Why did you decide to do a horror film as your first film?
STUART GORDON: First of all, I like horror films. I've always liked them. But it was also because I was told by a friend that they were the easiest kinds of movies to find financing for. The wisdom, and I think it's still true, is that no matter how badly a horror film turns out, you can always sell it to somebody and the investors will get their money back.
Why did you decide to work with the Lovecraft stories in the first place?
STUART GORDON: It began with a conversation I had with a friend. This was in the early 1980s and there were all these vampire and Dracula movies being made. I said, "I wish someone would make Frankenstein movie," because I always liked Frankenstein better. This friend said, "Have you ever read Herbert West, Re-Animator by Lovecraft?" I had read a considerable amount of Lovecraft and I had never heard of this story.
It piqued my curiosity so I started looking for it and found that it was out of print. I eventually ended up going to the Chicago Public Library and found that they had a copy of it in their special collection. I had to fill out a postcard requesting it. A few months later they sent me a note saying I could come to the library and read it there, but I would not be able to take it out of the library. When I got there, they handed me what was essentially a pulp magazine that contained the stories. The pages were literally crumbling as I was turning them, so I asked if I could photocopy it and they allowed me to do that. The stories had been out of print for many years.
Were the stories in the public domain?
STUART GORDON: They were. All of Lovecraft's work is now public domain. This was something we didn't know at the time. We believed that we had to get the rights through Arkham House, which was the publisher of the stories.
What you usually do when you're working on something based on existing material, you do a copyright search, just to make sure that the people you're dealing with do indeed have the rights to it. We discovered that the material was public domain and that Arkham House did not have the rights. When we confronted them with this, this just sort of said, "Oh, well." They didn't argue about it at all. They knew that they had been trying to pull something.
Was one of the attractions of the piece was that it was in the public domain?
STUART GORDON: That made things a lot easier for us. We were prepared to pay something for the story. If they had asked for a lot of money, that would have been difficult, because our budget was small. Finding out that it was public domain was great, it was one less thing to worry about.
How conscious were you of budget limitations as you were writing?
STUART GORDON: With low budget, it really has to be minimalist. You have to have as few sets and locations as possible and as few characters as possible. You really have to determine what's really essential and what do I really need to tell this story. If it isn't essential, it usually will get cut.
Was there anything you learned while working on that script that you took to future writing projects?
STUART GORDON: One of the things was that when you're working on a horror film, every single scene should have some tension in it. That was one of the things we really worked on with Re-Animator. You really can't have any scenes with people just sort of sitting around and relaxed. You have to really find the tension in each scene. There needs to be something scary about every single scene in the film, otherwise you're letting the audience off the hook. What you really want to do is to keep people on the edge of their seats all the way through.