By MICHAEL GINGOLD
The man who brought two Southwest-set horror classics to the screen has passed away.
RUE MORGUE has learned that producer Charles R. Meeker died this past Thursday. Previously a lawyer for veteran Hollywood producer Edward S. Feldman, Meeker joined Feldman in the mid-’80s as executive producer of THE HITCHER (pictured above), the debut feature of director Robert Harmon and scriptwriter Eric Red. Released in 1986 and fueled by Rutger Hauer’s coldly brilliant performance in the villainous title role, THE HITCHER went on to become a classic of the road-horror genre. A year later, Feldman and Meeker brought another Red script to the screen: the vampire thriller NEAR DARK, written by Red and director Kathryn Bigelow. Featuring the ALIENS trio of Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton and Jenette Goldstein as vicious nomadic blood-drinkers, it’s another strikingly stylish terror trip and has also become a cult favorite.
NEAR DARK was released by F/M Entertainment, the distribution company founded by Feldman and Meeker that also handled Jeffrey Obrow’s 1987 slime-monster opus THE KINDRED. Meeker went on to become president of MGM in 1991; he’s also credited as a producer on the 2003 direct-to-video sequel THE HITCHER II: I’VE BEEN WAITING and the 2007 HITCHER remake. Throughout his film career, Meeker was also a winemaker, and he left the cinema field in 1999 to devote himself to that business full-time.
“Charlie was one of the most pleasant and understanding people we ever had the pleasure to work with,” says Don May Jr., president of Synapse Films, which released Feldman and Meeker’s ski comedy HOT DOG…THE MOVIE last year and is gearing up to give THE KINDRED its long-awaited Blu-ray debut. “We met Charlie years ago when we first acquired THE KINDRED, after the film fell into a bit of a legal quandary between him and the agency that sold us the rights. While that unfortunately delayed our release of THE KINDRED, it is now back on track for release later this year. Someday, maybe we’ll talk about what happened, but what I can say is that it helped nurture a friendship between us that also brought HOT DOG…THE MOVIE out through our company as well.
“Charlie–he insisted that we call him Charlie, not Charles–would always entertain us with his stories about making THE HITCHER and NEAR DARK, or tales of his short-lived tenure as head of MGM Studios. He lived an incredibly full life in the movies, and I’m really going to miss him.”