Director: Stuart Gordon
Two couples celebrating on a sail boat are forced by a violent storm to hit a nearby fishing village. Once there they find out that things are totally whacked out! A hint: the town folks worship a sea god named “Dagon” and are mutating into human/fish beasties. And how was your weekend?
After Re-Animator and From Beyond, gore king Stuart Gordon finally returns to the Lovecraft playground with this cinematic adaptation of “Shadow over Innsmouth”. It took fifteen years for Gordon to get this fishy swimming and although flawed it was still worth the wait.
Since this movie’s storyline is fairly unique, it sucked me in from frame one. Originality always does that to me. I was engrossed in the happenings the whole way through. The film’s gripping visuals also helped keep me into the game. It’s constantly raining, the locations are morbidly gorgeous, the buildings are brilliant in their architecture, the smell of dread is always present and Gordon’s firm eye captures it all with style and class. There’s definitely an old school vibe to this flick and I lapped it up like Chasey Lain earning a paycheck. Pace wise, this baby is on the move 90 percent of the clocking time so I never really got a chance to get bored. It only takes one pee break to give us insight on what’s going on via a flashback but apart from that expositional halt, the flick is basically one long extended chase sequence that’s always on the go. It did feel a tad redundant at times, but the shroud of mystery that clouds the picture kept me hooked on the line. For the bulk of the movie, I never knew what was going to happen next. That’s a position I love to be in (that and 69).
On the downside, I did have a couple of qualms with the script. The dialogue is silly at times but I easily let that go. I also had trouble caring about the characters and their relationships. They just weren’t developed enough for me to really give a damn. But what really grated my noggin were all the dumb ass moves the main character (Paul) would do. Was this guy just asking for it or what? I don’t know about you crazy bastards, but if I see a Hotel clerk sporting fish like physical attributes, I’m out of dodge, like fucking now! Not Paul (Godden), he decides to rent a room. WHAT??? Genius hero never stopped insulting me with his idiotic decisions! Here are a few more examples: he locks himself in his Hotel room (using a tiny ass lock) to keep a massive mob of sea-loons out. You guessed it…that didn’t work out…like duh! Also, after all the crazy shite he’s witnessed, for some reason Paul doesn’t buy Ezequiel’s (Rabal) explanation on why all this fish mutation stuff is going down. WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS GUY!
But the whipped cream on the nipple is that our boy keeps building hopping to hide from his slimy pursuers. I mean these fish dudes are so SLOW!!! Paul would’ve had the time to go to the convenient store, buy baby oil, pull a whack to a Hustler magazine and take a nap afterwards before these mooks ever got to him! I kept yelling out loud at the screen: DUDE! THE WHOLE TOWN IS SEA-NUTS! STOP HIDING IN CREATURE FILLED BUILDINGS AND RUN OUT OF THERE! He never listened. The screenwriter could’ve though of less obvious scenarios to keep the lead in the sushi-bipeds infested setting. Here Paul’s sometime trivial actions made him look like a twit and that definitely affected my sympathetic feelings in his regards.
But even with its faulty lead and script no-no’s, Dagon still came through on some levels. The film has a nihilistic tone that still managed to affect me despite the weak lead, it sports a couple of very hard to watch gore sequences (all about skinning people alive…GROSS!), some kool stunts (loved that jump through the window), abundant female flesh and I loved the fact that some of the dialogue was spat out in Spanish…what a beautiful language! Tag to all that some eerily effective dream sequences, beautiful underwater photography, some out there and well done creature effects, a few solid scares, some daring plot twists, an un-apologetic cap-off and a pure Lovecraft vibe and you get a flick that’s without a doubt worth a watch. Lets face it guys, Re-Animator was a great movie but it didn’t have much to do with Lovecraft’s original tale. Dagon has to be one of the more faithful Lovecraft adaptations I’ve ever seen. And for that I send props Gordon’s way! Let’s go fishing!
Bring on the sauce! Gordon continues to display his gory ways by slapping in: folks wearing human skin a la Leatherface, a messy slight throat, some bloody stabbings, ripped arms, creature effects galore and one very agonizing to watch (in a good way) live skinning. That skinning was harsh!
Ezra Godden (Paul) does fine with was he’s given; unfortunately the material he has to work with sometimes isn’t up to par. He has the occasional bad lines, way too many dumb moves and I for one would’ve liked a less whiny lead. Raquel Merono (Barbara) is way hot and her delivery felt honest to me. Macarena Gomez (Uxia) is pretty but spooky looking at the same time, perfect piece of casting there. Franciso Rabal (Ezequiel) nails the part but alas his diction is poor. I lost lots of important info due to his marbled English.
T & A
Raquel Merono (Barbara) goes fully nude, nice, awesome tan gal! Macarena Gomez also (Uxia) shows off her cantaloupes. The chicks get Ezra Godden (Paul) nude (no din dong shots gals…sorry…).
Gordon bathes the film is a damp, grey atmosphere using the occasional hint of style and slow motion to up the morbid filled feel of the film. He keeps the pace of the movie flying, got me with a few scares and impressed me a few times with some of his shots. Great work hombre!
We get an adequate moody score that never fails to capture the scope of the events presented. I dug it.
With a few script touch ups and, more fleshed out characters and a more endearing lead, the film would’ve kicked my ass all over my padded my room. As/is there was a human anchor missing. But even with its set-backs there are still enough horror treats in this unsettling tale to make it worth the boat ride. I constantly picked up on Gordon’s ambition to deliver something novel while viewing this picture and that made the sardines in the salad go down easier. If you dig your Lovecraft, hit this one! It’s the more honest adaptation I’ve ever viewed.
About the production: The idea of bringing DAGON to the screen began fifteen years ago after the international success of Re-Animator. Looking for another Lovecraft story to follow it, Brian Yuzna commissioned Dennis Paoli (From beyond, Pit And The Pendulum) to write an adaptation of DAGON in 1985, after agreeing with Stuart Gordon that this story would make a unique and terrifying film.
Unfortunately, the studios seemed to be equally terrified of the concept, Gordon and Yuzna were told that if they changed the monsters to vampires or werewolves the project would instantly be green-lit. Believing their tale of bizarre amphibious offspring to be much more original, they held on to their dream of bringing Lovecraft’s unsettling visions to the screen.
I always love to hear stories of genre filmmakers NOT selling out. Congrats in making it happen guys!
Francisco Rabal died shortly after wrapping DAGON. RIP