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.

Beyond Re-animator (2003)

One from the re-watch pile…

BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR (2003)

IMG_0664

Film: I have probably mentioned it before on this very site, but my very favourite movie of all time… not just horror… but my very favourite, number one favourite film of all time is the 1985 film, directed by Stuart Gordon and based on the work of H. P. Lovecraft, Re-animator.

I loved it from the first moment I saw it and it turned me on to the work of Lovecraft, and the gorgeous Barbara Crampton, and I really enjoyed the combination of zombie flick, mad scientist movie and actual drama about people’s lives.

At this time in my life I loved sequels too, but always prayed that they would never make more Re-animator films as it really felt like a cool complete movie, but Yuzna knew he was on a good thing so we have been treated to two sequels: Bride of Re-animator and this, Beyond Re-animator.

Beyond Re-animator find Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) interred in a cruel prison when a young doctor, Howard Phillips (Jason Barry) takes up residency in the infirmary.

IMG_0665

Dr Phillips didn’t accidently end up there though, he deliberately sought out the place where West was imprisoned so he could have some questions answered about the death of his sister, at the hands of one of West’s reanimated subjects.

Of course, answers of this kind are easily found, and Phillips finds himself under the oppressive hand of an unpleasant prison warden (Simon Andreu) and an increasing amount of re-animated bodies, and that jail is not the best place to be trapped with them.

This was one of Yuzna’s Spanish created Fantastic Factory jobs, a company he was attempting to build into the new ‘Hammer’ in the late eighties and early 90s. A couple of good films came out of that, including the adaptation of the David Quinn/ Tim Vigil comic Faust and I don’t mind this so much either, even though it is pretty dumb at times.

Of course the highlight of this is Jeffrey Combs’ performance of Herbert West. He is the look down the nose, superiority complex king of mad scientists, for certain. The writing of his character lacks some of the charm of the first two outings, particularly the first, but it’s there, simmering under some below average scripting.

Unfortunately the co-stars suffer from a language barrio which makes their performances not bad, but certainly not quite ‘on point’. Don’t get me wrong, the prison characters are perfectly nuts, the warden deliciously evil and the love interest a feast for the eyes, but occasionally what they say just sits wrong.

IMG_0668

The effects in the film are provided in part by Screaming Mad George so you know you are in for somewhat of  a treat with some of the effects.

All in all is a fun watch, but its just not great, and honestly waters down the character of Herbert West. Having said that, would I watch another one if one were made? Of course I would.

Score: **1/2

IMG_0673

Disc: The reviewed copy of this film is the U.K.  Arrow Films DVD release, which runs for approximately 92 minutes and is present in a decent 1.78:1 anamorphic image with a matching 2.0 audio.

Score: ***

Extras: There are three extras on this DVD:

The Director’s Commentary with Brian Yuzna sees Yuzna himself talk about the film and its creation and is a fairly complete document of the film.

 All in the Head: Brian Yuzna and the Re-animator Chronicles  is an interview with Brian Yuzna about his career both with and without Herbert West. It goes for about an hour and is pretty complete.

There is also a trailer for the film.

The packaging is pretty cool though: there is an awesome The Dude Designs reversible cover (with the original poster on the other side) and a poster of the TDD cover as well. Calum Waddell has also leant his journalistic skills to a booklet which discusses the world of Lovecraft.

Score: ****

IMG_0667