and Fernandez agreed to produce DAGON, the last (so far) of Gordon's Lovecraft feature film adaptations.
|Francisco Rabal (1926-2001)|
KING OF THE ANTS and 2006's EDMOND, a collaboration with David Mamet. Now 70, Gordon's last film to date is 2008's excellent black comedy STUCK, with white trash nurse Mena Suvari plowing into homeless Stephen Rea and promptly driving home and parking in her garage...with Rea still stuck in the windshield and bleeding out. Gordon did revisit Lovecraft once more, with DAGON star Godden, a British actor who briefly became the director's go-to Jeffrey Combs-alike, for "Dreams in the Witch-House" a 2005 episode of the Showtime series MASTERS OF HORROR. Just out on Blu-ray from Lionsgate's "Vestron Collector's Series," even though Vestron Video was long gone by 2002 (I guess it's "Vestron" in spirit), DAGON isn't the best of Gordon's Lovecraft works (that would be RE-ANIMATOR), but it's perhaps the most effective at capturing the vividly unique, nightmarish quality of Lovecraft's writing.