Director: Stuart Gordon
Stars: Ezra Godden, Francisco Rabal, Raquel Meroño
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons
When it comes to putting Lovecraft on screen, few, if any, do it better that director Stuart Gordon. He has the over-the-top, fun-as-hell Re-Animator and From Beyond under his belt. Now, how accurate they are to the stories penned by H.P. Lovecraft are debatable, but damn are they great slices of 80s horror flicks. Then there is this movie. Despite its title it has nothing to do with the story “Dagon” that Lovecraft wrote and everything to do with his “The Shadow over Innsmouth.” Why the title change? Who knows? It could be some weird rights issues with someone, as Gordon had been trying for years and years to bring out a movie called Shadow over Innsmouth and finally in 2001 he got his chance. Thanks to economic reasons he had to film it in Spain, so maybe a town called Innsmouth wouldn’t fly there, I guess? So he changed the location’s name to Imboca and he needed a new title. Whatever the case, would this film of fishmen getting freaky with the locals sink or swim? Well, Lionsgate’s Vestron Video Collector’s Series has just released a new Blu-ray of it, so let’s find out.
Two couples are sailing around Spain when a storm wrecks their boat on a reef. A woman is pinned in the wreckage so she and her husband stay on the sinking boat while a young man named Marsh and his girlfriend take a rowboat to a nearby town to get help. Unfortunately this town is perpetually rainy and gloomy, almost as if it was under a shadow of some kind. Further all the residents of secretive, unfriendly, unblinking, oh and evil sea-god worshiping fishmen. You know, that old story. Marsh gets separated by his lady love, so not only does he have to get out of town fast, but he has to save the damsel in distress too. While trying to accomplish that he learns the horrid history of the town, and something about his own history he never knew.
There are a few strengths in Dagon that are noteworthy. First the town looks amazing. It drips with gloomy, soggy, rotting evil. Further, while some of the fish-folks look obviously inhuman, some look mostly normal, except that, and this is a cool bit of attention to detain, they never blink while on screen. The subtle bit of creepiness really works once you notice it. Lead actor Ezra Godden is pretty good here, but he’s no Jeffrey Combs, who was a big part of what made Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator and From Beyond so damn good. The weaknesses in this movie are an over-reliance of gore gaga, some subpar acting by most everyone else, and some special effects, especially attempts at CGI, that look really bad. So your mileage on this one will vary. Be warned.
On to the extras and special features on this new Blu-ray. There is an audio commentary with director Stuart Gordon and screenwriter Denis Paoli. There is another commentary track with director Gordon and star Ezra Godden. There is an interview with Gordon conducted by fellow horror director Mick Garris that’s 22 minutes long and another interview with producer, and director in his own right, Brian Yuzna that runs 20 minutes. There are archival interviews with Gordon, Godden, and other members of the cast and crew and altogether these run 21 minutes. There are even more “vintage” interviews with Gordon and the rest that run over 27 minutes. There is a gallery of conceptual art by artist Richard Raaphorst, a storyboard gallery, still gallery, and a theatrical trailer. That’s a whole lot of love for this fishy film.
Dagon is not a great film; it tends to miss some points that made Lovecraft’s “The Shadow over Innsmouth” so chilling and effective. It replaces most of the suspense, tension, and horror from the story with gore and not much else. Not that I don’t like gore, but a movie needs to have more than that to really wow me. It also has none of the out-and-out fun or over-the-top-ness of Gordon’s earlier works. But it still is fun, has some good effects, and has enough Lovecraft flavor to satisfy, if not completely sate fans of the author. I like it and if you do too, then this is easily the best edition of the film available. Consider it recommended.