Did you have any sort of fascination with forensics prior to researching “Re-Animator”? ^ No. It was a real eye opener for me. I had never seen a dead body, except for one at a funeral that had been embalmed and made up and everything.

The attitude of the doctors, which I tried to get into “Re-Animator”, was that when you’re alive, they’ll do everything their power to save you, but as soon as you’re dead, you become garbage. You’re toxic waste. The idea of putting them in garbage bags was something we observed. I never saw any of these nice little drawers that you see in most movies, where they’re sliding bodies out. They were just sort of putting them on gurneys and heaping them on top of each other until they could get rid of them.

The other thing that was amazing to me was that the bodies looked nothing like they do in movies, which is usually sort of gray. In reality, they were all different colors, depending on how they died. When we made the film, we tried to make it more accurate, in terms of the way we portrayed the corpses. There were some that would be red. That usually had to do with a cardiac problem. Blue had to do with asphyxiation, yellow ones were jaundiced, and they would all have what is called pooling, where blood settles in the bodies. There would be a sort of two-tone effect, with the undersides all dark and purple. It was really pretty wild. My feeling was that the more real you could make something that is fantastic, the better your chances were of getting an audience to believe it.

During the early eighties, when “Re-Animator” was released, there seemed to be a whole movement of similar horror pictures that were released at the same time. ^ One of the things that Brian Yuzna had me do that was a great education was to view all the movies made before “Re-Animator”, in the eighties. It was kind of like a horror movie film festival. We saw Evil Dead, and “Driller Killer”, and much more obscure ones. Brian said that we had to find a way to outdo these other films.

I think you did, by adding more sexual situations than the other films… ^ Horror movies have always had a certain element of sexuality. There’s always the scene of the monster carrying the girl in the negligee off to the swamp, or something. However, they never show you exactly what he’s gonna do with her once they get there. So in “Re-Animator”, we did.

I understand that the Lovecraft story that inspired your next movie, “From Beyond,” was only used in the prologue. ^ “From Beyond” is a very short story, only seven pages long. We used it in the movie as kind of a pre-title sequence and based on those themes, kind of expanded on it.

That film dealt with a resonator that would expand its user’s pineal gland, allowing them to see creatures that existed in another dimension while opening the gateway to a sixth sense. Dr. Pretorius (Ted Sorel), the creator of this machine, is literally devoured by these monsters, seen morphing and melting into worsening states of deterioration. To get this effect, was the makeup quite taxing to apply? ^ The monster he becomes is based on another Lovecraft concept called the shogoth, which is a shape-shifting, protoplasmic creature. The story that they talk about him in is one called, At the Mountains of Madness. The shogoths were sort of beasts of burden, but as a Lovecraft line explains, “They accidentally gained intelligence.” How they did that was by devouring their masters. They absorbed intelligence somehow. The creature that eats Pretorius becomes Pretorius, in a sense. “You are what you eat” was the idea.

We had Pretorius constantly shape-shifting. The most elaborate makeup on him is seen as half of his body sort of oozing and dripping away. Ted Sorel, who played Pretorius, said, “Please don’t make me do this more than once,” because the makeup took eight hours to apply. I said, “OK Ted, but it may be a long day.” He said, “I’d rather do that than go through all of this again.” So we’re shooting, and everything’s going great, until about four hours go by. Then, he starts having problems remembering his lines, which was not like him. This is an actor who is really sharp. Then, he started swaying. Eventually, we realized that the makeup was inhibiting his movement and stopping his circulation. He wasn’t getting enough blood to his brain. We ripped the makeup off of him, and found that his arm had swollen to twice its normal size. The shoot had become became a real horror movie! It was a scary deal. He was a trooper. I think we did have to put him back into the makeup again.

Shooting movies can be a very dangerous thing. It always amazes me how many movies you go to see where they say, “in memory of so and so”, after the film. You’re dealing with all kinds of stunts and pyrotechnics where there’s potential for disaster.

Dagon kind of brings things full circle, as the latest Lovecraft adaptation. It seemed to be a larger production that the previous installments, with scenes shot in the ocean and various other risky locales. ^ Yes. There was one hard scene that involved a half-deflated raft, which we shot right on the open sea. It was scary. We used humor to relax us. It allowed us to get the scene done.

In your own words, describe the central theme of Dagon. ^ A fear of genetics is a theme. Lovecraft’s parents went insane and had to be committed. He was afraid that the same thing would happen to him. That plays into this film.

Will this chain of Lovecraft-inspired horror films continue to grow? ^ Probably. I’m currently toying with a project based on his story, The Thing on the Doorstep. You know how they say people look more like each other the longer they’re married? Well, in this story, the people actually turn into each other. It’s Lovecraft’s ode to marriage.

Posted on July 17, 2002 in Interviews by

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