Things I’ve Learned as a Moviemaker

Things I’ve Learned as a Moviemaker

Articles - Directing

Stuart Gordon
Stuart Gordon directs King of the Ants.

Smaller is scarier.

When you do a movie for a studio, it’s gonna be somewhat
homogenized. But a smaller movie like the original Texas Chainsaw
Massacre
just came out of nowhere and horrified everybody. The
fact that it was shot in 16 millimeter made it seem even more real.
I would put Audition and 28 Days Later in the same
category—they’re not studio films. The small movies, where the director
is capable of anything and not held back by studio pressures, are
the most frightening.

Suspense is scarier than shock.

Horror is not about quick cutting with MTV style edits.
It’s about anticipation and stretching things out during a scene.
In Carrie, before the bucket of blood dumps on her head,
[director Brian] De Palma goes into slow motion and follows the
string connected to the bucket. Alfred Hitchcock did the same type
of thing. He would let audience know what was happening, and have
everyone dreading it. Hitchcock once said, “Shock is something that
lasts for a second, but suspense can be maintained for 30 minutes.”
He’s right.

Frightened characters create a frightened audience.

It’s important that characters in horror movies are
afraid. If you expect your audience to be afraid, actors better
seem afraid. I talk with the occasional actor who says, “I wouldn’t
be afraid in this situation. I would be brave.” I tell them that
being brave is doing something even though you are afraid, and are
aware of the danger. In The Others, for instance, there’s
a real sense of fear in Nicole Kidman’s performance.

Make it fantastic – but not too fantastic.

If a movie is fantastic, there should only be one
fantastic element. Too many and they cancel each other out. In Re-Animator,
in addition to the reanimating serum, we originally had hypnosis
and other weird stuff that ended up on the cutting room floor. You
can’t stretch the audience’s suspension of disbelief. You should
only ask them to believe one thing.

The audience should feel your pain.

It’s the little things that scare you the most. Godzilla
destroying Tokyo is not scary, but cutting your finger with a razor
blade is. The little things are the things we can relate to. We
can feel the pain.

Directing Filmography
for Stuart Gordon

King of the Ants (2003)
Dagon (2001)
The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit (1998)
Space Truckers (1996)
Castle Freak (1995)
Fortress (1993)
The Pit and the Pendulum (1990)
Robot Jox (1990)
Dolls (1987)
From Beyond (1986)
Re-Animator (1985)

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