H.P. Lovecraft’s Dagon (2001)

One from the rewatch pile…

H.P. Lovecraft’s Dagon (2001)

Film: I have a lot to thank Stuart Gordon for. If I had never seen Re-Animator in the 80s, I may never have become the fan of H. P. Lovecraft that I did, which means I may never have become the voracious consumer of horror literature that I am, and the book hoarder that’s associated with that.

Yeah. Thanks, Stuart,

What it does mean though, is that any mention of a film being ‘Lovecraftian’ gets my attention, as even though I have consumed much of his output, I am always interested in what others definition of it is. Just like steampunk isn’t just a gear stuck to a stovepipe hat, Lovecraft isn’t just tentacles and old gods. There is SO much more: an aesthetic that just can’t be described that lightly, so I am not going to attempt it here.

This film, Dagon, is a mixture of Lovecraft’s story of the same name, written in 1917 and published in the journal The Vagrant two years later, and another tale, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, written in 1931, but not published until 1936 as Lovecraft himself didn’t like it. The script for the film was written by Gordon collaborator Dennis Paoli, who also wrote the scripts for Gordon’s films Re-animator, From Beyond, Castle Freak and The Pit and The Pendulum.

Entrepreneur Paul Marsh (Ezra Godden) keeps having a dream of a mysterious underwater city and a beautiful mermaid who dwells there, even whilst on a sailing holiday of the coast of Spain with his beautiful girlfriend, Bárbara (Rena Moreño) and their investors, Howard (Brenda Price) and Vicki (Birgit Bofarull).

One afternoon they all hear some mysterious chanting coming from the shore, and very soon a storm swiftly moves in. Howard goes to move the boat away from a reef they were anchored near, but the storm is too fast, and the yacht is smashed against some rocks, painfully trapping Vicki’s leg in the rent in the wooden hull.

With all their communications conveniently down, Paul and Bárbara go to shore in a dingy to find help but what they quickly find is a town full of strange misshapen people who pray to an old god and whom Paul seems to have a history… or a destiny with. This becomes even more apparent when he meets the wheelchair-bound Uxia (Marcarena Gómez) who is the spitting image of his dream mermaid…

Now this story doesn’t resemble Lovecraft’s text greatly, mainly due to the modern setting, but thematically it does its best to delivery the ideas in it. In general though, one can’t be too critical of that as every Lovecraft film Gordon has done resembles Lovecraft’s text only on a surface level, and I don’t mind that as Re-animator and From Beyond are pretty awesome… especially Re-animator, which is my favourite film of all time, without fail.

The story of this film is pretty interesting and the mixture of the Lovecraft tales works well together. Gordon’s direction is typically wonderful, but if I must criticise the film for anything, it’s use of CGI effects is far too early, and considering what Gordon is able to do with practical effects, these stick out awfully… even moreso in this Bluray presentation.

For a film that was made almost twenty years after Gordon’s Re-animator, there is an aesthetic cast revelation in Godden that Gordon likes his heroes to be very much like Jeffrey Coombs portrayal as Herbert West. The rest of the cast is good as well (is it just me or does Moreño have an uncanny resemblance to a young Elle MacPherson) though the Spanish film legend Francisco Rabal, and I don’t want to be disrespectful to someone who has worked since 1943, has a monologue that is barely comprehensible, and when you consider this monologue tells the history of how the town came to worship Dagon, it’s pretty bloody important!

This is nowhere near Gordon’s greatest work, but it is a nice addition to his output of Lovecraft tales.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the Umbrella Entertainment, region B Bluray which runs for 98 minutes and has a nice 1.77:1 image with an excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio.

Score: ****

Extras: There’s a couple of extras on this disc, none of which are really that special:

B-roll/ Making Of is NOT what the title would suggest and is instead some shot-on-video of the cast and crew at work.

Interviews with Macarena Gómez, Stuart Gordon, Raquel Meroño and Ezra Godden reveal their experiences on the set, sometimes their first times, and it’s a pleasant, casual series of interviews.

Interviews from the Set is more with Stuart Gordon and Ezra Godden, on the set of the film and they talk about what the film is about.

There is also a teaser, trailer and TV spots for the film. Weirdly, the trailer doesn’t default to the screen edge of you Tv and instead, hovers in the middle with black bars all round.

The presentation of the film, the third in Umbrella’s Beyond Genres series, is immaculate. The slipcase and slick art by Simon Sherry is spectacular (seriously Umbrella, get this art on T-shirts ASAP!!!), and the inner sleeve has the original tale by Lovecraft, which, if you are ancient like me, may take a magnifying glass to fully appreciate.

Score: ***

WISIA: I love Gordon’s body of work and this, being another loose Lovecraft adaptation, is well worth watching over and over again.

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