on June 30, 2004
there's a lot to like about this movie, not least of all the unabashed use of CGI and rubber tentacle appendages. all things considered, the special effects were pretty good, and the set itself looked great. the creepy-assed town was perfect, the monsters were loathesomely believable, and the acting is not half as bad as the sanctimonious amazon.com reviewers would have you believe. and while i'm at it, my other amazonian metacriticism would be as follows: he who waxes petulant about plot holes reveals his lack of geek cred, for a passing familiarity with Lovecraft's mythos pretty much caulks up those story cracks that seem to have bothered you so much.
but at the end of the movie, i simply couldn't forgive Paul and Barbara for not running. these are FISH PEOPLE, for heaven's sake--they can barely hobble about on land, and they aren't exactly the sharpest cookies in the cupboard. the "holding cells" into which the captives are herded could be kicked down by a small contingent of special-ed kindergarteners, and much time is wasted trying to salvage a suicidally insane (and possibly pregnant with slimy demon spawn) compatriot who is clearly, hopelessly, chronically DOOMED. leave her ass, for crying out loud! she's got a knife and she's going to use it on herself! you can't stop her, you barely know her, and you don't particularly like her ... so use her as a distraction! now make like a missionary and get the devil out of there! cripes. okay, fine. stay there and make whimpery, floppy-lip faces. you get no sympathy from ME.
eventually i just got bored of screaming, "FLY, YOU FOOLS!" and i wanted everyone to hurry up and get sacrificed to death and be done with it. the ending (for those of you who have seen the movie and have been waiting for me to bring this up) is perfectly weird--but not altogether out of left field if you're a Lovecraft reader. i don't know. it's not how i would have concluded the tale, but heck, i'd more or less lost interest in what happened to the protagonists by the time the weirdness came around, so i can't say it bothered me any.
"Dagon" is not as bad as you think that it is for most of the first two-thirds of the movie, but you do not really know that until you get near the end of the film at which point you have an opportunity to rethink the problematic elements that were threatening to overwhelm it up to that point. Otherwise you are constantly wondering why Paul (Ezra Godden) is still alive because this guy outlives a couple of cats in this movie.
This 2001 horror film is based on a pair of H.P. Lovecraft stories, "Dagon," an extremely short little story that was one of the first pieces the author got published, and "The Shadow Over Innsmouth." Lovecraft was my favorite horror writer when I was a teenager and I have been always disappointed with what happens to his work on the silver screen or on Rod Serling's "Night Gallery," which did a couple of his short stories including "Pickman's Model" (if I had my druthers I would make "At the Mountains of Madness" into a movie).
The story begins with a quartet of Americans in a sailboat off the coast of Spain, approaching a old fishing town, when a storm suddenly and strangely appears, driving their boat onto the rocks. One of them is hurt, so Paul and his girlfriend Barbara (Raquel Meroño) head for shore in the dinghy to get help. However, the town seems almost deserted and the people they encounter are, to say the least strange. The next thing we know Paul is on his own and starting to get in way, way over his head in terms of being in trouble, especially since some of the things in the weird dream he had are starting to show up in the real world.
There are several things working to the advantage of director Stuart Gordon's film. First, a lot of the people in this town speak Spanish (and another language) and there is no attempt to translate any of what they are saying. If, like Paul, you know very little about the Spanish language (or the other language) then you are can identify with the character's sense of isolation because he does not understand what is being said to him either. Second, if you are looking for scenes in horror movies that have you squirming in your seats if not averting your eyes from what you are seeing, then "Dagon" is one of those films. You see, the natives have a peculiar use for hapless visitors that come to their town. Third, they found Macarena Gómez to play the mysterious women from Paul's dreams. I looked at this unknown actress with her wide eyes and all I could think of was that this was the reincarnation of Barbara Steele, except the star of "La Maschera del demonio" (a.k.a. "Black Sunday") is still among the living. Suffice it to say that Gómez provides an interesting blend of exotic beauty and psychotic horror.
Working against "Dagon" is the fact that Paul pushes his luck repeatedly through most of this film and even if he is wearing glasses and is the weaker person in his relationship with Barbara he keeps surviving situation after situation in which mere mortals should end up being dead. Also, the makeup and special effects for the monsters (it is a Lovecraft story; there are monsters; he usually avoids describing the monsters as anything other than monsters too terrible to describe but in a film you get to actually see them) are pretty much on the B-movie level, which I suppose is what Gordon is really going for here. Then there is the fact that female nudity, which is so earnestly avoided at all of the early opportunities in the film, suddenly becomes abundant in the last act. Also, for most of the movie the music is really two slow (and the roll of the final quotes is even slower).
The scale tips in favor of this film because it is arguably the most faithful adaptation of Lovecraft to date and because it has a scene that really gave me the wiggins. Obviously "Dagon" is not really faithful to the two stories on which it is based, but my point is that Dennis Paoli's screenplay honors Lovecraft's body of work in terms of the Deep Ones and the entire Cthulhu Mythos, which is more important than tossing in references to the "Necronomicon" or Miskatonic University. Plus Gordon films a lot of the big action scenes in the rail, which usually works well even when you are not making a horror film. But the most important things here is that fans of Lovecraft's works will not feel he was abused by this film, which forgives a great many faults all things being considered.
on June 12, 2004
Those of you who love the man will universally agree that there just isn't enough H.P. Lovecraft in the world, especially in cinema. Most of the movie versions made, that have been in some way remotely influenced by a short story or novella, have been less than inspiring. Noteworthies include Unnamable I and II, The Dunwhich Horror (with Dean Stockwell), Horror Hotel (with the great Christopher Lee) and of course the Reanimator series. Dagon falls closer to noteworthy, but misses the mark. I guess the thing about Lovecraft is that he was a very dry, but verbose writer; his stories had slow build-ups that tended to end in horrific, often-mind blowing climaxes--hence the problem of translating his ideas to the big screen, as few people have the patience to watch a scary movie that slowly builds to an intellectually and sensually gratifying climax. So, producer Yuzna and director Gordon have sacrificed much of the exposition moved "The Shadow Over Innsbrook", the story much of this movie hails from, and have turned Dagon into a cat and mouse game of chase for most of the movie to keep the tension and suspense going. The idea of the Old Ones, so central to the Lovecraft mythology, is barely mentioned and thrown in too quickly at the end of the film to really appeciate the horrific consequences of selling out to a race of beings older than anything on the planet. Ezra Godden does a decent job as the lead, Paul, a stockbroker caught with three other friends in a mysterious storm and forced to seek help in a nearby Spanish town. The residents are quite creepy, and the dream sequences are woven into the storyline very appropriately. There is also a flashback scene which is one of the best parts of the film. Overall, Dagon will satisfy the horror buff in anyone who loves this genre, but whether this movie leaves you pondering and thinking about it five minutes after you put the DVD back in its case is a different matter.
on April 12, 2004
Director Stuart Gordon (H.P. Lovecraft's Re-Animator, HPL's From Beyond, Dolls, etc.) finally had the chance to helm his dream project. A feature film adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's short story The Shadow Over Innsmouth, although the production used the title Dagon. Paul and his girlfriend Barbara are celebrating the success of their company with their key investors by taking a boat trip down the coast of Spain. When a freak storm traps one couple on the boat, Paul and Barbara head to shore to seek help. What they find is a nightmare beyond imagination. Gordon manages to capture the feel of ancient evil and urban rot that was at the heart of Lovecraft's story and the enlongated chase sequence that is the middle act of the movie had me jumping and cringing even on a second viewing. Of all of Gordon's Lovecraft movies, this is my vote for the best of the bunch. Highly recommended.
on August 4, 2011
Unfortunately, despite being directed by Sturart Gordon (Re-Animator) and based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft, Dagon proved deeply disappointing. I was hoping for a modern adaptation of Lovecraft's deep sea mythos, complete with an intriguing premise, interesting characters, and grotesque special effects. Instead, I got a tired pastiche peopled with flat, unlikeable characters and so-so effects. As the credits rolled, I felt unsatisfied and a little cheated.
Two couples are out on yachting. They hear some sort of singing or chanting from the local village of Imboca. A freak storm appears and tosses the yacht on the rocks. One girl gets her leg caught between the yacht and a hard place. So the other couple Paul (Ezra Godden) and Bárbara (Raquel Merono) brakes out the "Rubber" raft and go for help. Naturally the raft gets a hole in it so we just can not wait for something in the water to eat them raft and all. Mean while back at the boat blood is spewing out into the water. I assumed they were the desert.
The village turns out to be occupied by boringly slow and somewhat in-human Dagonites.
What will they do?
It is not as if the mechanics are not there, but this movie has no soul. Everything is formula with the standard formula twists and a good dose of "Stay in the car" scenes. There is sufficient blood and slime to go around and the only thing missing is the flame thrower; however they come close.
However Macarena Gómez who plays Uxía Cambarro is a cutie and makes you forget you are watching a movie about three day old fish.
If you are looking for tentacles in the water you may as well watch "Tentacles" (1977).
Empire of the Ants/Tentacles
on May 29, 2004
It would be more accurate to say that the movie "Dagon" is based on H.P. Lovecraft's "Shadows Over Innsmouth" than the namesake "Dagon". Two American couples are yachting off the coast of Spain, when a storm comes along and wrecks the boat. The younger Americans go into the town to try to find help, but end up involved in horrors of fishmen and human sacrifice to aquatic gods. The cast is a bunch of no names, but that is due more to my bad memory than their performance, which as far as I can remember was pretty good. Stuart Gordon returns to Lovecraft with this movie that has appearently been a pet project for many years. I am glad to say, it is mostly a success. But there are major problems here that have to be addressed. The biggest one is that for as good a story as it is, it is pretty dry (no pun intended about all the rain). The action is dragged out way too far, and so it gets very dull toward the middle. But other than that, it is pretty gory, which is what people who go to this movie are looking for. The creature effects are a little hokey, but I can live with that. All in all, not bad at all.
on March 16, 2004
First off, I should note this is not an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's "Dagon." That story basically went like this:
"Once upon a time I went to an island where I saw a monster. The End."
This is a film version of "A Shadow Over Innsmouth." In the original story an adventurous journalist goes to a small New England port town to find out why the locals are so secretive. He found out a long time ago the people gave up their souls and melded with fish folk to have food and wealth. Finding the bus out of town is broken, he's forced to stay the night. Realizing he knows their secret, the locals try to break into his room but he manages to escape out a window, and avoids the horrible, gorilla-like fish people lurking through town after him. Eventually he makes it back to civilization only to discover that he himself is a fish-person.
This film version is halfway decent in the first act. A dorky nerd and his hot latina wife are on a boat with another couple until they run into a storm. The nerd and wife head to a nearby port town where they get a priest to help them organize a small rescue. The nerd leaves with the girl still in town...where she is immediately attacked and imprisoned.
He comes back and goes to a hotel where he stays the night, only to find the entire town trying to break into it! He escapes and finds an old man who tells him the whole background to the town. This part, I have to admit, was well done, and like I said I liked the movie up to this point. But things turn sour in the second act.
We're introduced to the "fish people." And they look ridiculous! This movie stops being Lovecraft and starts being H.G. Wells - watching large groups of people who look half-shark, half-squid, and half-crab nearly made me fall off my bed laughing. Since when did H.P. Lovecraft write "The Island of Doctor Moreau"? In the original story the people were very human-like, but still beasts. The second act also adds in a load of violence I didn't think they really needed. It also jumped around in one scene that left me confused (Wait, he was getting beat up, how'd he end up across town...?).
The third act includes Lovecraft's twist ending, which I liked, but I don't know if I like how they handled it. A Cthluthu clone comes out and basically gives the old, "Luke, I am your father" shtick. Then our hero dives into the ocean with his sister/lover (don't ask) and we get a quote from the last paragraph of "A Shadow Over Innsmouth" (for what it's worth, I thought that was a nice touch as well).
I'd have to say the only thing that really struck me was that the sister/lover of the hero was downright beautiful, what with her pale skin and doe-like eyes. I wouldn't mind spending an eternity with her, but then again it'd involve being in this movie so its a double-edged sword. This movie gets points for some of its narration, but its style and overdramatic make-up effects (which was pretty bad, you could tell the fish-people were wearing masks) wears down on you after a while.
on January 10, 2004
Starting out on a sailing yacht with another couple, on a beautiful day, skinny and whiney Paul (Ezra Godden) and his sexy girlfriend Barbara (Raquel Merono) are relaxing belowdecks while the boat is anchored off a quaint Spanish Village.
Foul weather blows in *very* suddenly in a gorgeously filmed scene, huge dark clouds rising up over the little seaside town. The sailboat is pushed into the rocks where Vicki is pinned belowdecks.
Paul and Barbara must take the dingy to shore to seek help. The town filmed here is very cool; narrow, climbing streets and alleys between tall villas and not a soul to be seen anywhere. Until they find the church, but this is no ordinary church. The symbols inside are unrecognizable, and the priest behaves quite strangely. Fortunately, Barbara speaks Spanish and convinces the priest to help. Paul goes back to sailboat where there is no sign of their friends, and Barbara goes to local hotel to wait, where she is promptly abducted by the hotel clerk and the priest.
Paul checks into the filthy hotel, and things start to get weird when the townsfolk come out to play; and here is where the fun begins.
Eerily determined, they stagger and creep through the streets in search of Paul. Paul runs into an old man named Eziquiel (Francisco Rabal), who tells him a strange tale of the beginnings of the odd little church, and of course Paul believes he is mad.
With Eziquiel's help, Paul searches for Barbara, running into all kinds of trouble. I don't want to give away any of the juicier, more tingly parts of the movie, but suffice to say that my hunger for monsters, grotesqueries, blood, creepiness, and action was sated.
One fine face peeling scene is quite noteworthy and worth the movie in and of itself.
He finds the beautiful woman that he had been seeing in his dreams, Uxia; who embraces him and teaches him the mysteries of Cthullu, whether he wants to hear them or not.
Most of this movie was filmed around Barcelona, Spain, and has some very beautiful scenery shots, along with gorgeous old castle-type buildings and villas...plus some creepy filthy places that remind me of my first apartment.
This is truly a great horror flick, with wonderful monsters and lots of blood, a creepy atmosphere and an ending you won't want to miss. I recommend viewing this tasty, blood coated treat as I did, with your cuddly stuffed Cthullu and Shoggoth, along with Harm the Bunny, at your side. Enjoy!
on December 27, 2003
H.P. Lovecraft wrote stories of ancient horrors, of demonic gods exiled to earth who built profane metropolises populated with worshippers of enormous evil. Often, the author's stories--which eventually became known as the Cthulhu mythos--placed nosy human beings in direct conflict with these eldritch terrors. After Lovecraft's death in the 1930s, other authors stepped forward and wrote their own tales of terror incorporating many of the same themes found in those original yarns. Perhaps it was inevitable that moviemakers would attempt to transform some of these stories into feature films. Efforts to do so should have been successful, especially nowadays when CGI technology and other elaborate means exist to actualize Lovecraft's nameless horrors. Unfortunately, only a handful of films based on this author's writings have come close to conveying the dread found on the written page. Director Stuart Gordon is responsible for several of the success stories; he is the guy who made "The Reanimator" and "From Beyond," two movies based on Lovecraft tales that really work well. Sadly, "Dagon" constitutes one of Gordon's rare misses, a movie that works on several levels while failing on many more.
A group of people, including our hero Paul and his Spanish wife, run into trouble off the coast of Spain when a sudden storm devastates their vessel. Seeing a coastal fishing village within hailing distance, Paul and his wife decide to set out for help. There is some worry about how fast this weird storm came up, but help is absolutely necessary because one of the female passenger's legs is bleeding and caught in the crushed boat. Things get a lot weirder once Paul and his woman reach the village. Realizing they no longer need help with the boat because they saw it sink shortly after the left it, they have little choice but to examine the surroundings. The village is a dank, smelly place that initially looks abandoned. The discovery of an odd church and the creep manning the desk at the local inn raise more red flags, as does the filthy room Paul rents. Even worse, Paul gets the sinking feeling that a recurring dream he frequently has is starting to remind him of this odd little town. Suspicions turn to shrieking horror when our hero discovers that the town's population consists of weird human/fish hybrids, all of who want to kill the human intruders in unpleasant ways. Paul becomes separated from Barbara and ends up meeting a strange old geezer who tells him a weird tale.
According to this old tar, the village was once a prosperous fishing area until the sea became lifeless. As the people slowly died of poverty and starvation, a lifeline appeared in the form of Dagon. An ancient sea god with a bad attitude, this deity promises salvation and wealth if the citizens worship him and his minions. The result is the shambling sea beasties presently tracking Paul. Paul's mission, if he chooses to accept it (and he does), is to find his woman and get the heck out of Dodge. All types of obstacles appear in his way, not the least of which is a pale faced little girl Paul runs across from time to time. This girl also appeared in our hero's dreams sporting a mouth full of razor sharp teeth. Predicatably, the sea creatures capture Paul and threaten to do him in if he doesn't play along. They also detain the old tar as well, a fact that achieves stomach churning dimensions when several of the fish men promptly peel his face and scalp from his head. Paul comes within inches of destruction himself before he discovers the reason why he ended up in the village and what the creatures expect from him. It should go without saying that Paul's destiny isn't a pretty picture, involving as it does the corporeal form of Dagon, Paul's dream girl, and his hapless girlfriend. The end.
"Dagon" went straight to video for a variety of reasons. For one thing, the movie isn't all that engaging. The script has so many holes that you could sail a battleship through it. I am still scratching my head over Paul's sudden reversal at the end, and that is only one of the problems in this swiss cheese movie. As for the acting, don't go there. It's awkward and not in a good way. One problem here rests with the choice of Ezra Godden to play the Paul role. This guy looks so much like Gordon regular Jeffrey Combs that I thought Godden was that actor's brother or son. Why not just get Combs to play the part? One of the great elements of Gordon's prior efforts is Jeffrey Combs, as many others would surely agree. Perhaps Jeff was busy with another role, but I sorely miss him here. Finally, the CGI effects used in "Dagon" are ineffective and cheesy, especially when the time to reveal tentacles and the like rolls around. Gordon's film would have, could have, and should have been better with a few minor changes to script, cast, and effects.
What does work with "Dagon" is the sense of doom hanging over the film like a veil. The village, with its windswept and rain driven streets, does a lot to promote a sense of eeriness. That horrific scalping looked great too, an effect that would probably make a few viewers unused to these types of films lose their lunch. The girl who plays the creature in Paul's dream is truly frightening looking and is a good addition to the film. Overall, "Dagon" is an average horror thriller too often marred with mediocrities--like the acting, plodding pace, and weak script--to merit an enthusiastic review. It's worth watching once before moving on to greener fields.