In honor of the iconic writer-director, FIELD OF STREAMS presents some of his best picks available to stream now
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Yesterday I awoke to sobering news. The first thing I saw on my phone was a tweet from a friend which relayed a terrible message: filmmaker Stuart Gordon had passed away. The celebrated writer-director is a horror and science fiction icon, known in particular for his adaptations of H. P. Lovecraft and many collaborations with Brian Yuzna, but his output didn’t stop there — he worked outside of those constraints as well, not only dabbling in different genres but working in theatre and television as well.
I can’t think of a better theme for today’s streaming column than to honor his memory by sharing recommendations of some of his best films.
It’s the most obvious one to kick off with, but fittingly so as his debut feature. Undoubtedly the film with which Gordon is most closely associated, 1985’s Re-Animator is a darkly hilarious and extremely gory horror classic based on Lovecraft’s tale Herbert West — Reanimator, here adapted as a splatterfest of shock and excess. The film was a breakout role for stars Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton, both of whom went on to take their places as horror royalty.
Combs plays the obsessive medical student/mad scientist Herbert West, smarter than any of his instructors, whose twisted research in the biological essence of life opens up a wave of unholy horrors, undead abominations, and a feud with the faculty that gets downright nasty. The film spawned two sequels, helmed by oft-collaborator Brian Yuzna.
FROM BEYOND (PlutoTV)
His follow-up was in may ways a spiritual companion piece to Re-Animator, using many of the same elements to craft another horror masterpiece. Once again adapting a Lovecraft tale of mad science with heavy body horror effects work, the film reteams Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton along with Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead). While lesser-known than Re-Animator, many fans consider it their favorite.
HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS (Disney+)
It’s not the first film that most people associate with Gordon, but the family adventure starring Rick Moranis, which spawned two sequels and a TV series, was by far the biggest hit with which he is associated. The concept was created, originally scripted, and pitched to Disney by Gordon and Yuzna along with Dolls writer Ed Naha, but Gordon had to drop out as director when he got sidelined by illness, opening up the spot for another up-and-comer, Joe Johnston — who knocked it out of the park. The film is a terrific effects-driven delight, and it’s kind of mind-boggling to ponder how a Gordon-directed version of the film might have played differently.
Gordon made other Lovecraft-based films (Castle Freak, Dreams in the Witch-House), but it’s Dagon, based on The Shadow Over Innsmouth, which arguably hews closest to the writer’s Cthulhu mythos, a world of ancient horrors. A forlorn seaside town, evil cult, creepy fish-people, an elder sea god, and lots of tentacles feature in this most Lovecraftian of Lovecraft adaptations which, while far from his best known, may actually be his most accomplished and effectively terrifying work. The film’s setting, aesthetic, and even music may also feel especially familiar to anyone who has played the greatest video game of the modern era, Resident Evil 4.
A great many of Gordon’s films are available on streaming services — here are a few others to also check out.
There are countless services to explore and great things to watch on all of them. Which ones did we miss that you would suggest to us? And, as always, if you’ve got thoughts on titles we’re missing out on or new services to check out, leave a comment below.
Till next week, stream on, stream away.