Director – Stuart Gordon
Cast – Ezra Godden, Francisco Rabal, Raquel Merono, Macarena Gómez, Brendan Price, Birgit Bofarull, Uxía Blanco, Ferran Lahoz, Joan Minguell
Release Year – 2001
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I remember renting Dagon at my local family-owned video store back in 2001 when it hit the DVD isle, and I remember enjoying the heavy amount of horror displayed in the film. Well, fast forward a decade later and after watching this for the first time since my initial viewing I found this flick just as enjoyable, and much better than I remembered. Based mostly on a short story from Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna favorite, H.P. Lovecraft, we get an awesome story that bleeds great horror, and Gordon’s execution gives us a full-frontal view of some of the best horror from last decade.
A sailing accident off the coast of Spain forces Paul Marsh(Ezra Godden) and his girlfriend Barbara to abandon ship(and Barbara’s parents) and make their way to the small shipping town of Imboca in search of help. Upon entering the town they are greeted by the town’s odd residents, and things quickly become awry when Barbara disappears simply without a trace. However, the horror Paul is facing over his missing girlfriend intensifies when night falls and beings not quite human begin to vehemently chase him around the town. Soon enough, Paul learns that his arrival at Imboca did not occur by chance, and the nightmares plaguing him have come to life when he uncovers Imboca’s long-held secret: they are followers of the giant mythical beast Dagon, and he plays a vital role in the newest sacrifice to Dagon.
When Dagon debuted it had been a long six years since the last time Stuart Gordon worked with writer Dennis Paoli, which resulted in Castle Freak, and even longer since the two were paired with producer/director/writer Brian Yuzna, bring us the original trio who formed their careers with classics Re-Animator and From Beyond. It was great to see that they were working together again, and that the horror they were given us came in positive fashion.
The storyline comes mostly from H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”, and partly from “Dagon”, and Paoli’s screenplay delivers heavily on the usual Lovecraft awesomeness. The opening sequence regarding the shipwreck was a bit long, but once our characters make it to land things get pretty good and never relent. Paul Marsh is kept in constant paranoia over the disappearance of his girlfriend and having to deal with the weird townsfolk in his desperate attempts to find her, and things get really good when night falls and the townsfolk, suffering from creepy physical ailments, unleash hell on Paul. I was very surprised at the heavy amount of horror written into the film, as these assaults on Paul literally last almost 10 minutes at a time, with only a minute or two between each attack. This was awesome, and delivered unrelenting horror for the entire second and third acts. Many gruesome scenes are written in as well, including a highly memorable face-removal scene that is sure to rattle the bones of the weak. Paul was fun to watch, and Paoli mentioned him as being a Woody Allen-esque hero, and I saw that in the writing execution of Paul. Also, I was glad to see that Barbara was not “missing” the entire film, and was used positively in her limited role in order to provide great trauma for Paul, and give us a truly awesome and horrific climax reminiscent of the horror H.P. Lovecraft brings to the table.
Stuart Gordon does a great job directing the horror in this flick, which as you should tell by now comes in heavy amounts. Shot mostly with a hand-held camera, Dagon “looked” different that the usual Gordon flick, but it did little to sway my enjoyment as it gave me a more personal experience with the horror going on. The scenes of Paul running from and righting off the attack by the worshipers of Dagon were awesome, and as mentioned earlier were drawn out and expertly crafted into long sequences of horror and despair. I loved his execution of the worshipers, who were definitely humans but walked much like zombies and spoke in unintelligible noise that came with a high creep factor. His execution of the speaking characters was positive as well, with Ezra Godden(Masters of Horror: “Dreams in the Witch House”) coming off as the Allen “hero” they sought to deliver. I was glad to see that despite the modern day filmmaking technologies available in the late 90s and early 2000s that Gordon continued with his awesome usage of live-action FX and gore, which made the face-removal scene as epic as it was. Much like the rest of the horror in the film, it was drawn out and patiently delivered, with was darn right nasty and awesome of Gordon. Sadly, we get a fair amount of CGI in this flick, which occurred during scenes that would have been expensive to film in live-action fashion, however I will say that the CGI used was downright terrible and lacking in quality. I am sure the film’s budget was fairly low and they could not afford an FX team like the one employed for The Host, but it is what it is, and thankfully it is the only fault of the film.
Overall, Dagon is an awesome watch sure to please fans of Stuart Gordon’s take on H.P. Lovecraft’s stories. We get an awesome storyline that brings on loads of horror, and Gordon’s usual positive execution delivers the horror in strong fashion, making for a memorable and enjoyable recommended watch.