In 1985, Stuart Gordon directed H.P. Lovecraft’s Re-Animator, a huge popular success produced by Brian Yuzna that delivered as many laughs as it did screams. It became a cult classic among horror fans and won a Critic’s Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
Last year Gordon and his co-writers Dennis Paoli, William J. Norris and composer/lyricist Mark Nutter turned Re-Animator into a musical for the stage, playing to rave reviews and standing ovations for a sold-out six month run. Now Re-Animator the Musical is set to hit the Edinburgh Fringe.
We were lucky enough to interview the man behind the music and the monsters himself, and find out more.
LoveHorror: How did Re-Animator The Musical come into being?
Stuart Gordon: Since writing and directing the film, RE-ANIMATOR has become my middle name. For years people kept suggesting that it would make a great musical but I thought it was an absurd idea. But one day it struck me that the story could be easily adapted to the stage as it has a small cast of characters and limited locations. Also the special effects we had utilized in making the film were practical (unlike the computer generated effects of today) and could actually be done live onstage.
LoveHorror: How much inspiration did you take from the cult classic movie and how much from Lovecraft’s original story?
Stuart Gordon: The structure of the musical is very close to the film, which was inspired by a series of stories entitled HERBERT WEST, REANIMATOR that H.P. Lovecraft wrote as a serial for HOME BREW, a pulp magazine in 1922. As in the film, we reset the story to the present day and compressed the action a bit, but I feel we have retained Lovecraft’s over the top carnage and his very black sense of humor.
LoveHorror: There’s a whole sub-genre of horror musicals, from Little Shop of Horrors to The Rocky Horror Show to Phantom of the Opera to Evil Dead: The Musical. Why do you think the genre works so well?
Stuart Gordon: Musicals based on horror films have become a large sub-genre beginning with LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS and continuing on with SWEENEY TODD, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and so on. Because horror films are usually larger than life and so overly emotional they lend themselves to an almost operatic musical form.
The key was finding a composer who could capture both the horror and comedy inherent in the movie. Luckily I discovered the strangely off-kilter work of Mark Nutter. Mark’s style can best be described as cheerfully disturbing. One of my favorite songs in the show is HE BROUGHT A CAT BACK TO LIFE. Mark told me that the inspiration for this song was I COULD HAVE DANCED ALL NIGHT from MY FAIR LADY. And like that great song it captures the giddy elation of the singer, only in this case it’s a demented medical student not a beautiful former flower seller.
LoveHorror: How did you go about casting the show? And do your actors all love horror?
Stuart Gordon: I rounded up some old friends like George Wendt (who has appeared in three of my films) and Chris McKenna who played the lead in my film of KING OF THE ANTS based on the ultra-violent book by Charlie Higson. George introduced me to Graham Skipper who plays our Herbert West. Graham is a fan of the film, and although inspired by Jeffrey Combs great performance in the movie, found a way to make the role his own.
LoveHorror: What is it like working with the comedic legend that is George Wendt?
Stuart Gordon: George Wendt is always an inspiration as he makes it look so easy to be so funny. He plays the dean of the medical school who is murdered and re-animated and I think George may be the most hysterical zombie anyone has ever seen.
LoveHorror: How much fun was it coming up with all the gory effects, and how does the audience react to them?
And on that subject tell us more about the ‘Splash Zone’?
Stuart Gordon: When we made the film we used over thirty gallons of blood and so it was a given that the musical would have to be just as bloody. The interactive quality of the bloodletting far exceeds anything you can get from a horror film (even in 3D) and the seats in the splash zone have become the most popular. It’s like sitting in the first car of a roller coaster.
LoveHorror: You are about to play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. What are your expectations and how do you think the UK audience will receive the show?
Stuart Gordon: I’ve always wanted to perform at the Fringe Festival and until now never had the opportunity. Better late than never I guess. I’m hoping that UK audiences will embrace this twitching, blood soaked cadaver of a show and live to tell the tale, and that some maniac West End producer will invite us to London for an extended run.
LoveHorror: Finally, if you could make any other horror into a musical which would it be?
Stuart Gordon: People have been urging me to adapt my film FROM BEYOND into a musical but I’m beginning to think that STUCK, my most recent movie, might make a better one. It’s about a woman who hits a homeless man (played by Stephen Rea) and instead of taking him to an emergency room, she locks him in her garage hoping he will die. It could be a toe-tapper.
Re-Animator The Musical comes to the Edinburgh Fringe 2012 for seven performances only from July 17 – 22. Click Here for more details.