By request, Dagon a Spanish horror film released in 2001. Film’s never really seem to do H.P. Lovecraft justice, with his work often being heavily altered to such a state it’s barely recognizable. That’s not the case with Dagon, based on the H.P. Lovecraft short story The Shadow Over Innsmouth, which really nails the actual terror behind his work. Not to say that this film’s perfect, because it is most assuredly not that. It just manages to adapt Lovecraft in such a way that it doesn’t deviate from makes Lovecraft’s horror work so well. Lovecraft’s horror comes from the underpinnings of reality and our place in it being torn away, showing that not only are we small. That there are beings, powerful on a scale that we can’t even fathom and that our only hope is that we are too small and inconsequential to be worth noticing. Something hard to keep true to while changing mediums. But damn did Stuart Gordon do a great job at it.
Dagon with its main character Paul Marsh (Ezra Godden) dreaming of depths and beautiful mermaid with mouth razor-sharp teeth. He wakes up in the arms of his incredibly sexy girlfriend Barbra (Raquel Meroño), on a boat near the coastal town of Imboca, because you know he’s just filthy rich for reasons that is in no way relevant to the plot. With them on the boat are their two friends Vikki (Birgit Bofarull) and Howard (Brendan Price). Suddenly the group hears prayers coming from the two followed by a storm coming seemingly out of nowhere and ramming the boat against a reef. Vikki becomes pinned below deck by the wreck trapping her. Paul and Barbra take the life boat to shore in order to get help. When they reach the town it’s seemingly deserted, the pair seek aid in the old church. They think they found the answer in the form of the town priest (Ferran Lahoz). Meanwhile on the boat, something comes up from the deep. Having been raised by Vikki’s blood in the water and takes them. The priest sends Paul to the boat with a pair of fishermen and sends Barbra to the hotel to call for help. When Paul arrives at the boat he finds it empty and returns to the town believing the pair dead at sea. At the hotel Barbra is seized by the hotel manager and the priest. When Paul arrives back in town, he instructed to go the hotel and wait for Barbra, who the priest claims went to a nearby town for aid. At the hotel Paul has another nightmare featuring the same woman. When he awakens the hotel is surrounded by the townsfolk, all whom seem deformed and monstrous. The town folk attack Paul, who is forced to flee the hotel. He takes refuge inside an old tannery, but is still pursed by townsfolk. He finds Howard’s flayed skin hanging in the tannery along with the skins of many other people. Paul sets fire to the tannery and escapes in the confusion, when he comes across Ezequiel (Francisco Rabal), the town drunk. After a rocky get to know you phase, Exequiel tells Paul of the towns dark past. How during lean times a dark outsider came and brought with him the worship of Dagon. With his praises the fish returned and gold washed up from the depths of the sea, such a bounty that made the town very wealthy. But Dagon’s good graces aren’t free, he demands sacrifice and transforms his believers into fish monsters. Ezequiel takes Paul to the mayors house where the only car is. But Paul accidentally alerts the townspeople to his presence, forcing him to flee into the manor. Inside he comes across Uxía Cambarro (Macarena Gomez) the beautiful monster from his dreams. She begs him to stay, but he flees when he discovers she has gills and tentacles for legs. Paul escapes in a the car, but after ramming through a group of villagers. The townspeople captures him and throw him into a barn with their other prisoners, Barbra, Vikki and Ezequiel. Together they hatch a plan to escape…
Above all things, let it be known that Dagon nails the atmosphere perfectly. The whole town feels other worldly and wet with a sickening glow. The constant rainfall, combined with shambling but savage horde of fish men makes for a very unsettling and disturbing ambiance. The best part is the music and sound ambiance only add to this sense of heightened reality. A lot of work had to go into the design of this and the work really shows through.
The acting, while a bit cheesy and over the top at times was really great. The characters have tons of character and memorability, and that’s really due to the great performances. Sure, maybe not Oscar caliber, but they are still fun, memorable, quirky and at times, terrifying.
That said, I do have my gripes. First this film feels like one long chase scene and sure that can be great. But, after a while it did begin to wear thin and started to feel a bit tedious. Which is not something I want my entertainment to feel like. Secondly is that they show Dagon and I feel that actually hurt the film. Dagon didn’t seem that scary. You know, live up to the hype. This is mainly because of terrible CGI that feels glaringly out-of-place.
Final thoughts, this film is good. Like crazy good. Like you should go watch this good. While it’s not perfect it’s still great and was more than worth the time invested in watching it. It’s a well done horror film, that stayed true to its roots. So if you ever find yourself in the position to give it a watch, you should. I don’t think that you’ll regret it. 9/10