Celebrated filmmaker Stuart Gordon has accumulated a cult following over the years, but not every movie he has directed can be categorized as horror. Gordon grew famous for his debut feature film Re-Animator starring popular horror actors Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton, but every movie Stuart Gordon has directed can be ranked by its cult status and outlandish entertainment.
Stuart Gordon has directed for television as well as film. In the early 2000s, he directed two episodes for the acclaimed anthology horror series Masters of Horror, Dreams in the Witch-House, and The Black Cat. The former is an adaptation of the H.P. Lovecraft short story of the same name. Over time, Gordon became known for using Lovecraftian material for his projects, especially in his movies. The director has had a significant influence on cinema outside of the horror genre and is credited as the story creator for the family-friendly sci-fi film series Honey I Shrunk The Kids.
Unfortunately, Stuart Gordon passed away in March 2020, with the 2007 thriller Stuck being the last feature film Gordon directed. Gordon left behind a lasting legacy as the man that elevated cult horror into the goldmine of content it is today. Lovecraftian movies were gradually popularized after the massive success of Re-Animator and its sequels, while Stuart Gordon’s Honey I Shrunk The Kids characters will be returning for the sequel film Shrunk, which remains in pre-production, with renowned actor Rick Moranis slated to reprise his role. Here’s every movie Stuart Gordon directed ranked from worst to best below.
13. Fortress (1992)
The independent sci-fi film Fortress takes place in a dystopian future where the world’s population is controlled by making pregnancy illegal, and Fortress‚ plot centers around a rebellious couple who break that law and are implanted with an incarcerating explosive by the government. Financially, Fortress was successful and even greenlit for a sequel but simultaneously poorly viewed by critics upon release. For an indie film, however, the production value is admirable and relatively expensive looking, defining Stuart Gordon’s style of directing early on in his line of work by exuding a tone of carefree self-indulgence. What the film lacks in acting, pacing, and execution, it makes up for in entertainment. Fortress not taking itself seriously is occasionally a downside and drags the film’s overall quality down, but it also makes it a fun, if low-quality, romp.
12. Robot Jox (1990)
Robot Jox is a dystopian science fiction film about how war is spearheaded by giant robotic machines in the distant future. Though an experienced sci-fi author wrote the film, Robot Jox comes across as a run-of-the-mill dystopian narrative lacking impactful action. The film’s best aspects are its locations, as the principal photography was shot in Rome, while an upside is that it also serves as the cinematic precursor of successful mech sci-fi series like Pacific Rim or Transformers. Though it can be enjoyable for those invested in the genre, Stuart Gordon’s off-screen feud with writer Joe Haldeman is apparent in Robot Jox’s stilted dialogue and story.
11. Edmond (2005)
A repressed man, Edmond Burke, discovers from a fortune teller that he is not where he belongs in life, encouraging him to leave his wife and discover what he lacks. The strength of Edmond comes when the plot focuses on the internal conflict of its protagonist because the battle against his own repressed rage results in more intriguing material than the high-intensity action scenes. The film earned generally favorable reviews upon release, though many critics praised only the performance of Fargo actor William H. Macy. Edmond is barren of Stuart Gordon’s usual self-aware tone and eccentric vibe, though there are sillier scenes sprinkled throughout the film. Overall, Edmond translates as an engaging thriller despite the issues it has with inconsistent pacing.
10. Stuck (2007)
Stuart Gordon steps into the territory of black comedy for his last film, the 2007 thriller Stuck, which sees a caregiver accidentally hit a homeless man with her car after a night of celebration before leaving him to die. Stuck is based on a true story and can lean too heavily on the uncomfortable details surrounding that story than necessary, which sits jarringly alongside Stuart Gordon’s brand of dark humor that can be found in nearly every scene. Critical reception for Stuck, however, was wonderful, and the film earned a Bollywood remake movie, but it still lost an enormous amount of money at the box office. Nonetheless, Stuck marks the end of an engaging generation of unique films from the creative mastermind Stuart Gordon.
9. King of the Ants (2003)
King of the Ants is one of the few Stuart Gordon-directed movies that does not include Re-Animator actor Jeffrey Combs and sees a house painter find himself at war with a group of mobsters after they double-cross him in a contractor’s scam. Many critics view the neo-noir thriller as one of Gordon’s best works since Re-Animator. Even with a low budget, the film is dedicated to its noir style and succeeds in combining various types of genres. Gordon proves in King of the Ants that he can seamlessly weave monster movie elements into a more grounded story about one man’s corruption, making it a solid pick for Stuart Gordon and genre fans alike.
8. The Pit and the Pendulum (1991)
The Pit and the Pendulum is an adaptation of an Edgar Allen Poe story of the same name. During the Spanish Inquisition in 1942, the Grand Inquisitor Torquemada attempts to place an innocent wife of a baker in his torture chamber. The only apparent downside to this atmospheric period piece from Stuart Gordon is its slow pacing – since the original Poe source material was not meant to stretch on for an hour and a half. Regardless, Stuart Gordon is in his element in this movie and creates not only terror with his practiced camerawork but beauty too. For the shock value The Pit and the Pendulum attempts to achieve, it should have delivered more gore, yet it remains a faithful adaptation of Poe’s work.
7. Space Truckers (1996)
Space Truckers is a sci-fi movie that follows the story of John Canyon, a swashbuckling pilot of a cargo spaceship who discovers he has been hired to transport a great number of killer robots to Earth. Featuring Dennis Hooper (who stars in the cult classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), the film relies on its star cast to make its grisly environment vibrant and full of tension. While audience reception for Space Truckers was positive upon release, especially in sci-fi moviegoer circles, it saw a substantial loss at the box office. Space Truckers remains one of Stuart Gordon’s more ambitious directorial projects, however, and not just because of its big budget, as it challenges notions of the classic hero’s tale and even playfully mocks the sci-fi trope of technobabble.
6. The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit (1998)
In The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, a group of five friends down on their luck decide to pool their money to buy a brilliant white suit. They soon learn that the suit they’re sharing comes with magical powers that seem to offer them their heart’s desires. Joe Mantegna (David Rossi of Criminal Minds) joins a cast of exceptionally talented comedic actors whose idiosyncratic personalities bounce off each other perfectly. A fantasy comedy is a genre far separated from Stuart Gordon’s usual projects, but The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit proves he can inject his personal style into any genre. This film was Gordon’s first departure from sci-fi and horror, yet feels the film feels like it was made by a director experienced with comedic timing and concepts.
5. Dolls (1987)
Dolls is a 1987 horror film that centers around a group of six people who get stranded in a storm and are forced to sleep over in the mansion of a mysterious puppeteer. The reviews for Dolls were generally good at the time of its release, but critic Roger Ebert famously criticized Stuart Gordon for not taking full advantage of the plot’s potential. „The haunted house looks magnificent, but so what, if it’s not haunted by great and frightening creatures?“ (via Roger Ebert). The set design and budget for Dolls are dramatically increased from Gordon’s previous projects, making the film visually appealing. However, Dolls‚ visuals don’t fix the fact that the film feels restrained, making this movie rank a notch lower than the remaining Stuart Gordon classics below.
4. Castle Freak (1995)
Castle Freak is a 1995 direct-to-video horror film that has performances, camerawork, and production value far beyond its relatively small budget. The plot follows a couple with a strained marriage and their blind daughter who inherit a castle, where a strange monster lurks in the basement and kills whoever crosses its path. Castle Freak inspired a sequel in 2020, which didn’t do as well critically as its predecessor. The charm in Castle Freak, however, comes from the brilliant performances of Barbara Crampton and Jeffrey Combs, who worked with Stuart Gordon several times prior. Gordon clearly excels at monster movies, and Castle Freak has truly honed his craft, meaning this low-budget yet poignant body horror strikes a perfect balance with its narrative drama and gruesome scares.
3. Dagon (2001)
Dagon sees Paul Marsh gets into a shipwreck with his friends, and they must ask for help around the town they’ve been stranded near, though the townsfolk are strangely fish-like and antagonistic. H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos is ingrained in every scene of Dagon, which works to the film’s benefit since its creatures, practical effects, and set design make it an extravagant experience. There are glaring moments of poor quality CGI in Dagon that risk undermining Stuart Gordon’s work here, but these can be largely ignored thanks to Dagon’s visual dedication to Lovecraftian lore.
2. From Beyond (1986)
If any title can be considered as the most quintessential film in the body horror subgenre, From Beyond would be it. From Beyond centers on a scientist who invents a machine that allows other dimensions to intersect with his own – leading to deadly consequences. Stuart Gordon’s work in vamping up the disgusting fluidity of bodies from another dimension makes this movie a memorable classic as well as a celebration of practical effects, while Jeffrey Combs delivers a passionate performance that rivals his own in Re-Animator. From Beyond’s hypersexuality and Lovecraftian source material work in tandem to create an iconic and modernized cinematic experience of weird fiction that remains almost unrivaled to this day.
1. Re-Animator (1985)
Re-Animator is a horror film based on an H.P. Lovecraft short story and stars Jeffrey Combs in his breakout role as Herbert West – a medical student who discovers the cure for brain death but hasn’t mastered the serum to prevent it from creating violent zombies. Bruce Abbott plays his resistant roommate and colleague, who gets wrapped up in the fatal consequences of West’s unethical experiments. Abbott and Combs‘ volatile chemistry is what elevates this film from an offshoot of a Frankenstein adaptation into a more relatable and refashioned character-driven story. It is an undeniable classic for good reason and remains not only one of the best H.P. Lovecraft adaptations to date, but also director Stuart Gordon’s best movie.
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